This is a collection of thoughts over days leading and during the climb of the Kilimanjaro. It is interesting that I don’t remember when I started thinking of climbing Kilimanjaro. I suspect over the years I developed bucket list. Something most men think about as they near the 40’s . Having passed my 42nd birthday. A feeling of not having achieved kept on creeping. Mount Kilimanjaro is probably an evolution of events. Even though the thoughts started few years ago. I only started writing approximately 20 days from the day we were to depart for the mountain. I undertook to write my journal as thoughts came to my mind. If you get lost in the story, do not worry. That is how I felt for most of the time. It has been a fulfilling journey to reflect. I hope you enjoy some it.
20 Days before
My interest came as a result of wonders and great explorers of Africa. I have read some books on Africa and more specific South Africa explorers of our current times. Books gave me a sense of what it would be like to conquer the dark Africa. One such book that captivated my mind was by Riaan Manser, Around on Africa on my bicycle. Riaan Manser was the first person to circumnavigate the coast of Africa by bicycle. The coast of Africa is approximately of 37,000 km with 34 countries. It took him over two years and two months. His story takes one through some of the darkest areas of our continent. I had dream that I should be able to achieve something that required human strength.
A few years ago my friend, Mncane Mthunzi, bought me the Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil by Nicholas Shaxson. The book helped me get an appreciation of Africa and mainly West Africa. More specifically the story takes the reader through countries, terrain and the people of Africa. In Poisoned Wells, Shaxson exposes the contrast of poverty in the world of plenty. This is mainly in reference to huge oil deposits in Africa. The book reminded me of the stories around Confessions of Economic Hitman by John Perkins. That is a story of another day. Shaxson managed to navigate the forces from the developing world and the involvement of leading global corporations and governments. I am forever appreciative of this birthday present. I continued to read a lot over the years about Africa. This includes Jared Diamond, Guns, Gems and Steel.
Of most interest has been Africa’s history, nature, politics and economy. At some point my father was based at South Africa embassies in Botswana, Namibia and ultimately Democratic Republic of Congo. All this generated huge an interest in the exploration of Africa. At this stage, I had travelled the United States and Europe through my work. However I hadn’t travelled Africa.
Around 2004, we decided to explore a bit of Botswana with “the guys”. The intention was to drive up to Ghanzi and possibly explore Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKG). The game reserve is considered by many to be the toughest terrain one can endure. Assumption was that it will equal the Kruger National Park. Having gone to the Kruger National Park as “the boys”. We had hired a Toyota Condor to help us navigate the dessert. I must stress that this was not a 4X4 by any stretch of imagination.
Unfortunately our vehicle couldn’t navigate the soft sands of the Kalahari Desert. We were stuck in the heat of about 40 degree Celsius on the 31st Dec 2003. My eldest daughter Naledi (my eldest daughter) was born that year. Aubrey, Manzana and I decided to walk back to find help after battling for about 2 hours to recover the vehicle from the soft sand. Nkululeko left behind with our women. This is obviously after tears, arguments and goodbyes with Sheila about the possibility of death. I assume we had walked for about 2 hours in the sand when we heard chickens on our right hand side of our path. We had believed that we needed to walk all the way to the main road which was maybe few kilometers.
We then detoured to find The San people having a family sitting. Assuming that they were preparing for the evening feast. I am not certain if they recognised that we were going into a new year. To our advantage one spoke Setswana which is close to Sesotho (South Sotho). We explained our situation, one volunteered to take us to the next “town”, without his assistance we would have been in dire straits.
There was a bit of civilization and people preparing for the festivities of celebrating the New Year. There we were, city slickers trying to conquer the mighty Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Nkululeko being left behind to fend of any predators. The intention was to find someone or vehicle to pull us out of the sand. While there, we saw one Toyota Land cruiser pickup. After begging and negotiations, Mr. White agreed. Cutting the long story we were pulled out of the sand after being stuck for more than six hours.
