Day 9: Horombo Hut Camp – Marangu Gate – Moshi (26th October)
Approx 20km (12.5 miles) – Estimated time = 6 to 8 hours, we did it in 8 hours
We were up at 6am with a view to leaving at 8am after breakfast but the mood in the camp was very relaxed and we finally set off at 9:15am. We walked for 4 hours down through the alpine countryside which changed to temperate growth as we approached the “hut” campsite where lunch was waiting for us.
MAWENZI PEAK FROM HOROMBO CAMP: GROUP PHOTO:
My knees were playing up and I had to put on a knee brace for the day. Whilst the others relaxed over lunch I decided to set off earlier as I knew I would be the slowest walker. Saumu and another porter accompanied me as I set off for Marangu gate and the others did catch up and pass us on route but we were not far behind by the end. This leg of the journey took us through lush, green and in some parts dense rainforest down to Marangu Gate where we completed the park formalities and took more photographs.
After saying goodbye to the guides and porters, who gave us another sing-song, we piled into the minibus that took us to our hotel in Moshi for a very welcome hot shower and shave, our first in a week. We then went to the Glacier Bar for our celebratory dinner where I had my first bottle of Kilimanjaro beer, but we were all pretty tired and were soon taken back to the hotel for a well deserved sleep in a proper bed.
It would not be correct to end this without mentioning the chief mountain guide and her team of assistant guides, cook, waiters & porters without whom none of us would have made it to the top.
I was privileged to spend most of the last day’s trek with Saumu who was our chief mountain guide. She has wonderful stories to tell and has worked her way up the ranks from being a porter carrying loads of 20+kg up the mountain to an assistant guide, to now being the only qualified female mountain guide based in Moshi. She is only tiny but she is one tough lady and has climbed Kilimanjaro so often she has lost count; it is now over 100 times.
She judged the fitness of the group perfectly and tailored the rate of the final climb to suit us all so that we all made it to the top. I can truly say that without her good judgement some of us may not have reached the summit, myself included. This is purely a personal and unsolicited suggestion but if anyone is thinking of climbing Kili, do seriously consider her as the chief guide. She has her own website www.saumuburhan.com but also freelances for the big trekking companies. During our trek she was freelancing for Ahsante Tours who were also brilliant in their organisation of our expedition.
SAUMU: ASSISTANT GUIDES & ME:
The assistant guides were also great people and kept our spirits up especially on the final climb with their singing and personal attention. They were good company every day, spoke good English and kept us amused with all their stories. All of them were there for us to make sure we made it to the top safely and were genuinely happy when we succeeded. We were in really good hands and I if I ever climbed Kili again, I would be happy to go back up with all of them again – Ulrich, Chagga, Charles & Eddie.
The cook and the waiters looked after us really well. There was always a good, hearty hot meal for us at every camp. The cook’s soups were incredible, even more so when one considers that they were all freshly made for each meal, and all the meat and vegetables had to be carried up the mountain from day 1. Each day had a different menu and we really wondered how he did it – the guy was a genius in his little kitchen tent.
Finally to the porters, these guys are really tough. They wait for us to leave, break camp, overtake us on the way up with their heavy loads and have the camp ready and fully functional by the time we arrive.
We were lucky with the weather too. It did rain a couple of times but only at night and only whilst we were lower down on the mountain. All our daytime treks were in sunshine or slightly cloudy conditions and the final climb was in dry and relatively still conditions. The temperature only dropped to a minimum of around -8C (18F) on the last day but it could have been much colder as temperatures of -20C (4F) have been recorded in the past.
Even the final summit morning was clear and sunny. On the way up we had observed cloud covered peaks on several mornings and we felt sorry for people who had been summiting on those days.
One important point I would like to stress is to be extremely respectful of the power of the sun at altitude. We all used liberal quantities of high factor suntan lotions and whereas I rarely removed my hat and always kept my arms covered, others did trek bare headed for a while and suffered the consequences. There were several cases of badly blistered ears and burnt faces. The worst was burnt lips and by the final day we all had blistered lips, some worse than others. I was using a factor 50 lip balm but still got affected.
Speaking to John, the team leader, on the final day as we descended down the mountain, he noted that I had peaked on the correct day. I was feeling 100% when we set off for the final climb. Many of the others were either feeling the altitude or had tummy bugs so in truth they were the tough ones to have struggled through their difficulties to make it to the top.
I had no doubts that I would make it to the top as for months I had constantly visualised myself being photographed at the sign at Uhuru point. I knew I was fit enough for the challenge but my only concern was in succumbing to altitude sickness for which one cannot train. Hence the reason for carrying Diamox in my backpack and I am pleased to say that I did not have to resort to using it even once.
Would I do it all again….??? The answer today (November 2012) is a resounding no, but ask me again in 4-6 months when the memories of the pain and hardship have faded.
Kilimanjaro is an alluring mountain and I can see myself possibly being drawn back to it. It is also a huge mountain, it’s footprint extends about 40 miles (64km) east to west and about 20 miles (32km) north to south.
Tanzania……..what can I say, I will definitely go back there one day. A beautiful country with lovely friendly people, fantastic wildlife and of course Kilimanjaro!!!
A FINAL NOTE: This was written in part as a record of events for myself, in part for all my family and friends who have supported me during this venture and in part for those who have very kindly donated to the CFF.
This has also been written for others who are planning to or considering climbing Kilimanjaro. When I was searching for info on the web before I left the UK there was scant information about the actual temperature and weather conditions at different altitudes and on a day by day basis, what clothes to wear etc, so I hope my notes will help you to make a more informed decision.