For me, with the exception of summit night, and of course, hindsight, day three was definitely the hardest. Not so much in terms of physicality, but it just felt like such a looooong day, and by the very end of it, we didn’t really have much to show for it, other than a bit of sunburn, lots of dusty faces and clothes, as some very tired eyes.
Team ‘pole pole’ (which means ‘slowly slowly’ in Swahili) as we had named ourselves by now, started off in really good spirits. We were walking along playing the name game, we had to think of names beginning with the last letter of the name before, then we went through the alphabet with film names, famous people, you name it, we listed it. Animals were a personal favourite of mine, as we always ended up getting stuck on ‘e’ I mean, after elephant and emu there isn’t a whole lot of choice left! This tactic of concentrating on names and words meant that the first few house flew by and did so quite easily, but as we started to tire and get bored of the game, that is when the cracks started to show a little more. Everyone was starting to suffer with headaches and some of the guys were being physically sick. We hadn’t even made it to lunch – which normally I could do fairly well before the doubt started to set in. I seemed to get a bit of a new lease of life in me, just before we stopped for lunch, but what that meant was a walked a bit quicker, ended up on my own (probably for like 10 minutes but that was long enough) and I got all soppy and emotional. Thankfully, another girl caught up/I stopped and waited so I could walk with someone, and the chatting really helped.
After the stop for lunch it was pretty much downhill (like actually down a hill, not spiritually) again, all the way back to where we had started (I mean, it was a different camp, but we ended that day, like 100m higher than when we had started.) It was the most demoralising thing ever. Team ‘pole pole’ did quite well to start with, we actually found something we could do faster than the rest of our group and at one point (for the first and only time on the whole trip) we actually led the way! Until of course, the tiredness sunk in. It started to get colder, the sun was fading and the wind was getting up, it became dustier and in order to stop us from swallowing it, we resorted to walking without speaking too much. Although going down wasn’t difficult, and the day itself wasn’t the most challenging, by the time we got to camp that night, I was in desperate need to speak to someone back home. The signal on my phone had been awful, so I hadn’t been able to text or call anyone since we left the gate 3 days earlier, and although I wouldn’t say I was home sick, I really wanted to hear Steve or my mums voice. Looking back, it was probably a really good thing that I didn’t get to speak to anyone that night, as I probably would have broken down and I’m not sure I would have been able to pick myself back up. One of the girls in my group said ‘you look like you need a hug Danielle’ and I was like, ‘yeah I do’ (I almost sobbed it!) – amazingly, one quick hug later I really did feel a million times better and was ready to face day 4 and the infamous Barranco Wall.
Before going to sleep that night, I told myself over and over again, Kili – I am coming to get you! – And I meant it!!