The alternative Kili experience
After another night of little sleep and feeling emotionally drained the four Kili rejects met for an early breakfast. A taxi had been organised by Rubens (Donna’s guide) to collect her for the hospital at 8 am. It was an hour and a half journey to Moshi to the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, the ‘best’ hospital in the area. It was decided that all four of us should go. Helen was feeling better and her medical knowledge would come in useful, Paula needed to get herself checked out too and as my stomach had improved I didn’t want to be left at the hotel on my own.
Rubens sat in the front and us four girls literally squeezed into the back of the cab. No mention or in fact possibility of wearing seatbelts here! Again we headed up the dirt track, swerving from left to right to avoid the potholes! Donna’s eyes were not so good and she needed to ‘see’ the consultant. When we got to the hospital it was clear that the ‘best’ hospital in the area was not somewhere where you would want to spend any length of time. To call it primitive would be an understatement. It was as dirty inside as it was out and there were not enough medical staff for the number of people presenting themselves at the casualty department, which was nothing more than a corridor split in half, one side where you wait, the other where you get seen.
We needed to pay $50 to create a file in order for Paula to be seen so we wandered off round the hospital trying to find where we had to go. After a couple of hours Paula and I were steered towards the triage corridor and left to wait whilst Helen and Donna went off to find the eye specialist.
Sat in that corridor, surrounded by people with Malaria and who knows what other issues, not being able to understand the language and worrying about everyone on and off the mountain, I had never felt so vulnerable.
I will never forget the young boy, no more than 10, sat alone next to me and Paula, obviously in a lot of pain from Malaria. I remembered that I had a bag of Minstrels in my pocket and got them out to give to him. His eyes were full of pain and he looked at the bag not understanding what to do with it. He broke my heart there and then. I showed him how to open the bag and tried to explain that it was chocolate to eat. A doctor eventually came to get him and I wondered why this little lad was on his own, how he had even managed to get to the hospital in such obvious pain and whether he would even survive to see another birthday. My brain was beginning to implode.
After another couple of hours waiting Paula was eventually called in and to our surprise was seen by a ‘white’ doctor! Checks and tests were quickly done but she couldn’t find either of the two thermometers that existed in A&E so Paula’s temperature couldn’t be taken. I couldn’t believe how poorly equipped this place was and the reality of all those news programmes and TV documentaries about Africa smacked me firmly in the face. The doc wanted to test Paula for Malaria but as this involved taking blood we made it clear that it wasn't going to happen...I think she was a bit confused and offended but the health risks of giving some blood were clear to see.
With anti-biotics administered and Donna being given the good news that her eyes were definitely improving we piled back in the taxi and headed for Moshi town. As we were all having extended stays at the hotel, and they didn’t take the emergency credit cards we were all told to bring(?!), we needed to get cash from a bank to pay the hotel bill.
We needed about $300 each but the bank wouldn’t give out that amount of money and again we all felt very vulnerable withdrawing huge wads of cash in a country where the average living wage is $2 a day. It was fair to say we pretty much stood out from the crowd, especially me with my bleach blond hair! We withdrew what we could and Rubens steered us to a nearby pub for a much needed late lunch, hoping that the we wouldn't get food poisoning along the way!
After lunch we headed back to Marangu and the hotel, stopping at one point to hand out some pens to some school kids on their way home. You’d have thought they had just won the lottery…yet another emotional moment to set me off again! I couldn’t believe what this trip was doing to my head, my senses had never felt so battered.
Nearly home the taxi driver demanded more money for the extra waiting time there had been at the hospital. Rubens and him were clearly cooking something up between them and were both obviously aware that we all had a lot of cash on us. An argument started between Donna and Rubens and it was quite clear the taxi driver was getting very agitated. At one point he got on his mobile and had a very animated conversation with someone. Helen and I kept looking at each other wondering if he was calling up his mates and whether we were about to get abducted or worse. The air was blue but eventually we got back to the hotel and Donna and Paula went off leaving me and Helen with Rubens and the driver. We gave him half the extra money that he wanted and suffered the wrath of ‘The Ayatollah Donna’ later for it!!
Embesi later arrived at the hotel with the news that there were more people coming down from the mountain. My heart sank, all he knew was that one of the young girls had a chest infection and that Ronnie was seriously ill and was being stretchered down on oxygen with the doctor in tow. It was likely that Ronnie would be going straight to the hospital. I was desperate for news and couldn’t wait for this week to be over.
It was such a relief to see little Kirsty walking through the hotel and I rushed to give her a hug. She brought news that everyone else was doing well but that she didn’t know how Ronnie was and actually didn’t know that he was in trouble until she had got down to the gate.
Embesi took us to Mama Jocy’s food emporium for dinner – a small bar just up the track from the hotel. Children that lived on site came to say hi and we gave them jelly babies and chocolate…we had made friends for life! Our spirits lifted and we learnt a lot from Embesi about the country and the people we were surrounded by. The food was bountiful, fresh, very good and very cheap – everything the hotel food wasn’t and we decided that this would be where we ate from now on.
An early night was called for and we crashed into bed. Unfortunately the brain was working overtime and Helen and I ended up talking into the early hours, worrying about Ronnie and the others, trying to work out how this trip would change us and what the future held, laughing, crying. Thank god for Helen, I would have been carted off to the funny farm if it wasn’t for her!