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Africa’s Jumpin’ Little Juke Joint

Posted by Jason del Sur in Kilimanjaro 2010
August 18th, 2010

This one’s mainly for the family. Both of my parents and several of my aunts, uncles, and cousins, went to Oklahoma State in Stillwater, OK. The few times I’ve been to Stillwater we would always go and stop by Eskimo Joe’s, a hip little restaurant (formerly bar) that’s been there since the 70’s, for some grub. Their cheese fries are something magical (I believe the Inuits have 72 different words for french fry[citation needed]).

The Eskimo Joe’s t-shirt is one of the most widely purchased t-shirts in the world. You can’t go anywhere in the Oklahoma/Texas/Great Plains area without seeing someone wearing the shirt. At one point it was reported that it was the most widely purchased t-shirt behind Hard Rock Cafe. That’s pretty impressive considering there’s only one of them (they have expanded to a second restaurant Mexico Joe’s).

Now, as Julienne has noted on her blog, Tanzania is where t-shirts go to die. They wear the shirts, but don’t really know what they mean. She saw a guy wearing a Curves (yes, the women’s gym) shirt. Even more serendipitously, she saw someone wearing a shirt from Schoolyard Tavern, a bar just half a mile from me and less than a block from an old apartment.

So it should have been no surprise that Eskimo Joe’s had made it’s way to Africa:

Kilimanjaro Porter with Eskimo Joe's Shirt

When I complimented him on it, he simply gave me the thumbs up, but smiled as large as Joe himself.

Blame it on the Diamox

Posted by Jason del Sur in Kilimanjaro 2010
August 10th, 2010

Kilimanjaro Day 3

Now a little bit about my physical experience on the climb. Overall, my body did pretty well. I did only very minor training. Keep in mind that Kilimanjaro is not a technically difficult mountain; it’s not like Everest or K2 where you’re climbing up glaciers with with an ice ax ready to fall into a crevasse at any moment. It’s really just an extended hike. It’s by no means easy, but most people in decent shape could do it.

In Chicago, pretty much all I did was just to generally be more active. I rode my bike a lot more and I took long walks to get my boots broken in. Unfortunately, there are very few hills, let alone altitude, anywhere near Chicago. I took a trip out to Denver to visit my friend Lisa and do some hiking. We only got to about 9,000 feet–it was still too early in the season to do many of the 13ers or 14ers without equipment–but just the distance over a steep incline made me feel much better about my pending trek. I also did some hiking in Washington State trudging straight uphill through the snow to about 7,000 feet.

Denver May '10 Attempt at Goat Peak. Too bad the trail doesn't open until July. (note: these photos are not from Kili)

On Kilimanjaro, the altitude is the big thing that will get you. You could be a marathon runner and when you get to 15,000 feet your body just says no. The common symptoms of altitude sickness are nausea, vomiting, loss of apetite, headache, and dizziness. Most days, especially as we got higher, we would ascend several thousand feet and then descend a few hundred to camp. This is in order to help you better aclimatize.

The very first night at Machame Camp I awoke around 3am with the need to pee. In addition to a full bladder I also had a pounding headache. This headache was worse than the worst hangover I’ve had. This was one of the scariest moments of the trip: We’re only at 9,000 feet and the altitude is already getting to me. Fortunately, when I woke up in the morning the pain in my head had mostly subsided. I think it was probably more dehydration. The previous day I didn’t drink much water climbing through the cloud forest since it was rainy and I never really felt that sweaty.

Kilimanjaro Day 4 Kilimanjaro Day 4

Starting that next day I started taking my Diamox. My doctor had prescribed 500mg twice a day, but had only given me enough pills for 4 days, not enough to get me to the top. After consulting with other hikers and the guides, many of their doctors had prescribed 250mg twice a day, so I just went with half a pill. The problem with Diamox is that you don’t really know if it’s helping you. You get to high elevation and you feel fine, but you have no idea what you would have felt like had you not taken it. The main side effect is tingling in your toes and fingers, which I and the others in my group felt. We also got a nice numbness around our mouths.