We went back to our hotel and packed the following morning and drove back to South Africa. The experience of having failed to get to Central Kalahari bothered me for a long time. A thought of the dangers of going into a terrain or territory unprepared brought reality of how fragile our lives are.
We later bought an appropriate vehicles and decide to try CKG again. To put in context, Central Kalahari Game Reserve is an extensive national park in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana. Established in 1961 it covers an area of 52,800 km² making it the second largest game reserve in the world. I am assuming that it comes after Kruger National Park in South Africa. Its remoteness, unforgiving climate and harsh terrain have kept it pristine and only the fully self-sufficient traveler would venture into the reserve alone. Exiting CKG after two days and 160 liters of Diesel later was quite an achievement.
There were a couple of expeditions in the mean while such as driving to Victoria Falls in Zambia and Etosha Park in Namibia. We had privilege of playing on Namibian sand dunes. We explored a trip to Lake Malawi but the distance and time required to get there made the trip daunting. It required about +/- 2500kms of driving through Botswana, Zambia and a lot of Mozambique. It dawned, that these were just not enough trips in acceptable distances that were still to be explored. Exploration of Africa needed other means which did not depend on driving.
Idea of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro started to take center stage. I began discussing the idea with those around me. These conversations were over the past five years. Recall having a light discussion with Lillian on potential climb of Kilimanjaro. At that stage I did not have an idea of the logistics required to climb. It felt like a bucket list item that would be achieved.
I kept on reading about Africa. Early 2013 I got a call from Lillian, she had found a team that was arranging an expedition to Kilimanjaro. I attended the launch meeting where I got some sense of what could be required. Lillian managed to climb and summit that year. I opted to postpone my climb to the subsequent year.
Early 2014 while probably drinking whiskey, Mncane and I decided to take the conversation to the next level. We made the decision to concretize the idea of climbing. We decided 2014 was the year when we will climb Kilimanjaro.What was crucial at the point was to identify a tour operator to help us with the planning. Over few months we made few google searches and we came up a tour operator Dream World Adventurers.
We made an appointment to meet with the operator to discuss the logistics and etc. We met a wonderful lade Rose Gardner who gave us comfort that the climb was not as difficult as it was made to be. We hadn’t thought of dates and routes when we walked into her office. After about one and half hours of chatting we had agreed on Machame Route, flying to Kilimanjaro on the 4th September 2014 coming back 13th September 2014.
11 Days before
I’m sitting at the dining room table gathering my thoughts on what to write. A weekend filled with lots of activities stories to be left for later. We had climbed the Westcliff on that morning. Mind you this is almost two weeks before our trip to attempt the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. The previous day, we agreed that we will start the climb or race upstairs at 6:30 am.
As a matter of interest the 1st set of stairs are exactly 115 steps. I had met one of the Comrade Marathon runners who agreed that this was one of the most gruesome activities. We had interesting conversations about what to do to prepare for Kilimanjaro early in the year. This included hikes, stairs and getting a trainer. Except for continuous hiking all had failed.
It is interesting in life that what we plan for sometimes does not happen as we originally planned. But what is of importance is an endeavour to push hard to achieve progress. This reminds me of a conversation earlier around the story of David and Goliath with dear friend. My take away is if I am David then who is my Goliath. I have decided to take solace in the story as conquering my Goliath (Mount Kilimanjaro).
Until recently Kilimanjaro has been an imagination. It has been the unknown metaphor that had to be conquered. I suppose that the phrase conquer your mountain rings true in this context.
Our first training session was at the West cliff stairs. I am not certain where the thought of the stairs came from. However the West cliff stairs became our Sunday ritual. We visited the stairs at least once every two weeks doing approximately between 6-9 times depending on the day. These would take us about an hour.
Some days were so cold that we wondered whether this simulates climbing. There had been some of those Sundays where I felt that this was going nowhere slowly. The stairs created a strong bond between the two would be climbers. We went up the stairs talking about life, children, women and politics. It cannot be a men’s conversation without talking about sex.
