Needless to say we all slept very well on our last night under canvas. Craig was still coughing away, which woke me up, but I had little trouble in going back to sleep. At 6.30a.m. we were awoken with the usual cup of tea and ‘washy washy bowls’.
You can see that I dragged the bowls inside the outer section of tent so that on the last day we had the en-suite version!
After a quick face and teeth cleaning session we got ready and packed or bags for the very last time. After breakfast there was the traditional tipping ceremony for all the porters and guides and as we were so impressed for all they had done for us we tipped the maximum, as advised by the tour company. They all seemed really happy and then sang a traditional Kilimanjaro song for us.
After this, we started the last part of our descent. Almost immediately it was clear Craig was still in trouble with his breathing and he was taking very frequent rest stops. We decided that Stuart would stay with Craig, as he was also suffering with an altitude cough and the rest of us would try to get down as soon as possible and arrange whatever rescue we could for them. The head guide, Makeke, stayed with Craig and Stuart, James and Hope came with the rest of us.
We were all still really shattered and without much energy at all, unfortunately the route was really difficult underfoot. It was quite steep downhill and we were following dried up riverbeds, which had loads of rocks, tree roots and other obstacles in them. As with the day before each step I took was still giving me pains in my stomach. It was however getting hotter and we were now in T-shirts and thin trousers with the bottom sections zipped off i.e. shorts! I knew the sun was strong and even though I had suncream in my daybag, couldn’t be bothered to use it!
One fascinating thing I saw in the riverbeds was that for quite a while there seemed to be small shiny reflective rocks on the ground that caught the sunlight. I picked some of these up and was told by James they were caused as part of the volcanic eruption. The sparkly bits seemed to make me happy and lift my spirits!
After three and a half hours we eventually got to our lunch stop, which was half an hour before the rescue vehicle area. Because the kitchen had now finished we were given a fabulous packed lunch. This consisted of a very welcome fruit drink which I managed to sip slowly, two deep fried splodges of something (which when I broke apart seemed to be very greasy, so I gave them to the birds!) and a bar of chocolate, which you may find unbelievable but I didn’t fancy eating at all!
We didn’t wait long for lunch and then started the last half an hour. We were now back into lush rainforest, which was very dense and lovely to walk through.
When we got to the very end and saw the jeep there was a huge sense of relief that it was finally over. But in a strange way we were all still too tired to make much of a fuss about it. We waited for another group to join us for the ride back to Marangu Gate and I ended up sitting in the front next to a very smelly Spanish man! He explained, as best he could, his ankle was broken and could not move from side to side or up and down, but it had been impossible to arrange a stretcher or other recovery for him because the terrain was so difficult and he was made to walk back to the jeep from Kilimanjaro. When I heard this it seemed Craig would have no option but to do the same and we were all concerned as to how he would manage that. The jeep was full to the brim with, I don’t know how many people, but we were thankful to be taken back to the gate.
We signed the visitors book, documenting how far we got and the time and then had a very welcome cold drink. We loosened our boots and waited for either a taxi to the hotel or news of Craig and Stuart. We had decided to go back to the hotel as we thought the wait would be quite long for the other two to arrive, but just as we were finishing our negotiation for ‘I climbed Kilimanjaro T-Shirts’, we heard they were now at the lunch stop and seemed to have made up loads of time. We decided to wait for them to get back and soon the jeep was on the way to collect them. It was a fantastic feeling for everyone to be together at the final gate having completed such a phenomenal trek. We asked Craig how he had made it down so quickly and he explained that they had given him some oxygen on a couple of occasions when he was really struggling to carry on without it. Craig said, ‘the oxygen was amazing and made him feel so awake and energised he practically flew down the rest of the mountain.’
We only had soft drinks at the gate and were saving the beer for later!
We made our way to the car park at the gate and said goodbye to all the porters, guides etc. True to his word Stuart, changed from his hiking boots into trainers, put his boots into his kit bag, zipped it up then gave it all, lock, stock and barrel to Makeke, the head guide. Stuart had said throughout ‘There is no way on earth I am going to wear any of this again, so I will give it away at the end of the trek, as there is no point in taking it home!’ – Nice one Stuart!
As for my kit, I may need it again as my family are trying to persuade me to do the three peaks this summer!!!
The bus journey back to the hotel only took 30 minutes. We got our room keys and started to have our many showers and baths. I had a quick shower (the water was absolutely filthy!) and then went down for a nice swim, whilst Craig showered and bathed. I came back for another shower and then we all met at 7 p.m. in the bar. Things were obviously getting back to normal as we settled down to watch football on the TV drinking a beer and eating crisps and nuts! We were given our certificates by Makeke and organised a safari the next day for those that wanted to go. We ignored the power cut (with only a few minutes of the footie to go), ordered our dinner then turned in for the night – on real mattresses! You can tell Craig was particularly happy about this just from the look on his face.
Since we were back I did a quick check of my body and this is how it was.
Feet: Remarkably good condition-only one tiny blister that I didn’t even know about until I looked for it.
Calves: Tightening up – climbing stairs to our room wasn’t easy!
Thighs: Not as sore as the day before but still quite stiff.
Stomach: Still very dodgy but seemed to be on the mend.
Back: Amazingly well – no pain, no soreness and only twinge during the whole trek. (Who would have thought I would have managed to climb a mountain after a back operation?)
Right Arm: Still hurt from before I left, but didn’t seem to bother me during the trip.
Forearms: Burnt and peeling from the last few days trekking.
Lips: Blistered and really painful from sun exposure on summit night.
Tongue: Really painful due to strange grooves on the side of it. The middle was white and furry too!!! All ok now I have to say.
Neck: A bit sunburnt aswell.
Fingers: Sore and split cuticles.
These were all really minor things compared to the trek as a whole, I just wanted to list them out so I didn’t forget when I read this back. I then said I would arrange for a manicure, pedicure and body massage on my return, which I am happy to say was arranged and was most enjoyable.