Kilimanjaro 4, by Roman
Trip Start Jun 07, 2011
203Trip End Jun 13, 2012
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'Okay, I think I feel a bit better,' he announces. He head off again, and curiously for a minute, I have the feeling that my brother vomited for the two of us, because my nausea has momentarily vanished.
The day I cried on Kibo, I’ll call it like that, I tell myself while attempting to hearten Fabyan, both arms supporting him. I can hear the judder of my voice in my fight to stay positive, and I know that if I’m still here, it’s also thanks to him. Alone, I’d have already turned around. Fabyan’s simple presence keeps me alive, and Tristan, whom we all thought for sure would be on his way down by now with the headaches he’s been fighting for the past days, gives me strength. I’m cold, I can’t feel my right foot, and the altitude drags me away from reason. Why are we here, what is it worth to climb this mountain in the dark, blinding myself at every step I take by the headlamp of the assistant guide.
‘How much more time,’ pleads Tristan.
‘Ten minutes. Only ten more minutes,’ lies our guide. For the pas hour all he can find to say to us is, ‘still ten more minutes,’ but I know that the sunrise is at 6:30, and it’s barely 4:00! We will never make it.
‘What? This is the summit! What, you want me to believe that that’s the crater?’ I pointlessly squint into the darkness. It’s only 4:32. ‘The sun doesn’t rise for another two hours. What the hell is going on!’ I’m furious. Fabyan can still stand, but his walking has become dangerously unpredictable. I hate it when things aren’t clear. ‘Hey! Where are you going?’
‘It’s over here,’ hollers Tristan.
Still two hours to get to Uhuru Point. We are at Gilman’s Point, and it’s only in the aftermath that I understood what was happening. Once the peak conquered, one has to walk around the crater, a roller coaster of dirt paths, to arrive at a point, slightly more elevated, and closer to the glacier that has almost disappeared. We needed to continue on the left, and I don’t know why, but at the moment, this causes an enormous threat: in my head we where supposed hike to the right! In my mind, we’ve made it to the crater, and in my present state, I have trouble tolerating the fact that we have arrived, and it’s still dark out: Where is the sun!
In retrospect, it’s difficult to remember the nausea I had. Alas, we didn’t make ten metres that Fabyan plummets onto a rock.
‘Tristan! Come back!’ I holler, but my other brother has already disappeared behind one of the hundreds of knolls that rise between us, and Uhuru. ‘Hold on Fabyan…’ but his eyes glide into emptiness. I rub my hands across his legs, because I know he’s freezing, trembling, but also to warm up my own body.
‘I want to go back… for real this time,’ and I know he means it. We’ve all wanted to, but this time, the road ends here for him.
‘Tris…’ emerging from behind the rise, the guide and my brother, halts my hollering.
‘What’s going on? The assistant guide said I had to com…’ a single look, and Tristan understands. Fabyan needs to go back.
‘I think I’m going to vomit again,’ burbles the youngest of us. ‘I need to go back, now.’
I watch them vanish in the dark, Jelly Belly and Fabyan, and again I imagine in my head: The day I cried on Kibo. I feel cheated; as if we lied to me, I am livid and almost in tears. Sad that we are no longer united, and dispossessed by the effects of altitude, the cold and the lack of sunlight (the lie that burns beneath my skin)! Silently, I console my thoughts, with the notion that at least we made it to the top together. I no longer care where we are going or why; I follow my brother, who follows closely the assistant guide, Philip. I have the impression to be looking through an old black and white film; the feeling of seeing the lunar landing of Apollo 11, and all its conspiracies. The silver dust that cakes the ground, dirty, and the film receptors (my eyes), furnishing my brain, are not sensitive enough to capture the starlight. Capricorn 1, Space Odyssey: 2000, Neil Armstrong… images of space flicker through my mind. In my head, we have made the summit; I realise, that regardless of all the attached PDF files my mother had sent us, and my boastful confidence, we underestimated the mountain. We weren’t ready. I laugh a twisted laugh, hiding the suffering pain and humiliation I endure, at my conviction of the other day: The climb was like having high-altitude sex, a Toblerone in the mouth… Only, the mountain doesn’t love us, and the Toblerone that I’ve just slipped on my tongue, in a final attempt to relieve my condition, triples my repulsions. (So much for my father’s advice: eat on the mountain, it’s bring down the nausea… rather, it will bring us down; down the mountain!)