Mncane had met some hiking crowd. Plan was to join them at Zuikerbosch Nature Reserve for a Sunday walk. Unfortunately I could not make the first hike but his feedback was that this is one of the most gruesome walk he had done.
Reflecting on my first hike sends shivers down my spine. My stomach was “acting up” in the early morning. After few Imodium’s I thought I was ready to conquer Zuikerbosch Nature Reserve.
To cut a long story short I had found a private moment in the bush. But I was so weak at the end of the hike that I just wanted to get home. With a weak stomach like mine this was one problem that could make or break my Kilimanjaro.
The training continued. At this stage of the preparation I was satisfied with my training. I had ran a 21,1kms two weeks earlier, hiked 12kms in a cold weather, ran 12kms and 3kms of stairs on successive days of the 24th of August. I’m confident that we were ready to climb Kilimanjaro.
We did another Zuikerbosch hike a week before our travel to Mount Kilimanjaro. It had been raining lightly Saturday morning. If that weekends experience was to be, then we were in serious trouble. I was hoping that the sky would open up for some warm sunlight. The light rain kept on for the entire three hours and 12kms later. By the time we finished I was so cold and just wanted to get to a warm bed.
10 Days 25 /08 /2014
I had decided to bring the girls to Sun City before the schools reopens that week. It would give me time to spend with them. At this point my energy was all focused on the moment of truth. My time at Sun City was not the most enjoyable as I was mainly thinking about the mountain. The previous night we sat in our room playing Monopoly. I often wondered whether my girls had an appreciation of what their father has undertaken. I hope they would remember as they grow that they need to conquer any challenge that life throws at them.
One can never be successful without daring greatly. It would seem that once the goal has been determined, clarity of thought seems to emerge. The point being that once the decision to climbing Kilimanjaro was made. All resource, time and effort were clearer. The point being that one needs clarity of thought for one to be successful. In Limitless, Brad Cooper uses NZT, a drug that gives him limitless energy and perception. If I recall, “He understood the problem and knew how to solve it”. Basically having clarify of thought.
Three Days : 1 /09/ 2014
A few days earlier Mncane and I had visited Rose Gardner to discuss the final preparations for Kilimanjaro. It dawned on me that the trip was actually happening. At this stage I had not bought all I needed. We sat with Rose discuss the logistics, hotel, guide, tickets and etc. I had the dates for the trip mixed up. My initial assessment was that the trip was over seven days. I had thought that we fly on Thursday the 4th of August and coming back Friday morning the 12th of August. I was mistaken on both sides meaning that we would have to leave a day earlier and come back a day later than I planned. My biggest challenge was that I dads and daughters campout with Naledi on Saturday the 13th. I went home with a sense of unpreparedness.
I realized that more was needed to be bought before I was completely ready. I had specifically missed the fact that I needed a sleeping bag. I woke up the following day with a happier mode to conquer Kilimanjaro. I had insured that my afternoon was free to allow me sufficient time to buy what I still needed. I walked into Sandton Cape Union Mart like a man on a mission. At this stage costs were the last item on my mind. My helper at the Cape Union Mart pulled out a Kilimanjaro preparatory list.
I recall spending more than three hours looking for a perfect fit and appropriateness. By the end of that brief encounter, I was about R10 00.00 poorer than I had walked in. Strangely, I was smiling from ear to ear. I was walking tall with both hands full of Kilimanjaro conquering equipment. I was the man of the moment and the man in the arena.
This reminds me of one of my famous speeches. The porm comes from a Theodore Roosevelt speech.
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is mirred by dust, sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs , who comes short again and again and again because there is no effort without an errs and short comings, but who actually strives to do the deeds.
Who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause. Who at best knows in the end and the triumph of high achievement, who at worst knows it worst fails, at least fails daring greatly. So his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
This poem will be my guiding light through the paces of walking up the mountain.
