Mount Kilimanjaro, Day 3: Shira II (3850m)
Sunset from Shira II
Day 3 started off with washing ourselves with warm water as usual (mostly hands and face, though some were ambitious), and a delicious breakfast. There was some frost throughout our campsite after the cold night, a contrast from the relatively warm jungle the night before. Some of the terrain was flat, while other areas had some substantial ups and downs around 4000m (13,000 feet). The flat plain with the now evident Kibo peak of Kilimanjaro looming was quite stark.
Around lunch we went to a cool place called Cathedral Peak. This was actually the former peak of the mountain, back when Shira (one component of the mountain) had reigned supreme, anticipated to once have been higher than 17,000 feet. Over millennia it was worn down by other natural forces, including lava flow from the Kibo peak (the highest one now), which destroyed half of what was once its crater. Cathedral is now perched as the highest point of the remaining ridge.
Lava Flow, Cathedral Peak
We also saw a small dear near our lunch spot, called a dik dik. These are a small species of antelope, but their maximum height is about a foot high at the shoulder. They remind me of the springbok and steenbok that we have very commonly in the south, though the dik dik seems to be better adapted to the harsh altitude of Kilimanjaro and is more common in all of East Africa.
While we were very remote, this is the last place along the route where it is possible for cars to reach. Every campsite had a helipad of some kind for emergency airlifts, but the terrain becomes too rough after this lava plateau for ground vehicles to reach. Fortunately we didn’t see any circumstances in our group or others where that was necessary.
Shira II campsite was probably the most fantastic of all we stayed at. It is above most of the lava plain and overlooks the surviving half of Shira’s former crater. Words can scarcely describe the beauty of Mount Meru off in the distance, the clouds blustering through, the spectacular sunset… If you ever do Kilimanjaro, I highly advise that you make a stop at this campsite because it’s unreal.
The night sky was also very special, and while it was cold, it wasn’t as intolerable as some other nights had been. I spent a lot of time capturing the mountain, the stars, and the milky way. If there’s one blog where you take the time to go through all the pictures, I think this should be the one (with the possible exception of summit day).