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.
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.
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.
“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.