Friday, September 11, 2009

day #2: vomitus altitudinus

Fact #2: If you have to puke - as in you really cannot avoid it - clinging to the stone stoop in front of your hut on Kilimanjaro and being utterly distracted from your agony by the sheer beauty of the starry sky - that's the best way to do it.

Despite the frigid air, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I was in Gulu. I had that all-too-familiar taste in my mouth that usually is brought on by bad water or tainted local food during so many past trips to Northern Uganda. I lay under the eave in my bed at Horombo, feeling really bad for myself and figuring "well, that's it. I tried my best, but the altitude will take my life, so tomorrow I have to go back down. Shucks."


When I woke in the morning to Peter's broken English "water for wash. breakfast red," I'd already assumed my Kili trip was over. I washed my face. Brushed my teeth. Popped some Diamox anyway. Devoured my oats porridge with honey and sugar. My slightly burnt toast with plastic-y orange jam. Still I felt like shit.

Day 2 had been a great day. We'd emerged from Mandaru in the morning feeling strong - Dan with a slight headache and me with the start of blisters - but otherwise in solid form. Not long into the hike we passed from forest into heather, and finally got our first glimpse of her.

the elusive peak reveals herself

We ascended above the clouds. Spaces grew wide open and majestic. Plants got smaller, clinging to the earth. I mistook the happy shining sun for a welcome friend. The radiation intensified and burned my hands and neck. We saw scores of people descending post-summit. Big smiles and trekking poles flying, burning a path down the mountain. Optimistic/Foreboding.

We got to Horombo in the afternoon, and it was still warm in the sun, so I perched myself on a rock outside of our hut, intermittently reading Rebekah Heacock's old copy of Surrender or Starve (really? did I REALLY read about famine and politics in the Horn while climbing Kili?) and watching two buzzards dance high overhead, their wings brushing each other. My mountain mind found it to be romantic.

So I listened to my entire Sigur Ros collection. I inhaled and exhaled with the clouds; expanding, contracting. The sun set. I was awestruck.

As the sun set I reluctantly came down from my rock, brushing the lichen from the seat of my lululemon yoga-turned-mountain pants. Maybe that's the trick with mountain sickness. It purges all that beauty; clears the way for the realist. And so I woke up wretching.

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