People talk about getting to the top of Kilimanjaro; yet, they fail to mention getting down. The hike from Barafu to Mweka Hut Camp was difficult. After sleeping for an hour, we were
forced told to move out. Our guides explained that we had another four hours of hiking to do before we got to the next camp. Four hours doesn’t sound so bad on a normal day but this day didn’t start off normal. You see, we just finished the monumental feat of summiting Kilimanjaro on three hours of sleep. Now, we were about to take off hiking again, for four hours, on a grand total of four hours of sleep in 30 hours.
As we slung our packs over our shoulder, we could see the path stretch out before it. It seemed to gradually slope downhill. We liked that idea! Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving. Initially it wasn’t so bad…the path that is. However, the wind was blowing pretty hard and it felt cold. I had to pull my buff up over my head. I’m sure I looked like an idiot but it’s hard to be a fashion plate when you’re 15,000 feet in the sky and haven’t taken a bath in a week.
As we walked down the rocky path we came across the infamous stretchers that they use to take people down when they’re injured or so sick they need evacuation. They’re pretty scary looking, frankly. Metal carts with one bicycle wheel on it. I can’t imagine how terrifying it must be to feel sick or in pain only to get tossed on that thing and sent hurling down the mountain. Thank God I didn’t find out first hand!
We hiked and stumbled over rocks for HOURS and for a brief moment I remember feeling excited to see a camp in the distance. Unfortunately for us, this was NOT our camp. It was Millennium Camp and it sucked MAJAH (inside joke for Arlette who joked that Victoria Beckham says everything is major but to American ears it sounds like majah. This joke started because I mentioned that to Brits, everything is “massive” whereas I’d just call it…big. I digress…). Walking past a perfectly good camp when all you want to do is sleep seems insane but we continued on.
The trail changed as soon as we walked by the camp. It went from being a rocky, but relatively well worn path to a dry creek bed that went straight down. It was awful! There were rocks everywhere and deep gullies that we had to navigate around as we picked our way down the trail. However, we discussed how thankful we were that it wasn’t raining. During rain the trail had to turn into a what we call in SWVA as a “gully washer”. We imagined how dangerous it would be to walk in ankle or shin high water, unable to see the rocks. One bad slip and one would easily break their leg. Thankfully, the weather the entire week had been dry and relatively sunny.
Oddly, about half way down I realized that our guides were not in front on this hike. Instead, they walked behind us. I’m not sure why. I theorized that perhaps they wanted to watch us to see how we were doing after the grueling summit bid. But who knows? Maybe they just wanted to look at our butts! After all the “stairmastering” we’d done on the mountain, they had to look pretty good, right Arlette and Adrienne? hahaha
We talked about many different things along the trail that day but I can’t really recall what the topics were. I do remember the ravens showing back up and Adrienne remarking that she was wrong. They were not saying, “Never summit!”. Nope, they were saying “Never down”. Ha! That sounded right! I felt like this day would never end. We kept walking and walking. The lower in elevation we went, the less sunlight we had. At first the fog just rolled into the canyons but it slowly crept in more and more. As the day light started to fade, I wondered how much longer we’d have until we reached camp. Our porters must have wondered where we were because as I was filming with my little camera, I saw a guy in a santa hat coming up the trail. It was Piusi! He, along with a few other younger porters, showed up and took our packs from us. I laughed and said that it’s pretty bad when your porters send out a search party. Still, I was happy to see them. Not only was it nice to hear them speaking happily in Swahili with the guides, I knew that we were not far from camp.
As we started up a small hill Fido Dido said, “We have 30 more minutes before we reach camp” but I called him out on it because through the trees I could see tents. We made it to Mweka Hut Camp! The camp was HUGE but it was hard to see all the tents because we were tucked away in the rain forest. When we reached our tents, I was so excited to rest! Dinner tonight was special! Mugambo prepared traditional Tanzanian food for us. I was excited to try Ugali and the stew he prepared. During dinner we told Fido Dido we’d prefer to have the tipping ceremony in the morning because we needed time to count the money and we were just too tired to think that night. All I wanted was sleep.
We were at approximately 10,500 feet and it was so much warmer in camp than on any other night since Day 2. I knew I’d sleep well as a result. When I crawled into the tent I wrote a few things in my journal but was so exhausted none of it was profound. I did remark that at this point in the journey, I was eager to get it over with. I didn’t want to leave the friends I had made but I was desperate for a shower and a cold Coke!
Oddly, as I drifted off to sleep, I didn’t think about the monumental feat of getting to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Instead, I thought only of the Coke. It’s the little things in life.
**This isn’t the end. Stay tuned for Day 8.**
(and no TD, I didn’t get eaten by a lion…I’ve just been lazy haha)