Sunday, July 22, 2012

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Everybody in our group made it to the summit which was unbelievable as we passed many people having to descend through Altitude sickness. Although it seems like a bit feat to have climbed the World’s highest free-standing mountain, we only had to talk to the guides and porters to put things into perspective. One of our guides completed his 840th summit attempt and was heading up again in another few days. The porters are required to carry so much equipment and when they sprint past you instantly stop complaining… They really are the unsung heroes of Kilimanjaro. Their praises should be sung as loudly as they themselves sang on the mountain.

As a farewell, the 55 strong team of guides and porters gathered to sing us traditional mountain songs and we all ended up dancing and singing with them. The last morning was slightly emotional as the past six days had been unbelievable yet one of the toughest things we had ever done. The amount of work that the porters and guides put in over the course of the six days is outstanding and often provide a better service than anywhere 5895m nearer sea level.

As we trudged back down through the rainforest I experienced my first fall of the trip which left me with a more than impressive bruise on my bum. The group could essentially go at our own pace but the porters were absolutely racing down the mountain. The walk was  relatively quick due to good company (alas, I had no idea you could have a 15 minute conversation about one salad) and the fact every step down from the summit was easier, well except on the old knees.

Upon arrival at the Mweka Gate there was a group of porters and guides singing and dancing to congratulate us on reaching the top.After signing out for the last time and grabbing some souveniers we headed down to our bus. Rather than being at the gate, the bus was parked at the village down from the gate and this gave any hassling salesmen the chance to hawk us down, but by now most of us were getting pretty savvy at haggling. At this point we had to say goodbye to two of our guides; Msechu and Pasco but we invited them round to the hotel in the evening.

The drive back was a bizarre sensation as we experienced motion that wasn't self-propelled for the first time in days. Back at the hotel we were all desperate for a shower but there was only time for one person to shower before we had to be ready for lunch. As the seldom clean people started to appear we realised the extend of how disgusting the rest of us were, but nothing could prepare us for the colour the shower-water would be.

The evening was spent on the balcony with everyone enjoying some beers and the feeling of being clean but as for me, I spent the evening thinking I had Lyme disease due to a rash I'd picked up on my ankle. Everyone thought I was being ridiculous as usual and convinced me so. On return to the UK I got to rub it in their faces by being right all along as I was diagnosed with it and treated. Yes, I am a ridiculous human being and excellent hypochondriac.

 Later that evening some of the guides came round the hotel with our certificates from the Park offices to celebrate reaching the top. It was lovely to see them again so soon and a nice round off to a wonderful experience.

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