Gazing down from the roof of Africa at sunrise is a moment I will never forget. We were at Stella Point, just a few hundred feet from the summit of Kilimanjaro. We had been hiking since midnight and I had focused on the light from my headlamp for the past six hours. We paused for a moment at this point to take in the view. The sky was filled with vibrant shades of orange and red hues.
I rubbed my eyes to adjust to the morning light but everything was blurry. My mind started to race. Was there a haze in the distance? Did I have something in my eyes? I could not see the sharpness of the peak Mawenzi or the details of the glaciers nearby. It was the kind of blurriness you get after having your eyes open in the pool for too long.
I started taking inventory of my health. My breathing and heart rate were normal. I was sore from hiking but nothing that I was not used to. The summit was so close and I was not about to let my vision slow me down. I asked Josh to take plenty of pictures so I can see it all later and then followed the trail carefully.
Less than an hour later we made it to the top. It was 7am on December 30th, 2007 when we stood in awe in front of a sign welcoming us to Uhuru Peak, Tanzania. At 19,340 feet above sea level, Kilimanjaro is the world’s highest free-standing mountain. We celebrated and took plenty of pictures. Even though it was all blurry, the memory is still very clear to me.
By the time we descended from the summit that day my eyesight was back to normal. I had Lasik Zyoptix corrective surgery in 2003. Since then my eyes are more susceptible to the low pressure and low oxygen levels resulting in blurred vision. I still have yet to find a doctor to confirm that it was the cause of what happened.
Six days prior to our summit we started our trek on the Machame Route. From our first steps on the trail on Christmas Day 2007, we saw the spectacular mountain beckoning us. Throughout our hike we enjoyed the amazing scenery and wildlife surrounding us. White Colubus Monkeys jumped from tree to tree above the trail. Higher up the mountain where the tree line grew thin we saw Senecio Kilimanjari and Lobelia plants which are unique to this region and elevation above 9,000 feet.
Lava Tower was a challenging hike for us on day three to help with acclimatization. This peak reaches to about 14,000 feet above sea level.
The porters are amazingly strong. Each morning they would pack up our tent after we left, then pass us on the way up and have everything set up by the time we got to our next stop. It was unbelievable!
By New Year’s Eve we were back at the hotel in Arusha, Tanzania and celebrating our accomplishment with a few Kilimanjaro brews. The entire trek was an incredible journey which will forever hold a place in my heart.
Here are more pictures from our trip. Enjoy!