I slept pretty well that first night on Mt Kilimanjaro. I say, pretty well because three circumstances conspired against me.
First, I was "rooming" with my good friend Tommy. Tommy breathes like a regular person by day, but by night, inhales in odd ways. This sort of thing is understandable when you reach our age and can be minimized under normal circumstances. However, sleeping in a nylon tent smaller than a shoebox is not normal. Frankly, I feared for Tommy because (1) he nearly inhaled the rain fly on one occasion, and (2) his snorts of "Nnaark! kuNnaark! Nnaark!" sounded like the kind of thing that could initiate a stampede of Serengeti aardvarks (which were certainly within earshot of Tommy's snoring, as was the greater part of East Africa).
A second awkward circumstance that conspired against restful sleep was a seed planted in my mind right before bedtime. Robert, our local source of wisdom on the mountain, suggested we keep a flashlight at hand in case we needed to go out of the tent to urinate in the night.
"Why?" we asked.
He raised an eyebrow and replied flatly "Because there is a patrol that goes round the tents at night with a gun. If you go out, please use your light."
This was a very wizardly move on Robert's part. He answered our question without answering our question. Wizardly, but disquieting.
A third awkward conspirator against my sleep grew from the second. To help with the acclimatization process, I was taking a daily medication called Diamox. I do not know how the stuff works, but my bladder sure does. As it turned out, I needed to urinate, on average, about once every three minutes. If repeated exposure raises your risk to whatever unmentionables lurk in African rainforests after midnight, I was already a "dead man walking." I figured the rangers would eventually find what was left of my cold body in the bush, gripping a pee bottle in one hand and a flashlight in the other.
Despite these three challenges--no four, did I mention the demonic air mattress?--we were ready to hike up the Shira at first light.