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Uhuru Peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
 
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August 02, 2007

Kilimanjaro



From the outset, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro has been one of the key goals of this trip, not only has traveling through Africa opened our eyes to a whole new world, but it has forced us to change physically as well. A year ago we were desk bound office workers doing little exercise other than the five minute walk to work each morning. Six months in Africa has changed all that, budget restrictions have forced us to walk places we previously would have taken taxi's, we spend most days out doors and I think I've even gone part of the way to achieving a decent tan. While we are a far cry from fitness fanatics, we are both confident that a six-seven day trek up Kilimanjaro is achievable. In addition we have Andrew and his 'canons' along for moral support.

Two days before we were due to start the climb, we were offered the chance to join another group and reduce the cost of climbing by nearly 20%, however a big part of climbing Kilimanjari (at least to us) is our mental toughness, adding unknown people into the equation could only be a bad thing at this stage.

We arrived in Moshi, 30kms from the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, early in the morning on the day before our climb, going straight to the offices of Ahsante Tours, the company we are climbing with. After our recent experiences with Sunny Safari's we were keen to check out the company and the guide they had assigned us. Thankfully we were more than impressed and after they thoroughly checked our gear and organised the hiring of all the additional bits and pieces we would need in the sub-zero temperatures, we were dropped off at the Leopard Hotel to rest and relax.

"This could be one of the hardest things you will ever do..."

Rest and relax is probably what most people do before a trek - not Andrew. After a quick carbo load for dinner he was straight down to the local nightspot, Glacier, and onto Kilimanjaro's venue of choice - Pub Alberto for a night on the turps. Donna and I both hit the sack early and other the sounds of a lady being raped down the corridor we enjoyed peaceful sleep in preparation for what lies ahead.

Day 1: Machame Gate to Machame Camp

The first day of the trek promised a good six hour walk from the Machame Gate up through the rainforests to the Machame Hut, a campsite approximately 2980 metres above sea level. Waking early we were collected by Bruno, our guide and driven up to the Machame Gate.

We were forewarned about delays at the gate and good old African bureaucracy came out to play. We spent a good hour and a half going through the sign in procedures with Bruno while Moses, one of our Assistant Guides organised our eight porters to ensure that our bags and camping equipment were weighed and divided up evenly between the porters.

Donna's Essential Guide to Kilimanjaro Swahili

Mumbo - How are you?
Poa - Cool
M'zuka - Fantastic
Pole' Pole' - Slowly Slowly
Pole' - Sorry
Inguvu Comma Simba - Strong like a lion
Twende' Twende' - Let's Go, Let's Go
N'safi Chakula - Good Food
Hakuna Noma - No Problems
Malima - Mountain

By the time the formalities were finally completed (which in the end involved us just pushing to the front of the line and signing our selves into a tattered old log book), the early morning fog that had hung about the gate was starting to lift. To say we were excited was an understatement, the feeling of walking through the gate onto the trail, past the climbers waiting for the go ahead, past the porters preparing the gear, those first few steps had a special spring to them.

Very quickly Bruno reigned us in with the customary "Pole' Pole'" which means slowly slowly in Swahili. This was something that was repeated innumerous times over the trek and something Andrew seemed to ignore most of the time (even with a hangover he was jumping around like a jackrabbit).

The mist lifted above the forest canopy, thanks however to the climbers already ahead of us the promise of sighting a rare Colobus Monkey never materialised. Nor in fact did sight of the famed mountain we had come so far to see. After a few hours on the trail, always gently going up at a painfully slow pace, we stopped for lunch.

Lunch in the forestLunch in the forest

While the porters carried most of our gear - we each had to carry a pack with everything we would need for that day - which included a lunch box, water, camera and wet weather gear. This adds up very quickly in weight so that the lunch break provided a much needed rest. Thankfully Bruno's incessant nagging to "drink water" meant our packs got lighter as the day progressed.

One of the reasons we were all so impressed with Ahsante Tours and Bruno was the extra effort they put in to ensure every element of the trek was a success. During the first day, aside from all the standard guide duties, Bruno was more than happy to talk about the animals, the plants, and the flowers. The extra knowledge that adds a little more interest to an afternoon in the forest.

