Overnight, I struggled with a vice like headache and had to sleep upright with the tent flap unzipped.  By morning, I was exhausted, although a little part of me was feeling better; I didn’t feel nauseated anymore at least.

SAM_1741 (2)But the morning’s walk was to change all that.  We hit the trail very early and I felt good, rising slowly, concentrating on the breathing, sipping, snacking mantra.  But the sudden steepening of the trail sapped me of the little energy that I had mustered.  I could feel each footstep sliding beneath me; I went as slowly, pole, pole, as I could, trying all the time to conserve energy but by the time we sat for a rest at the top, I was feeling nauseous again.  The guides showed us the wreck of an aeroplane, a crash that took the lives of four people; I could barely look, instead happy to accept the anti-emetics that were offered.

SAM_1744 (1)We wound across the saddle of the mountain slowly, a gentle uphill gradient.  But although I tried, I was exhausted and this gentle gradient finished me.

SAM_1746 (1)“I think she is going to faint!” Gordon whispered to the guide.  I wasn’t but my legs were like rubber.

The huts at the next camp increased in size at a glacial pace.  As I arrived, on wobbling legs, at Kibo, 4720m up, I was done.  I lay in the shadows of Kilimanjaro’s conical summit, letting the clouds blow over me like nursing hands.  Eventually, I drifted off to sleep and dreamt that my dead mother beckoned me toward her.  Waking in a breathless panic, I knew that I had to make the hardest decision.

I was really done; my dreams of summitting were over.  I could go no further.

SAM_1751 (1)
I managed to stand up for a photo in the clouds, Kibo, 4730m
SAM_1754 (1)
In the morning, waiting for the summiters to return