Licensed to [feel] ill

I’ve just been watching Rhod Gilbert Vs Kilimanjaro and I thought it was about time I did some of my diary before I forget everything that happened. So, here goes… Joanne Jones Vs Kilimanjaro: Day 1.


Monday 6th October: Day 1

After a few hours sleep, we were up for breakfast before meeting the guide to take us to the park gate. For breakfast I had some sausage with courgette (bit strange) and half a slice of toast. I wasn’t very hungry given that I hadn’t slept much. I knew I was going to have to try and eat as much as possible as we went on but I couldn’t face it yet. I had plenty of snacks in my bag and we were getting a packed lunch so I wasn’t too worried. Then we set off for the park gate – a 2hr drive.

The view from the park gate - already above the clouds.
The view from the park gate – already above the clouds. Click to enlarge.

When we got there, we then got introduced to our team of 49 (!) people ranging from toilet porters, people who carried out bags to the camp, people who carried equipment, people who put up tents, cooks, guides, etc. We were given a packed lunch and told we could either eat it there or walk for about 45 minutes to a nice picnic area in the rainforest. So we all decided to walk.

On the way through the forest surroundings, we saw some colobus monkeys in the trees while we walked. But by the time we got to the picnic area I’d gone too long without eating and felt sick. I hadn’t eaten any of those snacks I mentioned and I’d gone past being hungry. Because of the altitude and the walking, I just didn’t want to eat anything. I forced down some carrot sticks and a banana. I couldn’t eat anything else which was really bad considering it was another 3-4 hours of walking to Simba camp – our first overnight stop.

Team photo before setting off.
Team photo before setting off. Click to enlarge.

As we walked I felt worse and worse because I had no energy. Every time we stopped for a break, I just wanted to go to sleep. I was exhausted already. One of the guides had taken my backpack off me so I didn’t have to carry it and I was lagging behind the rest of the team. Finally, I got to the camp and just wanted to sleep. At first they were reluctant to let me because they wanted me to eat but I just couldn’t face anything. All I wanted to do was just lay down in the tent and slip into a coma until the morning.

Already feeling unwell - spot me on the left wanting to go to sleep.
Already feeling unwell – spot me on the left wanting to go to sleep. Click to enlarge.

First though, I had to be introduced to the toilets. They were a lot better than I expected. I’d heard about the drop toilets where you have to squat over a hole in the ground but these were luxury! They looked like cool boxes – small, square, plastic boxes where you lifted the lid, sat down, and then pumped the water around to wash away everything into a compartment underneath. I say they were luxury, but I didn’t actually get to use them very often. One of the effects Kilimanjaro had on me was my lack of toilet trips. I was drinking (a lot!) but obviously because of the exertion of the walking, I just wasn’t peeing.

Anyway, they finally let me go to sleep. I just moved in and out of sleep as I was still feeling very nauseous all the time. A few of the other team members came to check on me and made me eat a few small bites of an energy bar. The head guide, Mekhi, came to see me a couple of times to make sure I was ok and it wasn’t time to take me back down. Hell no! He gave me a couple of altitude sickness tablets and that helped a lot. They did make me feel better. Around 2am, Mekhi came to check on me again.

Simba Camp selfie. Looking peaky before setting off on day 2.
Simba Camp selfie. Looking peaky before setting off on day 2. Click to enlarge.

I was already feeling a lot better by this time so I got up to go to the toilet – first time since the hotel at 7am the previous day! While fumbling around in my bag for my head torch, I found that it’d turned itself onto flashing mode and the button was stuck. Brilliant! I had to use it on that mode to get to the toilet and back and then I had to hide it inside my spare clothes to stop it flashing around the tent when I got back.

In the morning, I felt a lot better if a little weak. I went to the mess tent and had a little bit of porridge and some fruit. Not much, but at least I managed to eat a little bit. I was worried about the day. I thought that if I’d struggled on day one then what the hell would I be like as the week went on? I was a bit emotional and I don’t think some of the others thought I’d make it onwards either.

But, I packed everything up, zipped up and off I went…