The Pink BuddahThe Pink Buddha

In addition to some interesting conversation and his swahili teachings, Bruno ensured we kept to a consistantly slow and steady pace. As a result we would pass the same groups of people over and over again as they sped ahead, then stopped for regular breaks. The afternoon walk up through the forest to the Moorlands was where Bruno's guiding skills made sense, our slowly slowly pace meant we still had plenty of energy left for the last few hours and were easily one of the first groups into camp that evening.

One of the great things about this lifestyle are the porters (aside from the fact that they sit around smoking the Ganga along the trail). As you would expect they had all run on ahead and picked out a nice little spot off the trail to set up camp. By the time we trudged in they had set everything up, had hot drinks waiting for us in the mess tent, and most importantly a big old plate of popcorn.

That evening we were gifted our first views of Mount Kilimanjaro. As the sun set, and the moon light lit the surrounding hills the cloud lifted long enough to give us a fleeting glimpse of the summit.

Our first sighting of Mount KilimanjaroOur first sighting of Mount Kilimanjaro

As soon as the sunset, the warmth of the day disappeared and it got bitingly cold. Rummaging through our packs we were quick to pull on the warm summit jackets (puffa jackets that in Melbourne I had thought were a bit of a wank, but here seemed to make sense). Even with our hired four season sleeping bags and the two layer sleep mats, an extra sleeping bag came in handy in the depths of night to keep us warm.

Day 2: Machame Camp to the Shira Caves

After day one's 9km walk rising 1110 metres in altitude, we all awoke after a good nights sleep, fresh and ready to tackle the walk to the Shira Caves at 2980 metres. Although five to six hours of walking beckoned this was not enough for Andrew who, at finding out the Bruno was one of Tanzania's most promising young long distance runners, decided some morning sprints up and down the mountain would be a good idea. Let's just say Bruno and Andrew returned to camp half an hour later and one of the two was a little worn out...

Walking builds an appetite so while the porters were pulling down our tent, the four of us (Andrew, Donna, Bruno and I) feasted on everything from toast, baked beans, sausages and eggs to fresh fruit washed down with hot tea and coffee. Over breakfast we had a quiet word with Bruno about the tent (the porters had set it up on a hill the wrong way around so we had to sleep the short way and on a weird angle) and amazingly thereafter we had no problems.

By eight o'clock we had bucket washed, filled our bellies and were on the trail. "Slowly Slowly" was the order of the day as we were immediately faced with a very steep ascent. Other guides rushed their groups ahead and as we pushed on at our snails pace it was not long before we started passing exhausted climbers - both porters and hikers. On many an occasion did our guide advise others to slow down and preserve their energy - as always most advice falls on deaf ears.

The morning walk was pretty much a rock climb

It was a day spent climbing, all morning we traipsed through the rocky landscape ever gaining altitude. As opposed to the leafy trees that provided shade during the heat of the first day, the vegetation now consisted of very small cactus like plants, shrubs and only the occasional flower.

By lunch time we had finished our precious water supplies and while we waited at the top of a windy lookout point, Bruno and Moses disappeared into the surrounding scrub in search of water. Very quickly the cold set in and in an effort to keep warm, we left Andrew to freeze with the bags, and Donna and I pushed on up the mountain. Even though Andrew was feeling the effects of the mornings exercise and the early onset of some altitude sickness it was not long before they caught up with us, carrying several litres of fresh mountain spring water (filtered through a Katadyn filter and with some of our own purification tablets added for good measure).

After a good seven hours on the trail we reached the Shira Plateau. Depressingly it does not feel at all like we are climbing Kilimanjaro, which in occasional glimpses to us is far away to our right, we seem instead to be walking a wide cirlce around it's base.

Once atop the Plateau it was an easy walk into camp at the Shira Caves, well ahead of schedule and feeling pretty darn good about ourselves (although to be honest, Andrew was silently hurting).

Andrew - Feeling the pinch at the end of Day 2Andrew - Feeling the pinch at the end of Day 2

After an hour or so of rest, a hot drink and the ever faithful plate of popcorn, we set off further up the mountain. One of the main reasons we took the Machame Route was for the opportunities it provides climbers to acclimatise. In addition to walking slowly and drinking copious amounts of water - we were taking every opportunity we could to maximise our summit chances.