04 / 09 / 2014 – # NairobiKenya
On the eve of the trip I had felt tightness in my stomach. I woke up with a feeling of unpreparedness. By the middle of the day I was still not settled that I had everything I needed. I spend most of the afternoon wrapping up important bits. The afternoon in a relaxed state almost unreal. Hence I forgot to include some of the items I required for the trip.
We managed to arrive at the airport on time to allow coffee or whiskey to calm our nerves. A chill down my spine when Sheila called me to say that had forgotten one of my boots. Initially I thought she was joking. They (Sheila, Naledi and Lintle) rushed all the way from home. Naledi and Lintle were quite excited of the tension and adrenaline. They couldn’t stop explaining who saw the boot first…A topic at school for school opening. Departing from OR Tambo was slightly delayed. The plane was full of tourists intending to climb Kilimanjaro and / or visit both Kenya and Tanzania. There was a few hours stopover at Jomo Kenyatta airport in Nairobi, Kenya.
We met two women from South Africa, Lizl and Ninkie, who were planning to share the pain of the trip. The flight from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro was delayed for about an hour later. The airport staff at Kilmanjaro Airport had few questions around our exposure to Ebola once we landed. We were picked up by Mohammed from Zara Tours.
There were few conversations about the area and mostly the mountain. Mind you, we hadn’t seen the mountain up to that time. The weather was quite overcast making it impossible to see the mountain Kilimanjaro. The mountain was our only reason for sacrificing weeks of training. Spring Land hotel in a town of Moshi would be our last comfortable night before sleeping in tents and sleeping bags. The town looks like some of the old Free State “Dorpie”.
At the hotel, we met Stanley to take us through a preparatory checklist for the climb. Of most importance was to make Stanley aware of any changes to our health condition while climbing. We had a hearty meal at which include rice, pasta and potatoes. To my satisfaction there was chicken and home minced meat. I’m writing while sitting in the tent having pasta and warm soup. I was advised to eat everything that was dished
Day 1 Friday: 05/09/2014 : Machame Camp
It is 20:43, I am sitting alone in the “kitchen” thinking whether I should go and sleep now or later. This is the first night at the first camp. We had arrived earlier at around 18:00 from Machame Gate. Stanley, our Chief Guide, was on time in the morning to help ensure that we took only what was needed. We had arrived at Machame Gate around 10:00 am that morning. The gate was abuzz with tourists preparing to undertake the highest free standing mountain in the whole world. It had taken about two hours for all the logistics to be sorted at the gate.
The first kilometer felt like hell, at this point I thought it was a bad idea to climb this mountain. Interestingly we had not seen the mountain due to a huge cloud covering. The route was relatively busier than what I thought. We were meeting people from all over the world. The drizzle continued, my body temperature had increased to a point where I was continuously sweating. If I stopped, I got cold and if I walk I would sweat. It was just a difficult situation to be at.
Stanley was not so accurate in assessing time to reach the first camp. He had indicated that we would walk for 6 hours, however it turned out to be exactly 4:35 hours to cover about 12 kilometers.
Unfortunately my bag was not there when I arrived. I was cold and wet . This made me very uncomfortable. I immediately took off my inner layer which was wet and put my jacket. This had improved my situation a bit. I had wished that my hand gloves were around as my fingers were freezing. Mncane was feeling a bit uncomfortable also.
My bag arrived quickly thereafter and I changed into something comfortable. Stanley had managed to get us some hot water and made us a hot coffee. At this temperature it a cup of coffee was small heaven. I went around to meet other people that were part of the Zara Tours. Our dinner was ready, Mncane had woken up when I got back. We chatted a bit and started filing pages of out journals. We had a chat with Stanley about Mazizi, it is the same homemade concoction thought to make men strong in bed “nogal”. The plan was to wake up at 7:00 the following day.
