The mountain, the last day – 02/03/2010

So for our final day on Kilimanjaro we are awoken at 6am without the customary tea in the tent.  I shall miss that from hereon in, even the sleeping in a tent part. We have a long way to go today however, (approx 22km), and it is necessary to get on with things.  And so after a briefish breakfast, we do the tipping ceremony:

Raymond arriving to be presented with his share of the spoils.

We had 27 staff altogether and the money gets presented to each one in turn, ranging from US$50 for the porters to just over US$100 for our guide Deo.  It amounted for us to around US$200 each.  The porters and guides apparently earn about the same in tips are they do in wages, and for the work they do it is a pittance in my opinion, even allowing for the fact that we are in Tanzania.  They are all seemingly extremely grateful.

Not all of us were entirely unanimous on the level of tips to give – I’ll leave it at that, as it was the only point of contention that the seven of us had all week, and when you consider that at least some of us knew none of the others before we started, and then spent 24 hours a day with each other, that could have been sometimes stressful.  It actually never ever was – we all got on great at all times. And money is, after all, a rather emotive subject.

We set out for the descent at about 7.30am finally, and the walk down was tiring to an extent, as you use different sets of muscles going down than up, and we also went at a fair old pace.  We had also just done the summit and another 30k or so over the previous 36 hours, so muscles were definitely well worn at this stage. Deo told us the walk would take around six hours, and Heather, Ronan and I did it in five.  The ‘tweens’ however, with ‘newcomer’ Caroline finding her legs and joining them, did it in a incredible four hours, running in part.

The walk once past about a third of the way down was absolutely stunning.  Far and away the prettiest (if not the most stunning, that being reserved for any walk with a view of Kibo) walk yet, as it was through tropical rainforest.  It was very hard to believe we were still on the mountain.

Me and Deo in the forest on the way down

We also saw quite a lot of flora and fauna indigenous to Kili – such as more Senecios, some small flowers whose name escapes me (someone please help me here?), some parasitic climbing lillies, waterfalls and Spanish moss. I really must learn to write down names of things before I forget them:). Here are some pictures on the way down anyway:

The Senecios grow an extra limb every 25 years apparently...

Spanish Moss, I can remember that one:)

I remember that this ends up crawling up the forest canopy...

I asked quite a few questions about things on the way down, and Deo would stop and tell us things that we might have otherwise have missed. It was nice to be educated in this way by him.  This is the mark of a great guide for me (without of course any experience of bad ones) as when questions were asked he was almost always able to answer them.

We reached the gate at 12.40pm, and registered at Marangu Gate where certificates were issued to the guides on our behalf.  As I passed through Marangu Gate my emotions were very mixed.  I was delighted to finish seven days of very hard work, where I had pushed myself to the very limits of my own physical capabilities.  I was also so outrageously happy/content coming down.  Kilimanjaro was more that I ever hoped it would be.  On the other hand I was however quite sad to be leaving.  It did not want this to be over, as needy as I was for a shower, and the comfort of a bed, and a celebratory beer.  Those things, attractive as they most certainly were, were just not important any more though. I walked through the gate and off the mountain, perhaps and probably for the last time…..

Kilimanjaro had taken over pretty much all of my thoughts for six months – I made the most of it, respected it, loved it.  And I always will….