After walking the short distance up to the caves, we took an additional 30-40 minute hike up the mountain along tomorrows route. By ascending during the day, and then sleeping at a lower altitude you can shock your body into producing more red blood cells to counteract the lack of oxygen in the air (or so they tell me).

One thing everybody on the Machame Route gets to share - regardless of how much you might be paying for your luxury tour company - is the joy of the long drop. No matter how beautiful the surrounding landscape is, even with Mount Kilimanjaro moon lit in the background, the freezing night run from your tent to the stinking dunny was not pleasant. And the drop holes at Shira Camp were, well, full... enough said.

Day 3: Shira Camp to Barranco Camp via the Lava Tower

The Machame route can be done in either six or seven days, depending on how well you have acclimatised along the way. Thankfully the decision to take the extra day does not need to be made until the morning of the fourth day when you climb to either Karanga Camp or push on to the Barafu Camp. Yesterdays 7km trek up to 3830 metres was a good introduction to the mountain and today promises the first possible symptoms of altitude sickness with an optional side trek to the Lava Tower at 4600 metres before we descend to camp at 3950 metres.

We started the day going over old ground, re-hiking the acclimatisation walk we did yesterday. Aside from Andrew disgusting our guides with lurid tales of Amsterdam, we really appreciated the views of Kilimanjaro that spurred us on up the ridge. Four hours of walking later and we were still heading up hill with no sign of respite.

At one o'clock in the afternoon the uphill slog ended and it was decision time, go right with the porters on a much easier route towards the evenings camp, or left and higher up into the mountains to the Lava Tower to acclimatise. Bring on the pain. We are joined in the additional leg by Chunga, Bruno's cousin and one of the assistant guides requiring some extra acclimatisation.

As soon as we branch away from the porters we cross a ridge and the path ahead is laid out before us, a rocky trail leading straight up the mountain towards Lava Tower, sitting just below the main cliff face. Along the way we pass a group of four 60 year old Aussies lunching in style on the side of the path. These guys have kept up the same pace over the previous three days and look to be going strong. Kilimanjaro so far has been more about mental toughness than physical fitness.

Before reaching Lava Tower we are introduced to the fourth vegetation zone on Kilimanjaro - Alpine Desert, what little vegetation previously populated the sparse countryside now gives way to rocks and ice. Thankfully Andrew managed to smooth things over with the guides by switching the conversation over to how Donna and myself were living illegitimately and in sin, before I knew it the guides were asking all sorts of difficult questions, consequently the walk up to the top was an extremely relaxed affair for some, and uncomfortable for others.

Alpine DesertAlpine Desert

Lunch and an hour at 4600m was the perfect amount of time for us to acclimatise although it brought extra pain to Andrew who by now was really feeling the effects of altitude sickness. More disheartening was the sight of other climbers throwing up and dry retching.

After lunch it was all down hill as we walked to the camp - a good two to three hours off. Our first real taste of down hill walking and the shins did not appreciate it. Thankfully most of the other groups had decided to miss out on the Lava Tower route so we were pretty much on our own for the afternoon. It was not until the sun was setting and we were nearing Barranco that we saw other groups snaking down the far side of the valley we were traversing.

We pulled into camp as the sun set, and immediately the change in temperature could be felt. Just before darkness blanketed the valley we were given a briefing on the following days walk - rather than a gentle introduction to the day it would be straight up the breakfast walk, a two hour scramble up a sheer cliff face.

We go to sleep with the 'Breakfast Walk' in sightWe go to sleep with the 'Breakfast Walk' in sight

Day 4: Barranco Camp to Barafu Camp via Karanga

Yesterday's eight hour walk was tiring to say the least - and with the cold and altitude now having an impact (we wore gloves and thermals for the first time last night) it's getting harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning. After a chilly breakfast hard decisions needed to be made - we confirmed to Bruno our intentions of finishing the trek in six days. Starting early it was still bloody cold, however the skies looked clear and as we were now above the cloud line things looked promising for a scorching hot day ahead.

And then the pain began - crossing a frozen stream separating us from the cliff face we immediately set about scaling the "Breakfast Walk". Most of the trekking so far has been considered hiking, this morning it really felt like mountaineering. The whole time I basically had the SLR in one hand while clinging onto the rock face with the other, all the while porters come scrambling past with massive loads balanced on their heads.

