The Travelling Trooper Takes on Kilimanjaro: Day 4

August 2 was our leader on Day 4. He warned us about the possibility of vomiting and headaches today because of the increased elevation. It’s getting real, I thought.

Thankfully, everybody was fine. Instead, August and I spent the hike talking about Tanzania.

Apparently the current president won the last election despite the fact that 60% of the votes went to the Opposition because the president selects the Election Committee, and the Election Committee is ultimately responsible for selecting the president.

Though it seems like the prez might be getting his act together. He’s made education free for all (even if the quality of education in government run schools isn’t that great.) This might be why less than ten percent of Tanzanians go to university at the moment.

August himself went to a medium school (private school) in middle school, and then to a government school for his secondary studies. He said he basically taught himself in high school because they rarely saw their teachers.

Twenty years ago, if a woman was out past 7 pm at your place for three nights, you were legally married. This even included if you held her there forcefully. Thankfully, that’s not how things are run anymore. Although divorce is basically non-existent here. Couples stick together for better or worse. I don’t know if that’s because of religious influences or what.

August explained that he got his name from his grandfather on his mom’s side. All kids used to be named after saints, and he was named on Saint August’s Day a year after his uncle August died, so he was basically fated to be given that name. He went on to name his own son Arthur only because it starts with the letter A. However now that the whole saintly name thing is in the past, August says that if he has a daughter in the future, he’ll name her Precious.

We arrived at Lava Tower in what seemed like four very fast hours. We were now sitting pretty at 15, 000 feet. We were to have lunch there, and then continue walking another three hours to Baranca Camp. Baranca was actually 2, 000 feet lower than Lava Tower though.

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It started to rain just as we arrived at Lava Tower. Unlike previous times, though, the rain didn’t stop. Our luck had finally run out. And this certainly wasn’t an easy hike down to Baranca. (Not that descending hikes are ever easy.) It had a very rocky beginning.

On top of that, my bag cover kept falling off and I had to keep re-adjusting my poles.

Thankfully, the view through the valley more than made up for these minor inconveniences.

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I stayed behind and walked with Mary, Rich, and Nancy, who were in my opinion, the most badass members of our group. Nancy has gone skydiving with JM, while Mary has gone rock climbing! Mary is that cool grandmother who does things most grandparents would scoff at. Hell, she does things some of my friends would never dream of doing! Case and point: Kilimanjaro!

We arrived at camp with plenty of sunshine left in the day. It was a huge campsite, packed with other trekking companies. This was where some of the other hiking trails converged.

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With time to kill before lunch, Jim and Curt taught August 2 and I how to play Pitch. It’s a card game with two teams of two. Jim and I were taking on Curt and August. What we didn’t know at the time was that August 2 is a freakin’ card shark. The man is a natural at virtually every card game!

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Pitch is a somewhat complicated game, but here’s the gist: Each round, you work together as a pair to try to get the highest and lowest of the trump suit, which is chosen at the start of each round You also want to aim for the Jack of the trump suit (doesn’t that feel like a dirty word now?) and the high score. To get the high score, you want to get as many tens and face cards as possible. Between the high card, low card, Jack, and high score, there are four points up for grabs every round. First to eleven wins.

I cost us the game with a costly risk of three points. See, if you want to choose the trump suit for a given round, you must wager how many of the four points you think you’re going to win for that particular round. If you don’t end up winning enough points that round, you lose points. I wagered that we’d win three, and we came up short. I redeemed myself and almost brought us back, but it was too little too late.

Just before lunch, Kate taught six of us how to play Hearts. Because there were so many of us, we had to play with two decks. We just removed all of the hearts from one of the two decks.

The aim in Hearts is to get as low of a score as possible and avoid the hearts like the plague. Every hand, the player who throws first selects the shape. If you throw the highest card, you take all the cards from that hand. If you don’t have a card to match the suit that was thrown, you can throw any card you wish. This is usually a good time to get rid of hearts and other high cards. So if you don’t have spades and you get rid of a heart card, whoever plays the highest spade that round ends up taking your heart and earning one point. We made up the rule that if two people happen to play the same high card (say, the king of clubs), the second person to play the card ends up taking the round.

Also, the queen of spades is worth 13 points for some reason, so whoever gets stuck with that lovely lady gets a nice fist to the stomach.

The alternative strategy, which still seems like a suicide mission to me, is that you can also try to get ALL of the hearts AND the queen of spades. If you can accomplish this, EVERYBODY gets 26 points except for you. (That’s 13 heart cards + 13 for the queen of spades.) You should only consider doing this if you have a ton of high cards and you think you can win a lot of rounds.

Oh, and whoever ends up playing the high card in the very first round ends up taking a stack of remainder cards that weren’t handed out. This secret pile may or may not contain hearts and/or the dreaded queen of spades.

Kate smoked us, naturally.

Everybody except for Jim, Curt, and I went to bed early, as sleep was proving to be quite difficult to come by for everybody. Plus, a couple of people were feeling a bit under the weather. Jim and Curt taught me how to play Rummy. (Basically, you try to make as many runs of three and three of a kinds with the seven cards you’re dealt and the cards you subsequently pick up. We had some good laughs–especially at Jim’s expense, since he seemed to always pick up the 5 of spades, whether he needed it or not. Curt only noticed this because he usually did need it!

We hoped we weren’t annoying the group with our laughs, but the truth is they were all awake in their tents anyway. The elevation was starting to get to us.

Curt was the Rummy master, but I managed to hold my own. I narowly missed closing the gap on him a couple times.

We eventually went to bed and didn’t sleep.

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