This led us all to just start blaming anything that felt wrong with us on the Diamox, which then expanded to anything that sucked to be the fault of the Diamox. Julienne’s hurt knee: the Diamox. The crowded trail: Diamox.

Overall, everyone in the group’s bodies did well. Julienne’s knee hurt through most of the trek, but I admire her persistence at pushing on. There was some slight nausea as we approached Stella Point (18,652 feet), but no vomiting. I continued to get minor headaches over the course of the next few days, but nothing like that first night. The only other bad one I had was descending from the peak, which I just termed my Kilimanjaro Hangover.

In terms of my legs, sure they got sore and I got tired, but I had done big hikes when I was younger. We used to take week-long trips in high school (I was a Boy Scout) hiking 60 miles on the Appalachian trail. I knew I had done hiking like this before so I knew I could do it again. Plus, I was there, in Africa, on the damned mountain. It was there right in front of me. There was no way I was going to let myself not to make it to the top.

Kilimanjaro Day 5 Kilimanjaro Summit Night (Night 5)

Kilimanjaro Day 4

Kilimanjaro MMX

Posted by Jason del Sur in Kilimanjaro 2010
August 5th, 2010

It’s about time I gave y’all another post.

To follow up on the last post, the next day they sent up another guide Godfrey. We didn’t quite realize this at first, but Godfrey was also an assistant guide. That gave us two assistants and no head guide. Both of them were very nice, although it was clear that neither one really had much experience being in charge. And between the two of them, neither really knew who was supposed to be in charge. Each night before we went to bed, they would come into our mess tent (set up each day with a fairly unstable table and some chairs, but usually awaiting us with popcorn and tea upon arrival to the camp) and give us a briefing about what to expect the next day. They would then both stand there for a few moments and glance at each other, not really sure who was going to start talking.

They were both very nice, but their English was not really up to par with what we were expecting (namely, Benjamin, who spoke perfect English). They would also treat the two girls differently than the guys. They’d usually just let us be but would constantly be checking up on the girls. I told Athman this on the last day, that the kind of women that are going to come on a trek like this won’t break that easily. But, they got all five of us to the top, and that’s definitely one of the most important things.

Kilimanaro Day 2 Kilimanaro Day 2

Our first day was slightly rainy as we climbed through what’s called the Cloud Forest. The name is very accurate as we were walking through fog most of the day. About an hour or so into the second day we had broken above the cloud line, and for the rest of the trek every time we looked down there was a thick layer of clouds below us. It was a little disappointing in that we were rarely able to look out over the savannah of Africa, but it was pretty spectacular looking down upon the clouds.

Kilimanaro Day 2

My biggest complaint about the Machame route is how crowded it is. There is a limit to how many people can be on the trail at any point, and there is talk of lowering that limit. For the sake of future hikers I hope they do that. A few times over the first days we would get stuck behind a large group. Often times that group would be a large gaggle of about twenty British university kids. Some of them clearly just wanted to do whatever their friends were doing and had no idea what they were getting themselves into. On the second day we would pass by girls from the group already breaking down. I’m going to go out on a limb and say those girls didn’t make it to the top.

At one of our snack breaks, we stopped with that group. One of the guys, trying to pull together an audience, exclaims, “Check this out!” He rolls up his shorts leg to reveal a tattoo: “Kilimanjaro MMX” (2010 in Roman numerals). All we can do is laugh at this kid. I’m sorry, but you’re not allowed to get that tattoo until you’ve made it to the top. At least if you fail you got it in Roman numerals so you can add a few I’s and V’s for when you succeed. But until then, every time you take off your pants you’ll be reminded of your failure.

Here’s a photo of these kids at their fancy lunch table: Kilimanaro Day 2

So that’s my funny story for the day. More to come soon…

Kilimanaro Day 2 Kilimanaro Day 2
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