So today is a post on some random observations and tips I found that don't fit into any previous posts on our trek.
I got altitude effects on day 2 mainly nausea and tiredness. I didn't eat anything after breakfast on day 2 apart from one cup of tea which rapidly reappeared, although after getting some anti sickness tablets from the doctor I did manage 3 pieces of pasta for dinner and a few spoonfuls of soup. It was rubbish but I then got over it until summit night, when I felt bad at the start then started feeling better. So for me it seems the effects come on early and bad but then I acclimatise reasonably quickly. I did lose my appetite though for a lot of the trek, I lost weight while there for sure. It will affect everyone differently though, Tom got some headaches and went a bit funny on summit night but didn't get it so bad.
One thing which does get everyone at some point is lack of oxygen, it makes you get out of breath so quickly. I tried taking deep breaths every few paces on summit night which helped, but it was knackering just stepping over a rock. Little things like putting the sleeping bags away got us out of breath at the higher camps, and we had some silly moments where we didn't have enough oxygen to power out brains fully! We tried to take it slow, walk slowly, move slowly, breathe deep and don't get too over excited. Those who were running about or powering ahead will get it eventually too, so don't feel stupid being the slow one from day 2. Go at your own pace, it's not a race, there's no medal for getting there first.
Neither me or Tom had Diamox with us as our GP's wouldn't prescribe it for us. The team doctor did have some though and I started taking it on day 2 when I was feeling bad. I did feel better the next day, but can't say whether it was the Diamox or if I just acclimatised. Neither of us really got any of the side effects from it though which was good. I got some minor tingling in my hands the first time but that went away after a few hours.
The Bathroom Situation
This is something there was a lot of discussion about before we left. Kind of obvious but there isn't any running water up there. We had toilet tents with a chemical toilet in them, and there was warm water in a bucket with small bowls to take some away for a wash in camp every night other than summit night.
I also took a lot of wet wipes, antibacterial wipes, alcohol gel and a nail brush to keep hands clean. We all stank by the time we got back but I felt reasonably clean most nights after a wet wipe bath, a wash of the 'essentials' (we call it 'pits and bits' at work) with some warm water in the tent and a change of socks. I also used the alcohol gel often, definitely before eating and after using the toilet, and washed my hands as soon as we had access to water.
The other 'bathroom situation' is not having access to a toilet. Working where I do I'm not embarrassed to talk about toilet habits, so here's what I found it to be like:
Night time - I didn't find this as much of an issue as I had been told it would be, I thought about this part a lot before I left. I heard horror stories of people taking Diamox and having to get up every hour in the night to pee, I suppose it differs for everyone but I found the frequency I needed to go didn't change at all. Tom didn't either. The team doctor Nik told us that Diamox is actually a pretty inefficient diuretic, a side effect of it was found to be that it helped with altitude sickness but otherwise it isn't really used much as a diuretic any more. I only had to get up once on one night, and on summit night but that was only at about 8pm so I don't think it counts. Most nights I got a solid 8 hours sleep, which I was not expecting and I was pleasantly surprised by! I thought about solutions to not having to get up before we went, but none of them were really viable and I decided just to go to the toilet tent. One thing I would say is not to limit your fluid intake but to think about timing and make sure you drink enough through the day to keep hydrated, if you feel dehydrated and down a litre of water before you go to bed you will likely need to pee in the night! I drank most of my water in the day while walking, then stuck to tea or cocoa in the evenings, but this is my usual routine to have the majority of my fluid intake in the daytime any way.
Having been on climbing days, weeks etc outside it doesn't bother me peeing outside. I actually found this trip better as there were other girls to go and find a good spot with rather then a bunch of guys who can just pee anywhere, and then me being the awkward one everyone has to wait for.
Put a sanitary towel in, then after you've done the 'squat and shake' it will catch any drips. Take it out when you get to camp and dispose of appropriately. Kind of the best but most disgusting tip I have ever been given.
If you are going to use loo roll in the day take a separate ziplock bag to put used paper in, there were some boulders we visited that had gross wads of loo roll behind them left by other people. Not cool.
She Wees etc - I've never seen the point of them to be honest (and Tom wasn't sure he'd get over seeing me using one!), but if you get one have a practice before you go.
Practice aim. A good quote I heard when discussing peeing during multi pitch climbs (when you are on the wall all day or more than one day) was 'climber or not, every woman at one point in her life will pee on her shoes'. This is true, just try not to get it on your trousers.
A toilet tent in camp is worth it, if you have to pay more for one pay it!
We went on a 2.5 day safari after the trek, which was amazing and a once in a lifetime experience. The only issue was we couldn't stay awake for it! I would recommend taking a day or two after the trek before going off on an extension, most companies seem to want to ship you off the day after you get back but it would be worth asking if you could pay for one more night before you leave. We left the morning after we came down from the mountain on our safari, and a day at the hotel just to sleep in, relax and re energise would have made us a bit more up for the safari. The guide must have thought we were idiots, or narcoleptic, as I slept the whole way to the park in the car then kept nodding off between animal sightings. We both were also a bit slow on the uptake, slow moving and generally not very good company. The first night at the safari hotel we went to bed at 8pm and slept for 12 hours. If you are going to Zanzibar or a beach break after then maybe it wouldn't be an issue, you could sleep on the beach!
The food - we just couldn't have asked for more. We got cooked breakfast every morning, porridge, toast egg and sausages or bacon. Lunch was cold one day, but still plenty of sandwiches etc. The rest of the days it was 3 course hot food, soup to start, main of usually pasta but one day we had chicken and chips (On Chris' birthday, he also produced 3 massive chocolate bars for the group!), and then dessert of fruit usually. Dinner was also soup to start, main of pasta usually, one night we had mashed potato though which was amazing, and dessert of either fruit or we had birthday cake 2 nights as there were birthdays in our group. The cooks steamed a birthday cake for both of them and decorated them with their names and candles, cue tears from a few of us! I got a vegetarian alternative every time (not just what everyone else was having but without the meat, which I was prepared for), most nights a whole pot of it too which made me feel terrible because I couldn't eat much of it at all due to losing my appetite. To be honest I'd struggle even at home to eat a cooked breakfast, 3 course lunch and 3 course dinner every day anyway!
The weather was changeable, the first day was tropical, and it got progressively colder. Summit night was cold and it seemed to seep into your bones through the night. However this was the only time we wore our thick jackets and trousers other than at nights in camp. The rest of it you will need lots of layers and some good thermals. Good waterproofs are a must as there are showers and downpours. Also you will spend a lot of time walking through clouds, which is really not as nice as it sounds. See my kit list here for what I took and what I used and didn't use.
I think that will be the last on the Kilimanjaro posts, I'm training for a few different mud runs now, next up being the race for life pretty muddy 11th July with one of our Kili team!