Fact #1: Mount Kilimanjaro shut me up.
From the second we stepped through that magical triangular gate into the green, the words stopping coming. Dan, on the other hand, found that the mountain gave him plenty more subtext for witty banter. As he and James (chatty guide #1) marched ahead lying to each other about all their girlfriends, Danford (stoic guide #2) and I hung back, silent. The quiet caboose.
Everything, everywhere: green. Moss, lichen, vines, leaves, trunks. In the absence of sound you could hear the chlorophyll pumping. Pole pole slowed my feet, but it slowed my brain too. All I could register was the throbbing green, my thumping heart, and my chilled skin. And blue monkeys.
We stopped to eat the packed lunches we were carrying in our packs. Already starved from the 1.5 hours of fresh air and movement, I did a quick inventory:
2 Marie glucose biscuits
1 very fried piece of chicken
1 sandwich with white bread and something like tuna
1 triangular-shaped carton of pineapple juice
1 nugget of cake
1 teeny tiny itsy bitsy banana
1 hard-boiled egg - anemic white yolk
The moss thickened around the tree trunks and hung from the branches overhead, and we kept marching up, boots slipping on damp rocks until we arrived at Mandaru Huts. Dismal, gray, cold. Just like the two Slovak dudes in snow pants with a satphone who refused to share a hut with us. Jerks.
We drank a metal cup of Milo and hot [powdered] milk and set off for a quick walk with James up to the crater. We stopped for a full ten minutes, slack-jawed at our first view of Mawenzi, flanked by grasses, Kili's peak shrouded in clouds over it's right shoulder.
On a passing recommendation from some South Africans we ran into in Moshi, we asked Peter to fill up our aluminium flasks with hot water to put in the bottom of our sleeping bags. I thought we would spend the night sleeping on a mat in a tent, so a nice little A-frame hut with a hot water bottle at my toes after a day of really slow walking in a pretty forest. Piece of cake!