One section, the Kissing Stone, was hairiest of all, it left me literally shaking. With a sheer drop behind, you shimmy face towards the rock around a stone, with little or no hand holds you reach around and with the guide's help are basically pulled up onto a rock shelf. To slip and fall would be certain death.

Donna thought she was being girlie so kept her utter terror to herself, until she saw me pulled to safety, she was glad that she was not the only one seeing her life flash before her eyes.

No one mentioned the rock scrambling...No one mentioned the rock scrambling...

Once again, the mental side of climbing came to the fore, our guide was constantly providing encouragement to us and to the surrounding groups, some of whom were seriously struggling at this point. This was actually the first stretch where the distance we had to cover and the type of terrain meant Bruno was pushing us along faster than normal. Things definitely were not helped by all the clothes we were wearing. Gradually peeling off layers meant our small day packs were heavily weighed down with beanies, gloves, summit jackets and thermal vests.

At the morning briefing we were told the days walk was simple, just up and down and up and down three different ridges and we would be at the lunch spot. Due to the altitude, going down was not as simple now as merely walking down a track, water had frozen over the ground and the poles we carried were little use in stopping a downward slide. On the final section before lunch Donna slipped and was lucky to be caught before doing any major damage. No blood or tears!

At Karanga we left our guide and porters to fetch water to supply us for the final few days on the mountain (no more water is available from here on in) while we stopped for lunch. On their return we left those who were taking an extra day to acclimatise and pushed on up the mountain towards Barafu Camp. Finally it seemed we had stopped circling around the base of the mountain and were beginning our ascent. From Karanga we walked dead towards Kilimanjaro's snow capped peaks. While the clouds hung below the plateau, the air was thinner and the temperature was very cold, to stop for any length of time meant quickly pulling extra layers on.

Slowly Slowly, what before was gentle advice is now the order of the day. Our group is enlarged by the addition of one extra climber - his guide stayed back at Karanga to attend to a sick climber.

The feeling of relief when we reached the top was immense, just as immense as when we realised it was a false summit and the real end was insight across the valley floor below.

The walk up to Barafu CampThe walk up to Barafu Camp from the false summit

Without stopping for a second thought we plunged down into yet another valley, this time with the end of the day definitely in sight. The final climb to the camp was up a steep path covered in loose gravel and scree. Thankfully we made it up without incident and from there is was only 15 minutes across the plateau to our camp site. After the mammoth days walk it was great to slip into the mess tent for a hot drink and some salty popcorn.

After a short rest, dinner was served. Andrew, in some serious pain could not manage more than a few mouthfuls before retiring to his tent to get some sleep. Other than rolling out to dry retch a few times we heard hide nor hair from him for the rest of the evening. Thankfully other than a slight headache Donna and I were feeling pretty good and managed to put down a sizable amount of food before hitting the sack. At 4600 metres it was cold - bloody cold. Going to bed we were basically fully clothed with thermals, pants, t shirt, shirt, jumper, and vest on.

Unfortunately the excitement of the moment was to much and other than getting the eyes closed for an hour or two we could not manage to get to sleep. By 11pm I'd had enough and pulling on every other item of clothing I had, I managed to pull my self out of bed and into the mess tent for a hot drink.

Day 5: Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak, then down to Mweka Camp (Summit Day)

The fact that day four and five were basically one long day meant that we were in for one bloody long day. By 11:30pm I was joined in the mess tent by Donna, after tucking into some snacks we asked where Andrew was, the response by our guides "uumm I don't know". We thought it best if we go and wake him! We managed to fill up all our available water bottles and the guides were carrying some extra bottles as well. The summit group was Andrew, Donna and myself, with Bruno our guide and Moses and Chunga as assistant guides, the porters do not summit and would stay at the Barafu Camp until our return.

After one final hot drink it was out into the cold dark night to begin out summit trek. We'd planned well and the moon was full, there was little need for our head torches as the ground ahead was well lit. As we made our way though the camp the order from Bruno was clear - Pole Pole.

The next eight hours of walking are a bit of a blur as to the order in which events took place. Essentially we were lucky it was dark and our torches were off. We began by crossing the plateau and scaling a bare rock wall. After an hour or so, it felt like we were the only ones on the mountain, the promise of a trail of headlamps leading up the mountain never eventuated, we did not see another soul until we passed the first failed climbers on their tortuous way down.