Day 2 Saturday 06/09/2014 – Shai Camp
It is late afternoon at Shai Camp
I had sent sms’s earlier to the people I love. A bad and unreliable cellphone signal made it impossible to receive prompt responses. This increase my level of anxiety. Our second day started at 6:35am with most of the hikers already up. Unfortunately I had woken up at 2am and could not get myself to fall asleep again. Sleeping on the hard surface was something I did not train for.
We had one of those breakfast with only the necessary things to get our mood up. It included porridge, two Vienna’s, two eggs and slices of bread. This was downed with a warm cup of coffee.
Weather was still depressed and it promised to give us more than what we had bargain for. The day started with a huge steep, and I was amazed by the amount of luggage each Porter could carry. I estimated that the steep was greater than 45 degrees. The cold temperature assisted with keeping us cooler than normal. We ascended for about two and half hours without the weather clearing. After approximately 3:45 we managed to break for lunch. Mncane started complaining about his left knee and I also had mild irritation at exactly the same spot.
The whole trek was estimated to be about 4km but it took us 5:41 hours, the weather was still gloomy when we got to the camp but fortunately our tents and bags were ready. Coffee with popcorns were served and I managed to get one or two sentences in this book. Stanley suggested that we walk to the Shai Camp which was about 3600m above sea level for acclimatization.
Unfortunately I had pushed myself too hard. I was under tremendous pain below my left knee by the time we got back. I applied a bit of Deep Heat to help ease the pain, and it helped a lot. I was worried that my Kilimanjaro was done.
Day 3 Sun 06/09/2014: Barranco Camp
Our day started at the normal time with Walter shouting “water for washing”. We had woken up ten minutes earlier to prepare our bags. I had woken up at 4:03am to go pee which left me in quite a foul mood. The sky was clear and I could see the stars and the reflection of the Mt Kilimanjaro from the moon. At some point, I thought the lack of oxygen was getting to me. There were still few glaciers on the mountain that made it spectacular.
Early morning, we had our bags packed and were ready to depart. Stanley had indicated that this would be the longest track. Obviously except the summit itself. I found it interesting that the guides and porters only measure the progress by altitude you need to achieve. This is as opposed to distance in kilometers. Mncane would always ask Stanley how far we still need to go. And Stanley would say 200 meters to go. This is not a walking distance but altitude we need to attain.
I started this track with a huge concern about my knee, I brought painkillers just as a precaution. The weather had suddenly gotten quite misty, again. I am assuming because we were high in the clouds. It was however not so cold as the first day. From time to time we could get a glimpse of the mountain. The plan was to walk up to 3800 meters at Lava Tower and descend down to acclimatization altitude. Mind you that we have spent a night at 3600 already.
My knee or knee ligament had behaved, I was feeling much stronger. Unfortunately I was putting too much weight on my right leg. It also felt quite irritable at the same area as the left knee. We managed to reach Lava Tower and were we had lunch. This was about 3800 above the sea level. I was still feeling good with a mild pain. The “Babalas” headaches started to come and go. I was warned that this would not be serious. My stop watch recorded 7:35 minutes of walking for Sunday.
We had arrived at Barranco late afternoon. It is in the afternoon and I am sitting in “Kitchen”. It is very misty and everyone is talking about the wall. It was so misty and cloudy that I couldn’t make Barranco Wall.
Day 4 Monday 08/09/2014 : Barranco Camp
The morning started without any problems, breakfast as usual eggs, Vienna, porridge and coffee. By this stage I was neither worried nor excited by what the day had installed for us. What lay in front of us was Baranco Wall. It is a steep incline that would take us to 4200 meters in 1h30min. The difference in altitude was just less than 300 meters.
It was always interesting talking to Stanley of how the distance is measured through the altitude and distance travelled. The sense I got was that a lot more people can walk a great distance however few can rise to the high altitudes. Climbing over the hill was quite an achievement. My knee had behaved well with some irritation. I had dawned that I must have annoyed the ligament that connects inner thigh muscle.
