Onward and Upward
MacKinders Camp Travel Blog› entry 52 of 81 › view all entries
In the morning we packed our still-damp belongings from the cabin and walked to the lodge for hot coffee and bread rolls. Five British soldiers were loading a Landrover for the hour-long trip to a meteorological station at the 10,000 foot level and offered us a lift. They were making their first attempt at the mountain too. The Brits carried much more gear than we did, making Scott and I wonder if we were actually prepared for the challenge.
At road's end, we eagerly unloaded our backpacks. While the Brits slowly organized theirs, Scott and I quickly set out on a trail climbing sharply into shaded bamboo forest. Monkeys scattered and screeched - we reckoned wishing us good luck. The path soon reached the open alpine zone which looked more like a desert. Tussock grasslands were strewn with colorful moss-covered rocks and a variety of plant life. Lobelias stood like cactus. Each long hill that we ascended - panting for breath in thinning air - led to another long hill but we trudged onward and upward for hour after hour while cursing ourselves for that self-inflicted punishment.
Finally one hilltop provided a magnificent downward view into Teliki Valley and its small hut another two miles distant. The descending trail rendered comfortable hiking but as we approached Teliki Hut, hail peppered down in a late-afternoon thunderstorm. We entered the crude shack, made coffee, snacked on bread and peanut butter, and put on our long johns. Half an hour passed before the British troops arrived. Their apparent exhaustion made Scott and I realize that we weren't in such bad physical shape after all and fueled our determination to press on.
Once the Brits were rested we all hiked the 'mile and a bit' to MacKinders camp beneath the towering peaks of Batian and Nelion. A rat-looking creature - the Mount Kenya hyrax - dominated the area. The critters stood upright nearly two feet tall and peered from behind every rock looking to pilfer food. One of the Brits bludgeoned one to death with a length of firewood and was severely scolded by a superior. Exhausted, we prepared a warm meal, pitched the tent and hit the sack. Our sleeping bags were still damp and, combined with the below-freezing temperatures and thin air at 13,500 feet, made for a mostly sleepless cold and shivering night.