It was cold and the air was very thin, there were no spare breaths for talking, it was too cold to stop for water breaks other than the briefest of sips snatched on some mildly flat sections. It was head down, left foot, right foot, keep on trudging sort of stuff.

After a couple of hours on the mountain we overtook our first group, after a short chat between guides we whisked past them, a few of their members seemed to be in a spot of trouble and as it turns out, we never saw them again.

Hours of mind numbing walking. Left. Right. Left. Right.

The path zig zags up loose gravel and scree, no one talks other than Bruno who sings and dances at the head of the procession. Andrew suffers in silence.

At around 5am we stop for a water break, Bruno grabs Andrew and pushes on ahead - it's too cold to stop for long and Bruno's seriously worried he wont make it to the top. After another hour we have totally lost sight of them up ahead. Again we stop - this time for Donna to pull on her wet weather gear - the wind whipping up over the snow is chilling her to the bone. My first doubt's that she won't make it set in.

I know I am not drinking enough water and dehydrating myself, but it's too cold and too difficult to stop, with each mouthful the water gets colder and slushier. I have clipped an aluminium bottle onto my backpack and tucked it inside my Summit Jacket to stop it from freezing.

Without Bruno leading us, my mood gets darker, Moses sets a painfully slow pace where we stop after each step. I wonder how far ahead Andrew is, has he made it or not? The first rays of sunlight creep across the valley floor below, its 6am and the top does not look to be anywhere in sight. An "oy oy oy ooooyyy" echo's down the hill, lights flicker up ahead, Bruno and Andrew are still pushing on.

It's now a personal battle to keep going, to push through the tiredness and the pain. Each breath hurts my chest, my fingers are numb through the gloves and my shoulders ache from carrying my day pack. The terrain is now ice and rock with snow creeping up to the edges of the path. Always we go upwards, the poles help to keep you upright.

My frustration at Moses builds - I keep thinking Andrew is already at the top - why are we walking so slow? Donna gets cold - I worry she won't go on - the thick rain coat weighs her down and is draining her energy. She is as tough as old boots and we push onwards - aside from the cold she's having no issues breathing and has an amazingly strong determination to get to the top.

We reach a clearing, it's now light enough to see the way ahead. The final stretch before the top is the hardest part of all, its near vertical, a skinny path zig zags through thick loose gravel, sand and ice. Even though the end is in sight it seems so far away.

The sun comes out - it's too cold to take pictures but it's a magical moment as the golden rays light up the sky. The cloud below is like a thick white blanket, above it, clear blue sky. We have passed no one for three to four hours. Suddenly groups start descending from the top - success for some, pain for others.

On our left we catch our first sight of the glaciers, in the morning light they gleam translucent blue. I am angry at Moses for making us miss the sunrise from the top and more determined than ever to reach the summit. Left foot, right foot.

We reach Stella Point - Breathing hurts, Moses asks if we want to stop to admire the view - in my head all I can do is push on for the last 45 minutes to Uhuru peak. I leave the group and go ahead on my own, they all fall in behind. To stop at Stella point would surely be the end.

There's tears in my eyes - I can feel the end is coming, all of a sudden I'm trudging through thick ice and slush. I'm walking amongst other groups, people have merged at Stella Point and all paths lead to one place only. A Korean man holds on to the pack of his friend while his guide pushes him from behind. At this point everyone wants to make the summit.

I round a bend and see the bright red jacket of Bruno walking back towards me - behind him I see Andrew - they've made it. I push on and when I reach them I stop, my head falls onto my hands which rest on the poles. It feels good to stop and rest. Breathing is easier. There is no way Donna will summit alone and they have almost caught up to me. I get a pat on the back, then push on. Another hundred metres later Bruno has joined me, he left Andrew with Chunga and we push on to the summit together.

People are stalling close to the finish, a wall of ice needs to be climbed which is too much for some.

The end is in sight - a flat run over ice to the summit. I feel bad Chunga did not get to make it the last few hundred metres - it turns out this was his first time on Kilimanjaro.

At the top, all I feel is relief, I stop and drop all my gear on the ground and drink the last of my water. It's almost frozen but it tastes damn good. Eight hours of walking and we made it.

