Buffalo Camp (4,000m/13,200ft) to Third Cave (3,800m/12,500ft)
Distance: 8km/5mi, 3-5 hours
Altitude: 100m/400ft down in elevation
Day 6 continues off-the-beaten track in complete wilderness on the northern slopes of Kilimanjaro. The hike to the next camp (Third Cave) only takes a few hours and is very easy.
In clear morning skies, free views of glacier-covered Kibo to your right and down to Kenya on your left will accompany you for most of the morning. Both the 360 degree view of Kibo and the views of Kenya are unique on the Northern Circuit route.
However, things start to get a bit repetitive on day 6 – the same landscape and vegetation over and over again. Other than earth, sand, scree, and green scrubs, it’s the so-called everlasting plants that mostly cover the ground at higher altitudes all around Kilimanjaro. There are white and yellow variants, all part of the Helichrysum family.
For some distraction, watch out for a few younger versions of the giant groundsel (Dendrosenecio) that you have already seen on the Shira plateau. More excitingly, the so-called giant lobelia (Lobelia deckenii) makes for an entirely new curiosity. Same as the giant groundsel, the giant lobelia also is native to the alpine zones of mountains in East Africa. Thus, chances are high you have never seen such a plant before.
Arriving early at camp in time for lunch, this day provides plenty of free time to recover and relax in the afternoon. For those keen to keep walking, an afternoon bonus hike may provide some entertainment, though will help little in terms of acclimatization. Due to the gradual slopes near the Third Cave camp, it’s not possible to gain a lot of altitude.
One of the surprises of Kilimanjaro hikers and Tanzania tourists more broadly is the amount of dust everywhere in the dry season. It’s impossible to keep your boots and trousers clean. The best you can do is to wear gaiters all the time. And to all the fashionistas: Don’t worry if your boots are not the most trendy – by now they will all look the same!
It seemed to me that we had the Third Cave camp all to ourselves again. Only afterwards I realized that we were not alone – a ghost was watching over our camp all along! 🙂