Best not mention sausages when in Jackson Biko’s presence as he is still carrying with him the trauma of a very cold series of sausage sandwiches he had no choice but to to eat over a decade ago.
I will tell you when I stopped eating sausages. And sandwiches. I stopped eating these things when I went up a mountain. I know how that sounds like. That sounds like something Moses from the Bible would say. Only for me it wasn’t Mt Sinai, it was Mt Kenya. Dreadful place. Don’t go. Don’t listen to people who say it should be in you Bucket List. It’s not worth it. It’s not worth the suffering and misery and wet shoes. Put Stellenbosch wine tour in your Bucket List. Go see the Door Of No Return in Senegal…you will cry, yes, but not from blistering cold, walking whole day with a stick and altitude sickness. Climbing Mount Kenya, or even rock climbing is very “white.” I think white folk have the capacity for that level of discomfort. I only did it because I was writing about it.
Anyway, yes, sausages and sandwiches.
After day three of walking through moorland, pitching camp at Old Moses Camp and then walking through more rain and cold, we finally set camp to acclimatise next to lake Alice. I think. I was too sick to care. The camp was called Shipton Camp. 4,200m above bloody sea level which might as well have been 10,000m of misery. The scenery is fantastic, but only if you see it in pictures from the comfort of your computer in the office. Mountain hyrax skirted about. We hung around the whole day, sitting in this stone-house with tourists who were absolutely chuffed to be doing this. I, on the other hand, had a massive headache that wouldn’t go away. I was nauseous. I hadn’t showered in three days. I missed my bed. I often wondered what my pillow was doing. At night, when I crawled into my small domed-tent, the wind thrashing against it, the cold biting into my bones, my feet, My God, my feet so cold like I would have never imagined feet getting that cold, I thought of my clean white sheets.
The night was long. The longest I have known. When I grudgingly woke up to take a leak in the middle of the night (you pee a lot because they tell you to hydrate all the time) and I staggered out of my tent, the cold so insane my earlobes started falling off, I removed my pecker in that two degrees cold, and it immediately shriveled (further) to the size of a very badly done fish-finger. I knew I was done. Screw Lenana point. I was going back home the next morning.
Only at dawn – 4am – our guide, a great guy called David Mwangi or something, talked me out of it. The whole group gathered around me in the stone-house at breakfast and said, “you can do it, Biko,” and I said, “No, I can’t,” and they said, “Yes you can, it’s all in your mind,” and I said, “I wish you all could stop saying that. It is in my head, it’s the headache and nausea and I’m tired and miserable and this has stopped being fun. I don’t want it anymore, it’s off my Bucket List and anyone who wants it can take it.” Then this petite girl who never got tired and never got any headaches and seemed to be the strongest person ever (which annoyed me) said gently, “it’s three days going back down, but it’s one day going up and summiting. You can do it.” She might have rubbed my back. I don’t remember. But I remember saying, “OK,” and then sniffing like a baby and her saying, “Awesome [she was American, they are the ones who like saying that], now eat your breakfast, your need your energy [She meant dignity, I’m sure.].”
Breakfast was hot chocolate, weetabix, bread, baked beans, sausages and boiled eggs which most people made sandwiches from. It’s all we ate for all those dead mornings. The sausages were shrivelled and ugly, like they belonged to a pig that had cancer. The egg sandwiches were cold and tasted like the bark of an old tree that has grown in a swamp for 120 years. That second last morning, I turned my back on the sausages and the sandwiches. It’s been 11-years since. Of course I have eaten a sandwich ones or twice since then, but not sausages. Every time I see a sausage on the menu I think of mountain hyrax. And I shiver.