Tears in the eyes again - the sense of satisfaction is amazing. Donna joins Bruno and Moses under the famous sign. Smiles all round. All pain vanishes, it feels easier to breath again. The sense of achievement is enormous, it is a hard feeling to describe, but when you make it to the top, you feel like a million dollars and excuse the pun, on top of the world.

Uhuru peak, the highest point in Africa, the largest free standing mountain, one of the world's tallest volcanoes - 5859m above sea level.

The sun is now well above the horizon and the reflection off the ice is painful. I dig around in my pack and bring out my sunglasses and camera. One photo and the battery goes from full to flat. We go through the customary five minutes of photos at the signboard - thankfully there are no other groups here so we get some great shots. After replacing the battery I store the camera under my jacket to warm it up - hopefully this will give some longer battery life.

It's a pity Andrew is not here but it's great knowing he made it to the top- all in all he was only 15 minutes ahead of us the whole time. One of the other Ahsante climbers joins us at the top - her water has frozen solid so we share what little we have left.

Donna has walked further out around the crater rim, I follow her around for a quiet moment together. I'd planned to say a few romantic things but in the end, after mumbling about something or other after a good nine year run I proposed to her. Obviously she cried then thankfully said yes. After a few minutes more our guide hustled us along - apparently it's not healthy to stay at altitude for two long and we'd already spent nearly 25 minutes at the top.

Donna's Take
We took the usual picture at the top and then I had to pee – so yep, I dropped my dacks and peeded on top of these 1-2 million year old glaciers!  Classy act hey

I went to walk back to where the guide was and Matt, says hey where are you going?  He pulled me into this massive cuddle and said he loved me and then I just knew what was next. I held my breath and then started crying and was so happy and excited that I think I might have actually forgotten to answer or what I blubbered out was unintelligent, cause he said, is that a yes?  Then I was grinning from ear to ear and couldn’t believe what a day it had been.

Back at Stella Point I finally got around to pulling the camera out and took a few snaps from the top of Kilimanjaro - thankfully Andrew had his wits about him and managed to get some great shots from Uhuru Peak as well.

And so the downward slog began. I would like to say that we drifted down the mountain and in a couple of hours we were sitting back in the mess tent with a hot chocolate and some popcorn - unfortunately the pain was only beginning. What we had missed in the nighttime became painfully obvious in the stark light of day. After the extreme high of reaching the summit, the adrenaline started to dissipate and the tiredness set in. We had not eaten since 7pm the day before and with little water intake we were both extremely dehydrated.

Slipping and sliding down the mountain side in loose shale was far from enjoyable. The knees ache and after two hours of downward walking we are both completely knackered. We stop to take a break and drink what water we have left - I have some glucose babies to get some sugar in my body, Donna is now too tired to have anything. We push on down.

Three hours into the downward section, the suger has kicked in, Donna however is now completely finished, her legs are shaking, she can barely walk, she is stumbling all over the place. I'm hovering just behind her to catch her if she falls or stumbles. We're walking on thin little paths, Moses is scouting ahead while Bruno - fantastic as ever keeps a hawk eye on us both from behind.

Amazingly Bruno lets Donna keep on going by herself, even though she can barely stand up. I'm now walking in front of her, she holds on to my coat to keep on the path, Bruno walks behind her to make sure she stays upright. If she can make it up the mountain for damn sure she can make it down. Finally Bruno takes one of her elbows to help her along.

My knees are aching now, the walk back never seems to end, we reach what we think is the Barafu Plateau but its just another rocky peak with a big downward stretch ahead of us. We finally pull into camp at about 12:30 in the afternoon, Donna amazingly has gathered what energy is left in her body and walks in under her own steam. We've been going for nearly twelve and half hours constantly with little water and no food. After a glass of juice we head straight to the tent to sleep.

After half an hour lying there wide awake I get up and head to the mess tent for food and drink. I'm joined by Andrew and then after half an hour later by Donna for lunch. Finally we get to pass on the good news from our summit and share some experiences.

By 1:30pm it's time to push on down the mountain again. We have two options - The Millennium Camp is only two hours away, Mweka Camp is five hours away. After a brief discussion we opt for Mweka, both for the benefit of lower altitude and so that tomorrow's hike will be shorter.