‘I have to take a piss,’ I state, dryly, my parched mouth reflecting the aridness of my inflection. Not waiting for an answer, I topple up the gravely rise, next to a giant rock spearing the dark sky, to get away from other hikers. (Later, I’ll be told that this rock is Stella Point, the end of our trajectory.) The horizon is golden. The sun braves the Earth, but guarded by a fierce shield of cloud, he struggles to aid us in our war. It’s 5:20. Our ally is still far, and despite his efforts, it will take him long before he can come to our liberation.
‘The sunrise isn’t for another hour. Tristan, I don’t get it…’ I’ve lost all hope, and the confidence that had fuelled my climb has gone. ‘We are at the crater, regardless that we can’t see anything! And we don’t even have any water left. What’s the point?’ Ever since we separated with Fabyan, the purpose of our conquest, that at the moment I would have thought attained, is vain. ‘Lets go back. What is it worth…’
Tristan is of a similar attitude, but Philip, three quarters my height, isn’t on the same key. Unable to speak a word of English, he try battles to take my bag, even though he’s already carrying one, and continue the worthless. He beseeches us to stop and rest. No, the decision is made. It isn’t a the weight of a bag, nor the fatigue of our legs that is stopping us, it’s the incomprehension. We head back down.
The view is splendid, but for three quarters of the descent, our stops are multiple (I don’t get it, I thought we would start feeling better once we were going down?), the camera reflects our state of being: all the photos are out of focus. Not until later, after have leaped down the sandy slope, skiing the vertical challenge of the volcano with our boots, did I realize that the camera was on manual focus. Starting there, the pictures are clearer, but not our spirits.
‘Look,’ exclaims Tristan, ‘my bottle is completely frozen!’
I purposely avoid the guide that congratulates us upon our arrival and the agglomerations of Kibo Hut. I have a single desire, look upon Fabyan. My brother is wrapped in his sleeping bag, still fully dressed, his eyes deeply imbedded in their sockets. I crumble onto the bunk next to his, exhausted by the effects of altitude. I don’t have the time to breath the dusty air that lingers in the room that Tristan bursts into the morgue, both his brothers presented on stratums. He almost looks angelic, surrounded by the smoky ash particles and the silver screen that has covered his clothes since the descent. I stare at my boots that I haven’t yet removed, hanging off the bed. They too are covered with a filament of whitish charcoal that reaps up my jeans to the waist.
‘We need to get out of here,’ screams Tristan, ‘my head hurts way too much.’
‘What? Right away, I…’ He cuts me off, with a distant manner.
‘Yeah! My head is about to explode! We are going, now.’
I don’t want to move; it’s been over 24 hours that I’ve been awake and I can feel sleep catching up. In spite of the fatigue, I force myself up; descend the mountain, it’s our new objective. The Lord of the Rings… this place is as mysterious and its desert as barren, why not? The though slips into my head, but leaves immediately. I grab my notebook to rip out a page.
‘What are you doing?’ yells Tristan, more and more panicked, ‘we need to leave. Now I said!’
‘I’m just leaving a note to the Istambuliens… Istambuls… Istam…. Whatever.’ I can’t even think clearly, and my writing looks worse than that of a nine-year-old, a lot worse! I completely omit certain letters, if it isn’t entire words, I can’t even formulate actual sentences. Finally, I think I achieve to apologize for not getting naked on the peak, and to jot down my e-mail.
‘I’m doing the fastest I can!’ Just write down your email address… they don’t need anything else…I make one for Bernie and one for the Turkies… Turkish… what I’ve made is illegible scribbles to leave them a contact.
...see next entry
Photos are on Kilimanjaro 1