Hiking is improperly but necessarily expensive if you prefer to get out of it alive of course. The mountains, in their natural beauty, dressed in evergreens right up to their crowns of silver-white are very attractive. Walking through them, however, and up their summits is a delicate balance between life and death. The line gets even thinner when you decide to do it cheaply.
Well prepared, you definitely will come out of it alive. Defiant, we will mourn and bury you. After 3 months of 6 pre-hikes and thorough preparation courtesy of The Outdoorer team, it was game time. Thermal pants and tops, poncho, puffer jacket, leg gaiters, head lamb, mittens…I wasn’t gonna die on the mountain surely with all these and more sophisticated gear. The mountain held all the cards, and I just had my breath to hold.
Chogoria route was our choice of death up the summit. While the days in the run-up to the game day were clouded with anxiety, the drive to Mt. Kenya was filled with apprehension. My brain dried up. My emotions turned – cold, fearful, and anxious. Of course, I didn’t show. I am The great and only remaining grandson of the Ababito kingdom, remember? Back away or flee…I could, you know. I was open to possibilities. The choir lady surprisingly was napping comfortably and seemed relaxed. She will deny it but there must have been some illegal substance in use here.
Sleeping bag on the other hand was choreographing a dramatic morning. One of the most important gears for hiking is your hydration bladder that goes into your daypack which in itself holds other important gear like the rain poncho, leg gaiters and everything you need on a typical daypack. Sleeping bag forgot his day pack in the cab. I would have been distressed but Sleeping bag wasn’t. Was he courting hypothermia or dehydration? Whatever was going through his mind must have been caused by a woman I know it, I have seen it before.
Unfortunately, Uji guy and Sakaja could not join us for the hike. The trails were saved from ass prints. Instead, we adopted my hiking sister to The Snackers team. She was either short-sighted or long-sighted, I don’t remember. I just know she couldn’t see well without her glasses and she had to adjust her configuration to see better in the mountains. Let’s call her Ruger especially because again at that moment and time ‘Girlfriend’ was her favorite song.
When it rains, it pours but when you get stuck it is overflowing. I was particularly excited that the promise of this eventuality came to pass. I am big on commitments and had it not happened I would have felt betrayed. Everybody was to get out of the bus and either help in pushing the vehicle or at least reduce the weight in the bus. Not the choir lady. And not the Heartbreaker whose identity I shall not divulge for legal reasons. And definitely not me. I stayed back. My hiking boots were not only pricey but they were also Meindl. They cant get muddy. Noble boots mixing up with ordinary boots smells of a rotten potato in a sack full of good ones. Whatever they did to unstuck us, I wasn’t involved.
At the Chogoria gate, excitement and merry were easily notable. Everyone had something to say or an unsolicited bad joke to offer Safe from one, the Komboo lady. She slept like a dead person on the bus and her neck had to remind her she was alive. She got a stiff neck and not only was it elongated like an ostrich, but she also had to walk diagonally. I was sorry but it was a beautiful sight to behold. The possibilities of human anatomy.
The walk to our first camp at Lake Elis was boring but fun. I had a few puns to throw around while Sleeping bag was all this time shunning them back. Ruger was in awe of the madness involved among The Snackers. If she wasn’t laughing her ass out she was working hard not to.
In the woods there is no Robin hood. Civilization is put on a hold. There were no toilets so shitting was old school. Sleeping bag was the one most excited of this news. He actually volunteered to head the whole shitting experience and even termed it as “chauvening’. What you needed to do is grab a shovel, find a spot, dig a hole corresponding to your expected outlay and have a good time. If its night time, you were to whistle or sing a song to announce your presence in a spot. Because of my stomach issues, I went for Solomon Mkubwa’s Mfalme Wa Amani because it gave me ample time to focus and finish my business. Sleeping bag resorted to Mugithi song ‘Thii Ukiumaga’, Ruger whistled while our very own Choir lady was continuing her injustices and butchery of Afrobeats.
At first Ruger and the choir lady were concerned about the sanitary issues around chauvening in the wood, until they were let into the secret. Chauvening in the woods has a therapeutic value. Especially in the mountains. The breeze that hits your ass awakens nerves you didn’t even know existed. Sleeping bag already knew this hence his leadership in the whole Chauvening conference. But once the choir lady realized this, she was a frequent. Even when she had nothing to offer the grounds.
