Mount Kilimanjaro: Sunset In Shira (Part 3)

My alarm blared in the wee hours of the morning. It was 6 am and the gloomy clouds brought some light drizzle with a drop in temperature down to 3 °C. To our surprise, we didn’t need to layer up the whole night as it was warm inside the tent. We woke up to our habitual routine up in the mountain; waking up at ungodly hours, brushing our teeth at a nearby bush, changing our attire, and packing our backpacks before scurrying into the main tent for breakfast. We had French toast, eggs, pancakes and hot drinks, all prepared by Eric, our cook. Hard to believe that mouth-watering meals were served all the way up at 2,500 metres above sea level, but were exactly what we needed for our ascent to the next camp site, Shira.

the human trail from machame to shira
The long human trail from Machame Camp to Shira on a gloomy day.
Image by Norazimah

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

We packed and were ready to leave for the six kilometres challenging ascent to Shira Camp. Today, we were to climb steep rocky ridges of almost 1,000 metre elevation gain in the cold September rain. The entire trek took us over six hours and the incessant rain made the rocks slippery which in turn, slowed us down. The higher we went, the harder our hearts pumped to compensate for the drop in oxygen saturation. The steep incline and the rain didn’t look like it would let up anytime soon.

steep rocky ridges to shira
Imagine climbing upwards on these steep rocky ridges in the rain.
Image by Kavitha
porters carrying heavy load to shira
Look at them go! The porters are used to carrying such heavy load up the steep incline at an elevation of almost 3,000 metres!

“How long more to go?” I asked Hudson, our guide. “We are almost there. From here onward, it is flat and downhill,” assured Hudson. We weren’t too sure if he was understating the distance just to make us feel better. We had been climbing up for almost four hours with no sight of flat ground. Fatigue was slowly kicking in. Thankfully, the intermittent sliver of sunlight warmed our bodies, and we were able to soldier on with some degree of ease. Not to mention, the stunning view of the misty mountain was a constant reminder of why we signed up for this.

another example of steep rocky ridge with a sheer drop
Here is how we manoeuvred across the rocky ridges with a sheer drop. Definitely, not for the faint-hearted.
Image by Norazimah
up up up we go towards to Shira in the rain
Up, up, we go! We still had another three hours of hike in the rain before reaching Shira Camp.
the flattened trail
Finally, the much-anticipated flat ground! It was still drizzling at this point after four hours!
the team reaching shira
We are almost nearing Shira Camp! From left: Kavitha, Hudson (our guide) and myself.

From Mist To Marmalade At Shira

The rain had stopped and clouds began to envelope the plateau that overlooked Mount Meru (the fifth-highest mountain in Africa). We were at 3,750 metres above sea level and all I could see was mist. Our porters had arrived ahead of us to set up camp and prepare our delicious meals. At 4 pm, we had all arrived and checked in at the Shiraz registration booth before resting in our designated tents.

shira signage
Shira Camp at 3,750 metres above sea level, our second camp site.
porters setting up tent
Our porters setting up the tents after arriving ahead of us.
the camp at shira
And Voilà! The end product of their hard work.
registration booth
Checking in at Shira registration booth.
Hebenstretia Dentata at its budding stage on Shira plateau.
Hebenstretia dentata at its budding stage on Shira plateau.
plant at shira
The ‘White Flowering’ plant, otherwise known as Hebenstretia dentata in full bloom.

I had climbed mountains of all sorts, each with its own stellar moments, and so when I peered out of my tent, I dashed out to capture one of my personal favourites; sunset. ‘Picture yourself on a boat, in a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.’ Well not quite like the ‘Beatles’ song as we were above the clouds but the seemingly relentless mist soon gave way to a dazzling marmalade sky. Before this, I could only dream of watching the sunset in Africa, let alone from its highest peak. And here I was, taking my time to photograph some of the best scenery of Africa.

me in my camp
The simplicity of camp life for seven days.
mist has lifted at shira
The mist had lifted and the sun was about to set.
carpet clouds at shira
Carpet clouds at Shira Camp.
peak of kilimanjaro peak from shira
After two days, we finally get a glimpse of Kilimanjaro’s peak.
sunset at shira
The breathtaking sunset at Shira Camp with Mount Meru in the background.

The Mountain Song!

Jambo! Jambo bwana, Habari Gani? Mzuri Sana, Wageni, Mwakaribishwa! Kilimanjaro? Hakuna Matata! At first it sounded alien, a tune that echoed throughout the campsite like a domino-effect. In a matter of days, I knew every word to this Swahili song. It was the mountain’s own theme song sung by local guides and climbers from all walks of life. There was no way to resist humming or singing this catchy tune, plus you wouldn’t be able to say you climbed Kilimanjaro without knowing it.

porters singing
A group of mountain guides and porters huddled together whilst singing the mountain theme.

It was that sense of calm that we all desperately seek. Here I was, watching the sun go down with its magical colours, and as I strolled around the campsite, there was an incandescent glow on the faces of the mountain porters and guides. Put aside the strenuous load and tireless days up in the mountains away from their families, they were contented with the simplicity around them. That, to me, was a breath of fresh air from the norms of my routine.

en elderly porter singing and dancing
An elderly porter with a glow on his face as he sings and dances to ‘Jambo Bwana’.

Starry Sky At Shira

“It is time for dinner!” exclaimed Baraka, our cook’s assistant. I rushed back to the tent for our eagerly awaited meal; fried rice, fried chicken, grilled vegetables, corn soup and pasta. Talk about ‘luxury’ food up in the mountains! As usual, we huddled around each other for a light banter and short briefing before retiring to our tents. It was 7 pm now, and the scene had transformed into one of the cosmos. Think ‘Space Odyssey‘ and the scenery would be a close reflection of it. There was hardly any light pollution at 3,700 metres. The night sky was decked out with brilliant twinkling stars and even though it was colder now, it was certainly a view to die for! I could only imagine what I would see as we go higher and higher…

starry sky at shira
The night view of Mount Meru from Shira Camp.
the cosmos
The Cosmos from the highest point in Africa.
The peak of Mount Kilimanjaro from Shira
The peak of Mount Kilimanjaro at a distance.
It was one of the most moving experiences ever, watching the sunset at a high altitude. This is Sunset in Shira, Kilimanjaro.

Special credits to Impatiens Tours & Safaris and NEX Adventure for organising this amazing hike. For more information and early bird discounts, please visit their official website and Facebook page. Follow Impatiens Tours for special promotions and discounts. Visit or follow NEX Adventure for more information on bookings and preparations.

Previous Articles:

  1. Mount Kilimanjaro – From Dream To Reality (Part 1)
  2. Mount Kilimanjaro – The Whiskey Route (Part 2)

Next Up – Mount Kilimanjaro: The Long And Winding Road (Part 4)

About Jeevitha KUMAR

Hiker, mountain climber, diver, globe trotter, and all-round adventurer, she is probably one of a handful of medical doctors who has left her footprints (almost) all over the world.

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