From Barafu to Mweka is all downhill. Bruno, Andrew, Donna and I set off around 2pm in good spirits. A little bit of liquid, some coffee and some food in the belly has done wonders. We have a spring to our step. Andrew and I manage a cracking pace leaving Donna and Bruno chatting in our wake. Every half hour or so we stop to let them catch up. After two hours we've been overtaken by the porters who have packed up the camp and are running on to Mweka. Chunga joins us and we all stop at Millennium camp for cold cokes.

After ten minutes we push on and again the knees are treated to two hours of punishment as the path dips and takes on the form of slippery rocks. As the sun sets we walk into camp, we are all absolutely knackered and after a few mouthfuls of food we fell into bed - dead to the world.

Day 6: Mweka Camp to the Mweka Gate

After yesterdays mammoth effort today looks to be a walk in the park - we walked nearly 8 km's from Barranco to Barafu, then from midnight till 7pm we covered another 20 odd kilometres. 24 hours of walking without sleep and with very little food - yet we all made it to the Uhuru Peak at 5895 metres and back in one piece. The 10km's to the gate should only take two hours and after a breakfast feast we packed up for the final leg.

Before we leave we are treated to one final show - the porters, all obviously in a good mood as their trek comes to a close, do a number of dances including the Jumbo and Chagga (their local tribal song) songs. Unlike the Masai dance you can see the happiness in these guys - not only is it their pay day - they really enjoy what they do. After tipping the porters we set off down the trail.

Our two hour walk quickly became four hours when we stop every few minutes to take photos - to stop and talk - to look at everything around us. All in all it was a magical walk back, really relaxed and calm. Most other hikers had gone on ahead so we had the trail to our selves. We were joined about halfway down Moses and Chunga and as we walked through the misty rainforest we really were in heaven.

The legs had recovered amazingly after a massive nights sleep, regardless, the relief as we rounded the final bend was immense - no more pole pole - everyone just wanted to get home.

By the time Andrew and I finally made it to the Rangers Cabin (we were distracted for some final photos) we had already been signed out by Donna. We paid for some local village boys to clean our boots, then piled into the landcruiser for the run back to Moshi.

After picking our gear up from the Ahsante office we were dropped at the Leopard hotel for a hot (ok -the water was cold but who cares) shower and then lunch with a celebratory beer.

Kilimanjari was conquered.

Click here to see the Kilimanjaro Trek Photo Gallery (96 photos)

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Congratulations Matt and Donna - 2 amazing people with such strength and determination. What an amazing adventure. We are very proud of you both Love always and safe travels

Mum and Dad - September 24, 2007

How wonderful it must been. Moments that you cherish for the rest of your lives. Fantastic!!! Great photo's too.

James - September 10, 2007

You two are amazing. You are having the adventure we all dream about. Keep up the postings and the photos..When are you planning on the wedding band?

I’m looking forward to reading more. ENJOY the gorilla trek, how amazing that will be, take plenty of photos please Matt, I too love gorillas.

Leonie - September 07, 2007

I can't believe you guys are still roaming around. Congratulations on being such intrepid travellers. I have spent hours looking at Matt's photo's - they are fantastic. I was very amused to see that Matt has a thing for lichen and moss too. I drove Darryl a little insane by having to take copious amounts of photos of every single bit of moss I found in New Zealand.. Matt - there's some REALLY GOOD STUFF there.

Rachel - September 05, 2007

Breathtaking!!!!! And what a wonderful photo record you will exult in for the rest of you lives. And, yes,I am unashamedly envious. Congrats on conquering Kili.

Bill - September 03, 2007

I didn't have a chance to read all of this yet but skipped to the "Fairy Tale ending" and read what I thought I would!!! Big congrats to you both, so happy for you and I can't believe I know people like you that are doing such amazing things!! So exciting. Big aussie (Sydney) hugs to you both, xxxx

Wendy - September 03, 2007

Congratulations on the engagement guys!

Alex - September 03, 2007

Just about to read through some of your posts but I hear congrats is in order on your proposal to Donna. Hope you are well and all the best to Donna.

Ben - September 03, 2007

You are a scruffy looking lot, wonder why? Savour the success and the jubilation of a great climb.

Anonymous - September 02, 2007

 
     
     
 

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