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Friday, 23 July 2010

Kilimanjaro Shira Route - Day 8 (Homeward bound)

Mwera Camp: 3200 m
Mwera Gate: 1650 m
Ascent : 0 m
Descent : 1550 m

We were woken up before the crack of dawn today at the unearthly time of of 5:30am. We had agreed to this however and it was to enable the porters and guides to get home at a reasonable hour to see their families. It really was the least we could do to show our appreciation to them for what they had done for us over the course of the week enabling us to get up and down Kilimanjaro safely.

There was no cup of tea to greet us as we prised our eyes open this morning however there was the customary washie washie in an attempt to clear the head. This morning it was not the same necessity, the enjoyment was overshadowed by the prospect of a shower back at the hotel, which was far more appealing at this point.

We packed our kit before breakfast in order that the porters could get all the tents down and and get packed away for the last yomp to the park gates and the coach home. There was an awful amount of moisture in the air and all electronic goods like phones had been kept in plastic food bags to stop them from being trashed by the damp.

Over breakfast and our last meal in the mess tent we put the tips together for the porters and guides. It was suggested from the African Walking Company what we should give depending on the number of us, the length of trip and the standard of service we'd received (we all agreed this had been exemplary). Once we'd all contributed, the total came to $1105 to share around. When we came out of the mess tent we saw that all the other tents had now been taken down and were pretty much packed away ready for the off. In no time at all the mess tent was then stripped down and packed away - the porters really were desperate to get home.

A few of the guys also put the kit that they'd used and felt they no longer had a use for into a big bag that would be given to Restus (the head guide) who would distribute it amongst the guys fairly - this was pretty much the only way they acquired their camping and trekking kit so it was a kind gesture for those guys that would not use the stuff again.

Albeit really muggy the weather was really kind to us today and we had clear skies which was perfect for our final goodbyes. Paul, one of the guys in the group was nominated as spokesman. for the thank you speech and to handover the tips. He stood in the middle and all the porters and guides stood around him in a big arc. He'd prepared a few words for the speech however he was a bit thrown soon after he started. After each sentence, as most of the guys spoke no English, Restus translated for them. This naturally stints the flow of what you are trying to say. Paul's words of appreciation and thanks soon came round to the subject of the tips, which clearly needed no translation and he was met with rapturous applause when he mentioned the amount of dollars we were tipping them. We then took photos of each other with the porters and then made for the gate with Patrick, our summit porter, leading the way. We left the rest of the porters behind with Restus to distribute the tips and kit that had been donated by the trekkers.

Kilimanjaro porters and guidesOur team of Kilimanjaro Guides and Porters

We meandered through the rain forest for a few hours with steam rising out of the undergrowth making it a bit tough to get any decent shots without the cameras fogging up. The path started off being like any other path on the mountain, pretty narrow and really rocky however before long the path opened up and it was wide enough to take a car. As we moseyed down the last leg of the trek towards the Mwera gate at 1650m the porters hurtled past shouting "Jambo" (Swahili for Hello) as they went, they were clearly full of joy and really excited to be on their way back home to their families.

Kilimanjaro ForestSteam in the forest

After about 3 hours of trekking we arrived at Mwera Gate. There was a gatehouse here where we had to sign ourselves out of the Kilimanjaro National Park and collect our certificates for reaching the summit. We were given packed lunches that were brought up for us which were always welcome. Along with the packed lunches we were given questionnaires by African Walking Company regarding the hike - you could tell that we were firmly back in civilisation now and it felt a touch surreal with the hoards of locals trying to flog you some souvenir or other be it a knife, a t-shirt, a painting or some other nik nak that would inevitably be almost impossible to get either on the plane home or through customs.

Signing out of KilimanjaroSigning out of Kilimanjaro

A short walk further and we arrived at the bus where the hoards of locals were thicker and more persistent with their sales pitches. We checked all of our kit back in with African Walking Company and sorted our kit out to get on the bus, at which point we realised one of the guys sleeping bag had gone astray. Whether it hadn't made it off Kilimanjaro or whether it had gone missing since it had arrived at the coach would remain a mystery for the time being as exchanges were made between various of the porters, guides and management all in Swahili.


At around midday we were on our way home - well back to the hotel. It was refreshing to see that on our way away from Kilimanjaro you could see that the weather had closed in and we had a few specks of rain. A few of us caught a well earned 40 winks.

We arrived back at the Ilboru Lodge at around 2pm and jumped straight in the shower to scrub of the weeks worth of dust and grime. It looked like some kind of laundrette as everyone was hanging their damp stuff out on balconies to dry. We headed into Arusha to get some souvenirs to take home for friends and families, whilst we still had another 10 days or so in Tanzania we were to head off for some pretty remote places from here on so would possibly not get another chance.

That night was spent all together with the group over a meal and a few aptly named beers at the restaurant Via Via in Arusha. It was a great way to polish off such an amazing trip and achievement. We reminisced on the highs and lows and commended each other on a job well done and how making it as a group in its entirety had certainly been the cherry on the cake.

Kilimanjaro beerThe aptly named and refreshingly welcome celebratory beverage

At around 10:30 we headed back to the hotel where we said our farewells, we'd been through a hell of a lot together but the time had come to head our separate ways, some headed off home with the rest heading their own way deeper into Tanzania on Safari in various directions.

Whilst we'd embarked on this adventure as 5 friends ,we'd gelled exceptionally well with the rest of the team we trekked with and I think that is what drove us all on to reach Uhuru and summit Kilimanjaro, an experience that would never be forgotten as long as I shall live. Thanks to all the guys that I shared that one with, you made it awesome for sure!

So with legs like spagetti, knees and ankles screaming at me I vouched I'd never, ever embark on anything like that again but with the pain being temporary and the sense of achienvement lasting forever I'm sure that that vouching wont last long......

2 comments:

The Odyssee said...

Hey, Thats fantastic. Good to see you back in boots again after the heel problem.

The Weekend Dude said...

Thanks Alan, have been a bit struck by injury of late, however am back to full health now so am keen as mustard to get back out there. I didn't think I'd get so frustrated sat on the sofa.

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