The second day of our hike started with a rich breakfast at about seven in the morning. Afterwards we continued our hike through dense mountain rainforest, which became thinner and thinner in the course of the hike. We increasingly felt the high humidity and blazing sun. Accordingly, we recommend applying sun cream regularly, wearing headgear if possible and drinking enough. During the second stage of the day we only noticed to a small extent that the air became thinner with increasing height. Nevertheless, you hike true to the motto “pole pole”, which means “slow slowly”. Walking slowly is important, and you should manage your energy well, even if climbing the mountain seems easy at first. After we have climbed Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, we can tell you from our own experience how important this is during the summit night.
After about three to four hours of hiking and several breaks we finally reached the Saddle Huts. As the name suggests, these are located in a saddle between Little Meru and Rhino Point at about 3,500 meters. There we ate lunch and rested from the hike. Afterwards we hiked up the Little Meru. Already after less than one hour we made it to the summit. The summit is at an altitude of 3,820 meters. The ascent is great for acclimatization and for taking photos. In the late afternoon, we returned to the Saddle Huts. We rested and had dinner early because the next day would start in the middle of the night.
We had our alarm clocks set at midnight. Then it was time to get up, get dressed and eat and drink as much as possible in order to walk through the night well strengthened. Equipped with walking sticks and headlamp we set off together with our guide George around one o’clock in the morning. The first stage was Rhino Point at 3,800 meters. The name comes from the 20th century and goes back to a rhinoceros, which found its last resting place there and whose bones can still be seen. The way leading there winds its way up the slopes of Mount Meru and through dense bushes. Although the temperature was low and close to zero, it was still a pleasant hike. In any case, we recommend wearing different layers of clothing to adapt easily to different temperatures, especially as it can get very windy and cold later.
After a short break at Rhino Point we continued our nocturnal hike. At first, we walked downhill for a bit, then parallel to the mountain along a rock surface and finally continuously uphill. The sky was clear, the air fresh but still pleasant at that time, and we started sweating more and more…! From about 4,000 meters above sea level, we noticed more and more the thinning air. We walked slower than before, breathing in and out deeper and taking regular breaks. Regular drinking and eating of small snacks, even if you are not really hungry, is extremely important. The second half of the hike is steeper than the first and leads along the ridge of Mount Meru’s crater up to Socialist Peak. Especially during this phase, we walked slowly, but steadily and with regular breaks up the mountain.
Light on the horizon
Around five o’clock in the morning we had left the ridge behind us and had a clear view to the east. The exhaustion was great and the motivation somewhat dampened when we noticed that we could see the summit but had to walk around it for more than half an hour to reach it. The view of Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro, was impressive and motivating at the same time. So we continued our hike up the mountain, over boulders towards the summit and sunrise. Around half past six in the morning we finally made it and reached Mount Meru’s summit, Socialist Peak! At 4,566 meters altitude, the summit of Mount Meru is the second highest in Tanzania and the fifth highest in Africa. The emotions were great, the views simply impressive. Thanks to a clear view over to Kilimanjaro we were able to see how the sun rose from behind the mountain and showed the former volcano in all its splendor.
After about 20 minutes on the summit, some rest, eating and drinking, we made our way back. Only at this point did we realize how steep some of the previous passages had been. Surefootedness is therefore recommended in any case! The way down from the summit back to the Saddle Huts seemed extremely long and exhausting (which it probably was…). But all efforts were rewarded with great views and a direct view of Mount Meru’s volcanic crater. After a good three hours hike, we finally came back to the Saddle Huts. There, we had enough time to relax and change clothes, because the temperature had reached a pleasant 15-20 degrees again. After an early lunch we finally made our way back to the Miriakamba Huts. The hike lasted only about two hours, so we could rest after arrival and played checkers with our team. The rest of the day was relaxed, and we went to bed early.