For the men, it was a balancing act to make sure the jingle bells and the great tower don’t touch the ground. The well-behaved would dig little crosses into the ground just to warn the next person of the miracles that just happened there. Sanitary and hygiene were briefly suspended. Even the hottest girls, including your crushes, never took a shower. It was a simple choice for men; no bath or no bath.
I could handle all this. What I could not, was sleeping inside the tiny tents, or worse sharing it with Sleeping bag. We are both tall dudes, and if you understand our anatomies the height is proportionally and consistently spread out in our bodies. I couldn’t go full stretch, and so it meant sleeping with knees bend over the other, vertically! Eye contacts, touching even accidental, sexy or nice voices…all these we agreed with Sleeping Bag were contraventional. The girls I suspect were cuddling their way through the night. For us, the Unspoken Bros constitution was in play. In both camps, Lake Elis and our Summit camp Club Mackinders this was upheld. Our potter’s bags and day packs came in handy in demarcating boundaries in our tiny tent. Did we even sleep?
The eve of summit day was all fire and brimstone. Stress flared up my stomach. It was a serious thing, painful too. I can’t think of why we don’t acknowledge it more when the body talks to us this way. What else does it have to do to get our attention and say we need a calmer and more relaxing way of living? From around 10 pm, I had around 6 episodes of chauvening and throwing up. This involved coming out of my sleeping bag quietly like a letter out of an envelope, unzipping the tent and doing the whole chauvening experience at a spot of my choice. Hell stared at me and it didn’t blink.
Sleeping bag whom whole this time was dead asleep and was now aware of what was happening, woke. I think he was jealous at the amount of breeze I was amassing and he too decided to accumulate more of his. It was 2 AM, the moon was watching and Lenana, Nelion and Batian were all peeking. I had spoken to our team lead about all this and apparently for me giving up was not an option. This was definitely a punishment, for all that pride on the trail and being part of ‘Team Subaru’ the renowned mountain runners.
Anybody who knew me already figured I was disfigured. No puns, no smiles, bowed head and changed walking style. My walk was slow and bouncing just to reduce the chances of chauvening. Throwing up or chauvening might lead to you being taken back and so I wasn’t going to risk it. We all, 60 of us, lined up back to back and like a caravan of saints, headed to our destiny.
It was all ice and snow, the air was thin, the terrain was sloppy…everything you don’t need when your whole body is in pain. I still doubt if this was anything to do with the mountains because the pain lasted long after the hike but whatever it was it didn’t put me down. It mustn’t. What doesn’t kill you made Kelly Clarkson stronger but it made me weak and feeble. 10 steps and I would then take a rest. Shout out to our team doctor, Johnte, for without him I wouldn’t have made it. He patiently walked behind me and stopped whenever I stopped, which was like a thousand times. Sleeping bag, Ruger and the Choir lady were perfectly fine. It was my turn to pay homage to the lord of humility.
At around 7 am, I made it. We made it. I was on top of the world, tears in my stomach as the African warrior I was. For hours, I felt all the pain of the universe and it forged me into a fighter. But now, both my sticks were firm and happy. For several sweet minutes, I didn’t have to hide behind a mask, not of happiness, not of coping, I could be honest and get heartfelt warmth from the sun. I was 10% Babito and it was 100% Mt. Kenya but I conquered it.
It did matter that I had 12 more Kilometres to cover down to the road-end camp, but I didn’t care. I made it. For some reason, the distances in the mountains seem longer than they are actually quoted. It’s like they’re in dollars and not yet converted. I remember it as the most painful walk I had to endure but not as painful with patient Snackers around me. Gradual waits, stories, puns, banter, snacking, it could have been a painful lonely walk to the camp but instead, it was a moment filled with laughter and reflections. Standoffish, annoying I was ad still they kept with me and not a single sign of displeasure.
I have kept only the memory of the pain, not the feeling, and this frees me to become all the stronger, all the more creative, in the ending of agony. And quoting Uji guy, it’s not the journey or the destination that is important but the company.