Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Taste the Rainbow"- Kili Day 3

What euphoria!

We wake up and shed layers, as the sun greets us with its warmth. My headache is gone, we've slept through the night, and we're all in great spirits. Altitude can make you delirious, but I'm hoping this elation is from within, a sign that the mountain has accepted us.

Day 3 brings with it a stark reminder: Mt. Kilimanjaro is, first and foremost, an ancient volcano. Here we all are, marching in single file like migrant elephants pursuing food and shelter in the great wilderness, and the landscape is... barren. Just volcanic ash, and to our left a trough where the lava once flowed. It's like a scene out of Jurassic Park, or at best where the Hyenas lived in Disney's The Lion King.

But we feel GREAT. We are 4000 and something meters high now, "we've surpassed Mont Blanc!", and it starts to hail. Our chatter dies down. We are just trekking, one pole planted, then the next. I pick up my boot and then put it back down, missing a step. But we keep going, mirroring the motions of the feet in front of us... all the while murmuring short prayers, fully aware that today is 'Arafa, the penultimate day of the Hajj. The tiny ice cubes soften into snowflakes. My right pole buckles and folds in on itself.

Our thoughts are elsewhere today, Rami's wedding, Myriam's baby, my family in Paris, Zein remembers a relative's birthday, I wonder how Raha is doing just 2 days behind us on the Kili trail.

"Mabrook Mabrook!" A voice ahead wakes me up from my trance. "5 hours! Well done!" WHAT! Already? How!! It's lunch time but we resume shortly after- the aim today is to gain altitude, acclamitize, and sleep lower. Lava Tower looms in the distance, deceptively close but not close enough. We arrive by the grace of God, just as I am starting to feel headachy again. It looks like a shot from the Land before Time, if you remember that cartoon. We take photos, we celebrate, and then....

What comes next is like nothing I've ever seen before- which would make sense, since it only exists on Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya: A field of Senicia Trees. Akin to a palm tree with banana leaves? Or maybe a cactus with a trunk? This is my image of, oh say, Madagascar? Peru? As we descend, the snow clears and the clouds part: There's the peak!! Grand, welcoming us: "Mwakaribishwe Kilimanjaro!" - welcome to Kilimanjaro!

But those trees, they're the reason to climb Kili! What a hidden treasure. I am half expecting a Llama to appear, this scene is so surreal. And then, a rainbow! I can hardly believe my eyes as I trace the full arc across the sky. Laughter returns to the group on this endless day. And sure enough, like the Irish leprechaun's pot of gold, but no longer a hidden secret, there lies our campsite waiting for us at the rainbow's end.

We arrive just in time, half an hour before sunset. Together, we face due North (almost) and direct our souls to the Creator of this splendor.. on this most holy of holy days. Unbelievable day, alhamdillah.

Kul 3am wintu bkhair w Eid Adha Mubarak!

2 comments:

Mona K Shahab said...

oo inti ibkheir! and there I was in Arafa praying that you are all healthy, that you summit and return safely :)

Can't wait for Day 4!

Amo WYZ said...

We are reliving the Kili experience through the canvas of your prism, and what a wonderful and brilliantly colorful canvas it is turning out to be .. one more accolade to our beloved and multi-talented Noura :)
Amo WYZ

IT began as a field diary for my summer in Jizan (2006) under the title "Watch Out Bubba Gump." Now I'm not sure what it is... but I do know it's time for me to start writing again.