Today’s climb did not require hiking poles, I relied on my arms to pull myself to an acceptable levels. The push-ups and pulls seem to have done the trick. The scene was beautiful as always. I have just read my message for Day 4 climb. It read “Are u listening to your guide” I had made a conscience decision to do so as tomorrow is a big day.
I was sad that my cellphone battery was now flat, and I could not take out the sim card out of my phone. I used the phone which Desiree gave me to take photos. I was appreciative of the fact that it was fully charged. We arrived at the base camp around 13:30 and we managed to have lunch but with heavy eyes I went to take a two hour nap. Later I went up to chat with Lizl and Ninkie, until dinner time.
It is 20:04 and I am sitting in the Tent with my head light on.
Tonight dinner is huge rice and vegetables. Stanley had given us a heads up for the coming day. This is something he has said every day for the past few days. Mncane asked whether we are going to get meat or not. Stanley warned us about eating meat at the altitude above 3800 meters.
Tomorrow’s walk was to start at 7:00 (warm washing water) 7:30 (breakfast) 8:00 we start walking. The plan is to hike for about 4 hours arriving at the Karanga Camp before the final leg.
Day 5 Tuesday 09/09/2014: Karanga Camp
Karanga Camp was one of the most uncomfortable. Our porters did not find us the best spot. The ground was not level which caused me to always roll on my side. I was reading my messages and “150 meters” became relevant. I was chatting to Stanley earlier and he indicated that Stella point was exactly 150 meters to Uhuru peak obviously in altitude terms. This would be the highest point in Africa at 5.865 Kilometers above sea level.
The day had started the same as other days, eggs, Vienna and bread. The waiter was providing entertainment as usual by misunderstanding what was being instructed. I had headache (babalaas) which increased my level of anxiety. The plan was to walk to Barafu Hut (Base Camp). My stopwatch clocked it took us exactly 2h36. The rest of the day was spent just relaxing and sleeping. We had dinner then hit the sleeping bags and reading for the summit. We had chosen this extra day for acclimatisation. Some of climbers walked straight to Barafu Hut.
It is 19:10 and I am writing while sitting in my tent with a light on. The nights were colder to be sitting in the kitchen.
Friday 12/09/2014 : Kilimanjaro Conquered
I haven’t been writing since the afternoon of the summit. As would be expected that fatigue took the best out of me. We are on our flight to Nairobi, Kenya on route back home.
I can only start by saying that summiting Mount Kilimanjaro has been humbling. Last time I wrote, we had just arrived at Base Camp (Barafu Hut) before preparing for the summit. It was quite hot as we exposed to all the elements. It was difficult to sleep as it was too hot in the tent. The anxiety and the headaches were always around to keep one company. Stanley called us for quick discussion around 17:00 of the summit night. This was for last meal and final instructions.
All my thoughts were about whether I should have taken altitude sickness medication or not. We woke up 23h00 on the dot. I had sufficient gear to dress a small nation. As part of the check list I went to do number 2. Stanley and Salim brought our water as a ritual, I checked if everything was in order, gloves and all the seven (7) layers of clothing.
I think we started to walk at around 00h24, the walk started with me fiddling with my gloves and the layers. I started putting on the Buff which affected my ability to breath. I removed it and began breathing cold air direct into my lungs. After about two hours the wind started blowing from our right. That did not bother me as much as my spirit were still high. Few hours later or should I say few meters later I started to run out of breath.
I often requested Stanley to “Pole Pole” and up to a point where I asked him for a break. Mncane noted that I must pull my breathing quite deep. This reminded me of forced breathing; I immediately pushed air in and out of my lungs. That improved oxygen in my lungs and into my blood stream. At some point we crossed 5000 meters above the sea. Mncane started to struggle and started “buying time” by “doing stuff”. At that point the idea of climbing Kilimanjaro was getting ridiculous.
