Yesterday, I woke up at 4am for a sunrise trek up Waya Lailai Mountain. As I sat waiting for my guide, I noticed how bright the stars were. I was twenty minutes early, so I just laid back and enjoyed the view of the trillion points of light above me. I noticed a lot of the stars to the north were disappearing, and then the whole sky went dark. That’s when I felt the first rain drop. As the guide arrived, he looked to the sky and said that the walk was very dangerous in the dark and it is impossible in the rain. He cancelled the trek and told me we would try for a sunset walk later that day.
I managed to get back to sleep until about 9am and the entire day was beautiful. I relaxed more in my hammock, listened to my iPod on my veranda looking out over the water and then at 4:30pm, I walked to the meeting point. Within 5 minutes, the sky went to a dark grey and the rain started coming down by the truckload! This is not my day! My guide Berry arrived and shrugged his shoulders. We were not set to depart until 5pm, so I convinced him to wait until 5. I told him that it never rains on me and I have faith that it will stop. He laughed, but at 4:55, the rain stopped and the sky cleared! He smiled at me and said in a think Fijian accent “LET’S GO!”
Having done the first leg of the Kilimanjaro summit last year and climbed the Franz Joseph glacier the year earlier, I thought this would be a piece of cake. You know what happens when you assume, right?
The trek was almost entirely through a jungle that made the jungle at the bottom of Kilimanjaro look like my grandmother’s tomato garden. For a path that is hiked twice a day, every day, there was not much of a path at all. Because it just finished raining, the path was muddy and slippery to no end. The mud was making every step treacherous and water was still streaming down the mountain. If you slipped, there was nothing stopping you from falling halfway down the mountain.
As soon as we reached the first lookout, I could tell that this trek would be worth it. The vantage point gave you both a view of Kuata Island (adjacent to Waya Lailai), and to the peak we were attempting to climb. It is here that I noticed that Berry was wearing Flip Flops! The hike then took us up and over huge round rocks that were slick with wet moss and then through a field of grass that reached higher than I could. It was an amazing experience but nerve racking at times.
As we made our final approach to the summit, we had to traverse a large rock that was like a walking on a knife blade. It was extremely narrow and the wind felt like it was going to take me and my 38 pound camera pack all the way to the bottom of the crevice. With Barry’s assistance, I managed to make it across and then up to the summit. This view was worth the ordeal I had subjected myself to. The pictures below don’t give you an idea of the 100% humidity or the inclines on sharp slippery rocks. All you see is the end result… and I know it was worth it!