Climbing Kilimanjaro: Day 8 – Reunited

Fri. 12th July 2013

Jambo! Nina itua David.
Kutoka rahoni asantini sana.
Kwakazi nzuri mliofania.

51 porters and guides needed to get 12 of us to the topI did the first part of my speech thanking the porters in Swahili – thanks to David (the guide) for a crash course in some appropriate phrases. I wrote down the Swahili phrases in my notebook, but stupidly didn’t write down the translations. The first line is “Hello! My name is David” after that I’m not so sure (not even about the spelling). It doesn’t help that my priority when writing it down was to make it easy to pronounce rather than on the correct spelling. So, if anyone can translate, please let me know.

With David - our "brother from another mother"As with the Inca Trail (so long) before, I tried to convey some of the sights and the beauty we had seen – the Wall, the Cathedral, the Lava Tower, the summit – the views and the achievement. Trying to get over what it meant to me to have fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition and to have done it with Steve and with a great group of people who will always be friends. How without the porters and guides it would have been impossible.

Nearly back at the cloudsThe Swahili was unexpected and appreciated by the porters. The money was expected but even more appreciated. After the speechifying, there was time for some songs from the porters (Zaina, yet again) and a rendition of the Hokey Cokey from us. Then it was final goodbyes and personal thank yous to the porters who will be heading straight off when we get to the bottom. And then, we’re off. Our final bit of walking. We have 2.2 (vertical) kilometres to head down to Mweka Gate at 1,650m.

Walking down through the forestThe descent takes us from our fantasy world above the clouds, down through them to the real world below. All the while, the scenery is beautiful and ever-changing. We pass through moorland and rain-forest and the colour pallet changes from blue sky and grey rocks to greens and browns of the forest. The path is clear and well defined and when level the walking is easy. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that is level as it heads down the mountain. Worse, once in the clouds the path is muddy and strewn with slippery stones and wet branches. My legs and knees start to feel the strain and this is aggravated by the need to be careful.

Much needed and well deserved beerAre we nearly there yet? The last piece is a real slog. I’m tired, I’ve done the summit, I just want to get down and meet up with Janet, Chris and Lucy (and a shower and a beer). Surely, it can’t be much further? Pole pole is all forgotten and the group has split up and there is an hour or more between the first group arriving at the bottom and Mark and myself at the end. Eventually however, we do get down and there is a final registration form to complete – this one is important though as it has the details for our certificate which I definitely want. Better yet, there is an enterprising soul selling bottles of cool beer out of a cardboard box. Kilimanjaro, of course – and beer has never  tasted so good! Now we really feel like celebrating – there are hugs and congratulations all round.

Bedlam at the restaurant - just say No!Then there is a final short walk from the gate down to the nearby village where our packed lunch and then the bus will be waiting for us. Once past the gates, the locals come out to try and sell us stuff – mostly t-shirts or carvings – and when we get to the café where we get our packed lunch (its complicated – just remember, we’re in Africa!) we are truly mobbed. The guides try (mostly unsuccessfully) to impose some order but it is just pandemonium with voices calling out and t-shirts and trinkets being thrust at us from all directions. I do want to get a Kili t-shirt but don’t want anything else and so just blot it all out.

At last, the bus arrives to take us back and we all troop on board slump into seats brains firmly switched off and legs feeling the exertion of the walk down the mountain. It’s going to be a couple of hours and the bus is hot and packed as the A/C isn’t working, the heat from the engine comes up through the floor and we need to drop some of the porters off in Moshi before heading on to Arusha, the Moivaro Coffee Lodge and the rest of the family. I’m impatient (no, surely not) but there is nothing to do but sit back, stare out of the window and contemplate what we’ve achieved.

Our arrival back at Moivaro is like a homecoming. Janet, Chris and Lucy are there already and so there are big hugs all round – despite a week and more of stubble, inadequate washing and lack of shower. It’s been a year since I last saw Chris and Lucy and, of course, they have had their adventure in the last week too. There’s a lot to catch up on and we start sharing some of the stories.

Having had a beer earlier, my priority is now very clearly a shower. It takes a lot of scrubbing to get me clean, and I don’t think that some of my clothes will ever be clean again but, eventually, I’m feeling a lot more human (and probably smelling a whole lot better).

Conquerors of KilimanjaroFor one last time, we’re all together as a group and Janet, Chris and Lucy are made honorary members of the Kilimanjaro Conquerors and, just as we have been for the last week or so, we are all sat at one long table. More stories are swapped around the table as we relive some of the highlights of our trek (there were just so many) and start to make plans for a reunion. I’m very happy to be back with family and to hear about Serengeti and Ngorongoro. Whilst, I would have loved to have been with Janet, Chris and Lucy, I think that they are happy with their choice. (I know I am happy with my choice going on safari, and having read this just confirms that. The scenery sounds stunning but the walking would have been a step or two too far! Janet)

Me, I wouldn’t have missed Kilimanjaro for the world. It was every bit the challenge I thought it would be but I never thought it would be so stunningly beautiful. Thanks to Steve for being there with me; thanks to the guides and porters (African Walking Company) for making it so possible and so enjoyable; and thanks to the Kilimanjaro Conquerors for being such a great, inspirational, fun bunch of people. I won’t ever forget you or our time on the mountain.

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