After another cold night on the mountain (it was two degrees Celsius inside the tents) we awoke to a wonderful sight... Mt. Meru in a sea of clouds.
Incredible view so early in the morning and a great way to begin our day. The hike today would be a short three hours, so after a hearty breakfast we headed to Millenium camp. The terrain was very much the same, but we did see obsidian rocks (formed when the lava from a volcano cools super fast and looks like black glass), tracks of jackal and some striped mice. We crossed undulating terrain and finally reached our camp site, 3777 m. Everyone was in good spirits as we are now lower than we have been in a while and all signs of altitude issues in our group are gone.
In the afternoon, just before we were going to do some protocols, a heavy rain shower descended on us. It was a cold wet snowy rain that lasted quite a while. Indeed, if it was this heavy a shower here, it must definitely be snow up on the mountain. And it was! The rainy season had already begun and before we were down from the mountain.
Instead we decided to ask the students questions on the differences between the Oman environment and the one we presently occupy. The answers encompassed far more than scientific learning and I share some of them here with you now:
Differences Between the Oman and Kilimanjaro Environments:
Temperature low in Kilimanjaro; weather changing a lot in Kilimanjaro; soil could be planted; soil is cold; soil is loose dark and rocks; clouds very thick in Kilimanjaro; cold sun here; rainy season is two months (October and November).
Many plants in Kilimanjaro; plants grow fast in rainforest; scrubs without thorns; nettles in rainforest; very short roots in plants, in Oman very long; plants very close, in Oman very far apart; a diversity of plants here; plants long lasting here, grow and die quickly after rain in Oman; epiphytes (plants like moss that grow on trees, not in Oman).
Overall, nothing really similar between the two environments
No monkeys in Oman, two species at Kilimanjaro; similar insects but differences in size and color; the raven here bigger and a different species (white necked raven--Corvus albicollis); no camels here in Kilimanjaro.
Commonalities Between the Two Environments:
Biomes present on both areas; both have deserts just different temp and soil/rock type; have chats (bird species) just different color and size; both have rainy season; winter in Oman November to March -- rains maybe four times during that time; 15.24 mm (0.6 inch) last rain recorded by GLOBE school in Oman.
Besides the differences and the commonalities about the two environments, the students also were asked about their feeling about the environments. They clearly preferred their home environment and the heat! It was clearly a challenge for this set of students to deal with the cold weather, coming from temperatures in the high 30s and 40s C with a low of mid 20s C at night to camping in an environment where inside the tent was 2C! I'd imagine it would be same for anyone dealing with these extremes.