We all gathered in the dining tent after our short rest. As usual they provided a good spread of food but at this meal no one could really be bothered to eat or lift a knife and fork. After a while one of the cooking team came in to clear some plates and when he saw that we had eaten practically nothing the look on his face was one of disappointment and dejection. We felt guilty about not eating as they must have put so much effort to get the food there and prepare it for us. The cooked beef, banana/plantain casserole (traditional African recipe!), vegetables in sauce (that looked like they had reappeared from before!) just didn’t hit the spot. It was a mixture of exhaustion and the effects of altitude that we didn’t want to eat. I managed to drink a mug of hot sugary water but at this stage, even a sip started to give me stomach cramps and that put me off eating even more.
During the meal we discussed Craig and wondered how he was doing together with our ascent and descent stories. One funny moment was when Richard R described Stuart’s negotiation, near the top of the mountain, for some sleep and then how they should get him down. He offered to “see them right just to get him down!” We all agreed that getting down was extremely hard and Stuart reminded us that he had said this would be the case all along.
We discussed the remaining trek, which was 4 hours today and 6 – 7 the next day. It would be fair to say that all of us would have been happy to get in a taxi, aircraft, helicopter – in fact anything that meant we didn’t have to do any more trekking. The options were discussed with Makeke, who gave s his usual non-committal, see-what-happens reply. At the end of the conversation it was clear there was no option apart from walking the remaining 4 hours that day and probably walking most of the next. There was some talk of a rescue for Craig but the details were confused and vague.
So, at about 2.30p.m. we set off in the hail, sleet and rain to grind out the next part to our overnight camp. The hardest part was right at the beginning where we had to climb up over a ridge but after that it was generally downhill all the way. The jolting movement of walking downhill wasn’t good for my stomach and it seemed like each step caused more cramps. It seemed like a very long walk and this hadn’t been the case before, but obviously our mind-sets had changed, having achieved the goal of reaching as far as we could get and we now just wanted to get back to the hotel for a rest and shower.
The terrain wasn’t always kind to us and as you can see some of the paths were very rocky.
We also passed some brick built toilets, but as you can see from the photo, they were still basic!
We also passed one of the last points for taking water up towards the summit (as shown).
Fortunately it had stopped raining and was warming up as we got lower down. The trees and vegetation were noticeably more lush and we were all delighted to make it back to the camp. As you can see from the map below we are now following the green route out towards the South East and stayed overnight at Horombo Huts.
We arrived just as the sun was going down (around 6.30 ish) and on seeing the huts, which looked most welcome compared to our tents, I did wonder if any were available to sleep in, unfortunately this was not the case and so we got read for our last night under canvas. Craig was asleep in our tent and so I didn’t disturb him and waited for him to appear before I started to sort out my stuff. We were so pleased to see that he was looking much better because of the lower altitude. This was the first chance to catch up with him about the ascent night and it was clear to see he was totally gutted about not making it to the summit. We all understood this was a huge disappointment to him but at the same time pointed out that he had pushed himself beyond the capacity of most people and should be extremely proud to have got as far as he did, given his condition.
We were all extremely shattered. Our dinner was prepared quite quickly and I think we ate slightly better than at lunchtime. However, my mindset was that it didn’t really matter what we did, ate, drunk etc. – tomorrow we would be back at the hotel and start our recovery. The conversation at supper seemed to concentrate around making tomorrows journey as shorts as possible and ended up with a scenario of trekking to the area of the national park where motor vehicles were allowed and that would take about three and a half to four hours. There seemed to be no other option.
We went to bed as soon as possible, exhausted, numb but contented.