Wednesday, May 9, 2007

From Mount Cameroon

May 1 to May 3
Mount Cameroon

Day one: “You are prepared,” says our guide as he looks up at 4095 metre tall Mount Cameroon peeking through the mist.

I appreciate and am fortified by the statement and its absence of an inflection at the end. “Yes,” I say, flexing calf muscles under my argyle socks pulled up to my knees, strapped into Chilkoot-worthy hiking boots. I am 30 today, I am woman, hear me roar. Peter, my mandatory porter, stands beside me in flip flops.

Day two: Roar reduced to a meow, a soft mewl actually.

Woke to rats by head and spent first four hours of today hiking vertically, bamboo stick firmly clenched in right hand. But ah! Mount Cameroon in all its glory -- as close to the sun as I may get, gloriously windy and now part of my bones and sinewy tendons of my left knee and blistered feet.

We trekked for 10 hours, up, then down summit, into savannah then onto the innards of Mount Cameroon; the earth’s revolt onto and into itself. This mountain is more alive than any other I’ve climbed.

The last crater erupted in 2000, the lava flowed almost to the Atlantic Ocean. Wisps of smoke still escape from gaping craters and bulbuous porous rocks give way to a fine, ashen layer of a sort of volcanic desert. I hobble to thatched hut and sleep soundly.

Day three: I am a sheep, hear me roar, er, bleat. Walked and thought like a
sheep today out of pure necessity. I feel 60, not 30.

Grateful for Nescafe, thick mists, cliff bars from Canada, and lush rainforests. Hiked for eight hours, down, down, down. Arrived in a small village to booming radios, dancing kids and many well wishers saying “a-shay-yeah” (translates to mean sorry, sorry you are sweating, my empathy is with you.) I soaked in their empathy just as freely as I soaked in the lushness of the rainforest. T.

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