Stanley kept on saying “you can do it guys”. I asked Stanley more than three times for me to catch my breath. Mncane asked me with a weary look whether I was still ok. I just nodded to acknowledge that I am ok. The lights in front of us gave a sense of the difficulty of the path, the steepness of the path made the task feel impossible. I could only see spots of lights as far as my eyes could see.
We were at about 5400m when Mncane said that he was so tired that he needed to sleep. Stanley had warned us not to sleep on the mountain due to low temperature and lack of oxygen. I supposed he had seen it all. He suggested that we do the track slowly instead of stopping. Within no time one could see sun rise in the horizon. We were not going to make the six o’clock sunrise, the forced breathing worked only to help me cope. However, our pace was still too slow to summit at the intended time.
I had enough oxygen in my blood to keep me going, at a slow pace, I must say. At this stage, Mncane decided that he had enough, he asked Stanley if there were beds at Stella point which is 5,715m which is the last land mark before Uhuru peak.
Stanley advised him to drink two cups of tea from his flask. He agreed that he could sleep for few minutes to get his body and mind to reset. I offered my one of my jackets to help him sleep warmly. Stanley refused as he was concerned that he might not wake up of being too comfortable. Stanley instructed me to continue with Salim (Assistant guide) and he will watch over Mncane for the next few minutes.
He gave me the assurance that nothing would happen to him, as this was my concern since the beginning that what if one of us does not make it. Nevertheless, I continued with Salim for about 20min when I saw a red jacket at the corner of my eye. Mncane was back on the road walking strongly.
We waited at Stella point, we had a chat about the current achievement. Uhuru peak was insight my body started feeling cold again. I proposed that we start walking again, Mncane felt that he still needed to rest. I lied that I had a pounding headache, this was my way to increase the urgency of moving forward. I needed to get to the point as soon as possible and come down the mountain. There was about 150m of altitude to cover and maybe 1KM of distance. This took us approximately an hour.
We got to Uhuru Peak. It was a huge relief. We did what everyone did; take pictures with South African flag. The glaciers were amazing, and people at Uhuru Peak were in good spirits, everyone was in a joyful state. Stanley indicated that we needed to get going down. He estimated that we would take three hours to get to the Base camp. I did not believe it. We took a path with loose soil; it basically meant that one could ‘run” down the mountain. The loose soil provided a cushion to our knees; it would have taken us longer if we had to use the other path.
All though I felt strong but my legs could not carry me, I fell hard almost twisting my knee. The fall was so bad that my knee took three weeks to heal. Salim asked if I needed help. I told him I was still ok, but when I fell for the second time he came to my rescue. He literally held and helped me down the mountain. I was so weak that I struggled to stand up straight or to walk straight. My pace down the mountain slowed down to a tortoise pace. I was not in great pain.
Eventually we got to the camp, crushed into the tent and woke up two hours later. We had four more hours of downhill to endure. At this point my mind was fresh and my legs were strong. The air was thicker and the conversations were more entertaining. The four hours through Mweka were nice, we had long chats about life, education, politics, etc. I actually enjoyed the time I spent with the guides (Stanley and Salim) the scene was magnificent. We reached the camp just after dark. We tried to wash all the bits and freshen up.
It was one of the warmest days since starting Kilimanjaro, that night I slept like a log. We woke up early in the morning for the final leg of four hour to the gate. Still with nice conversation with Stanley. We got to the gate and found some guys singing “Ha Kuna Mathata” a very common song for me. Our transport to the hotel arrived and we headed to Moshi Town. That evening we invited Salim and Stanley for drinks (Whiskey) and dinner.
We chated some more telling us of the craziest things people do at the mountain. This is how we closed our trip in Kilimanjaro (with a bang ). If I recall we drank from 23:00 till dinner.
Mount Kilimanjaro had a huge impact on my life. As Foto(one of the guides) asked, Mr Motseki…where are jokes now. This is as we were coming down the mountain.