Dickson had said Day 3, Lava Tower day would be the telling day. He was not wrong. The weather had made a decisive change. We woke up to a foggy start and it was a bit cooler.
Andrew woke a bit later than usual. When he entered the dining tent he did not look righteous at all. His headaches remained. Dickson came in and brought with him a neurologist who was also climbing. She also tested his oxygen levels which was 61%; not good. She asks him about the headaches, any nausea. Her recommendation is for Andrew to head back down the mountain as he is at risk of cerebral endema. She seemed exceptionally worried and did say that she may be a bit paranoid but her recommendation would be for Andrew not go any further. However, Andrew is willing to soldier on a bit further. The neurologist gives him some medication and we begin to get ready for Day 3. Kelly takes a reading of her levels. It’s about 89% which is better. He looks to me to ask if I want mine read. I nod no. Cause I don’t want to know and it will not change what I am here to do. I am here to get to the summit. Dickson tells us to pack our raincoats as it is likely it will rain today. We also have to wear gaiters over our shoes and pants.
We begin our trek to Lava Tower. This one is not as fun. It begins to rain. I wear too many layers and have to take some off. As ususal the porters pass us with their loads. Andrew is not faring well. He is staggering like a man drunk and occasionally stumbles. Perhaps it is not known to him but Dickson is keeping a watchful eye on him. Andrew begins to hallucinate. He asks Kelly whether she has seen the squirrel. I do not remember seeing any animals on that part of the mountain at all. And if there are any, I am quite sure squirrels will not be one of them as to my knowledge, squirrels are not native to Tanzania. Dickson either has super hearing or the wind carried Andrew’s question cause Dickson says to me then with great authority and decisiveness ‘This is as far as he will go. He has to go back down’. He goes to speak to Andrew and Kelly. Andrew heads back down the mountain with Martin, one of the porters.
There are three of us left, Dickson, Kelly and I. Due to the delay, we are far behind. The air of cheerfulness from the previous two days was gone and the weather appeared to reflect the general mood. We saw no other porters or climbers. As we climbed, it got foggier and it rained. It was harder to see in front of us. Kelly says this feels like the journey to Mordor and this is such an accurate description. Do you remember in the Two Towers when Frodo, Sam and Gollum had to walk through the Dead Marshes towards Mordor? That is what it felt like. Really isolated, foggy and a bit miserable. At one point, the fog got so dense, I am not sure Dickson could see where he was going. I know I could not. So he called for a lunch break in a cave, in the hope that the fog will clear a bit and we can press on.
I think I forgot to mention that they always gave us a huge pack lunch of fried chicken, orange juice, a sandwich and some other nits and pieces. Kelly was nauseous and threw up a bit. I encouraged her to eat a bit and struggled to eat myself as I knew we had hours walking remaining.
Now by this time, I was getting a bit worried about me. I had not experienced any headaches or nausea so far. No hallucinations and my pace was ok. But I know my body. I do not get sick frequently, but when I do, it is bad. So I wondered when my time came, how bad it would be.
It clears a bit and we continue in the bisty rain for an hour or two and get to the famous Lava Tower peak. I have to admit it was impressive. A huge peak rising from the ground with surrounding cliffs. Again, the similarities to what we see on Lord of the Rings is uncanny. I think Kelly took some pics. I didn’t. Because by then I noticed that I had begun to get a bit breathless which slowed my pace and that irritated me to no end.
From Lava Tower, we head down into the valley to Barranco Camp. Down, down and further down. Trees emerge from the ground now and there are more boulders. So we get to camp. This is at 3950m. And this day although we are relieved to finally get to camp as we are exhausted, it does not really look inviting. You can just about make the tents in the fog. Jambo, mambo Rasta.
We find our tent and get our tent in order. Kelly talks to Rosie and another climber Mandy comparing their thoughts of today and how they feel physically. I talk to the porters for a bit still amazed that they do this on a regular basis.
We have dinner in our tent and talk about how different today is from the previous days. Dickson comes in and reviews the day. He notices that we are not as chipper as the previous days. He tells us of the following day to come. We will need more layers. Was it then he wanted to test my oxygen levels? I agreed. Was mine 68% or something around that? Well it was not the best. Before anyone even made the suggestion of me going down I tell Dickson flat out ‘I am not going anywhere’. I thought to myself ‘ What, are you crazy? Do you think that after wanting to do this all this time, I come aaalllll the way to Africa and not to get to the summit? In which lifetime of mine is that going to happen? Hell no. It can take me a hundred years but I am making it to the summit!’ Yes I am determined like that. He tells me the following morning, people’s levels always fall after Lava Tower.
From this point on, the ointment Deep Heat which a friend of mine Jay gave me becomes my very good friend. I and the tent stink of Deep Heat as I massage my thighs muscles. I am happy as the calf muscle injury which I had in late July seems to have fully healed as it has given me no problems so far. Saints be praised that Kelly doesn’t mind the smell. So I put another layer of clothes on and try to get some sleep. The sleeping bag is either wet or is so cold that it feels wet. Either way, I get to sleep with Chronixx’s ‘Ain’t no giving in’ in my mind.