Final post of four in a series of blog posts written by Deborah King of how she conquered Mt Kilimanjaro this year despite the challenges she faced along the way due to Usher syndrome.
I knew I should have begged Gavin to let me pay for a helicopter down, he didn’t seem to think it was worth the money when I suggested it on day one, bet he thinks different now I thought then. Well, I guessed it was the hard way or no way, so best get cracking. The feeling of victory was soon outweighed by the overpowering feeling of exhaustion and we basically descended fully on autopilot.
Walking down was a lot harder than walking up believe it or not. I actually felt sick coming down and had to stop a few times. It took a few hours to climb down to our camp for the night, I held onto either Gavin or Omari’s hand the whole way as the pace was too fast for me. There was no time to think about where to place your feet. The ground was so gravely and you would slide quite easily. I spent a lot of time almost falling and being held up by Gavin and Omari. At one point, I asked Omari if this was the way that we came up, I was surprised to hear that it was. It just was not at all as I pictured in my head whilst climbing up in the dark. In fact, it was so different from what I imagined that it still baffles me now how we can paint pictures in our minds of what we think something looks like, just to discover that actually in reality are nothing like what you thought. On this occasion, I think it was better in my imagination, in real life it looked far scarier so it makes me kind of glad that I couldn’t see what I was climbing up. We eventually returned to Barafu camp where we had some food and then returned to our tents for a quick two-hour nap before we would set off down again to our camp for the night. We laid in our tent trying nap, but it was very noisy outside as there were people that getting ready to go up that night singing. This was the group that had opted for the extra acclimatisation day, so they were probably feeling a little fresher than we had at that point in our journey. The little sleep we did get was not great and felt like minutes, but nevertheless it did help. We packed up our bags again and set off for a two and half hour walk to Millennium camp where we would spend our last night on the mountain. Millennium camp was not a scheduled stop for our trip but as we arrived later than planned at the summit, Omari thought it would be sensible to stop there instead of the usual camp further down. This earlier stop meant walking down for five to six hours the next day instead of the planned two hours. I think everyone was grateful for the decision though.
As we were heading down the mountain on route to Millennium camp, I think around fifteen minutes had passed and it started to rain. We were now heading down a different route from the one we came up, as this would lead us to the Mweka gate where our journey would end. The route we were now on was a steady decline but the paths were muddy and with the rain and became very slippery. I slipped a few times but I tried to take it in my stride the best I could. Everyone was on fast walk again, I felt like I was slowing the group down at this point so I tried to keep up as I stumbled over the small rocks all over the path. I kept held of Gavin’s hand wherever possible, so if I tripped or started to fall he would pull me back up to my feet. Finally, we had made it to Millennium camp. The rain had stopped when we arrived and the sun was out, and it was warmer here as we were much closer to sea level. We hung out the clothes we were going to wear the next day to try and dry them out a bit. We had a wash and then sat down for some food. We were all asleep by eight o’clock that evening, which was nice because it was still light outside so I didn’t have to stumble around in the dark to get to the toilets. I think we all needed the early night though as everyone slept for ten hours straight.
Day 6 – Just what the doctor ordered, Gavin and I had a really good night sleep and we were up early to catch the sunrise. There was blue sky all around us and you could see the peak behind our camp. It was hard to believe that It was only yesterday that we were up there. We had a lovely final mountain breakfast, packed all our stuff and got ready to head down to the bottom of the mountain.
I couldn’t wait to get in the shower and sleep in a bed again. The route down had plenty of rocks to climb down and lots of steps on the trail through the rainforest. I found this so much harder than going up, the group was on a mission to get down now so the pace was fast. Put it this way it was meant to take five to six hours to get down, and I think it took us around four and a half. Gavin was literally just holding me up the whole way down in attempt to keep up with everyone. Sometimes I wish that we could have slowed down a little bit to take in more of the views, but to be honest though even on the way up I can’t actually tell you what the views were like but I can tell you what the ground was like.
I have to say thank goodness for my Salomon walking boots. I don’t know how I didn’t sprain or twist an ankle or brake anything on this trek, but they really did protect my feet and ankles well. The only injury I was leaving with was a massive bruise covering most of my left thigh from where I hit the root on day four, so all in all I’m pretty pleased with that.
The shower and toilet was very much appreciated once we were back at the hotel as was the bed, the beer and some clean clothes!
Such a fantastic experience, call me crazy but I would love to do it again!! The porters and guides were absolutely amazing, and Gavin was too for helping me every step of the way. I hate to say it but I owe a massive thank you Gavin for signing us up for this in the first place. I wanted to go on Safari and relax in Zanzibar for my honeymoon. I got my wish and more. But now that it is over, I will say that climbing Kilimanjaro was by far my favourite thing I have ever done, ever!
“At least my view from the top was the same as everyone else’s, the cloud cover meant that none of us could really see that much. Nevertheless, I still felt on top of the world.”
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