We woke knowing that it was over the following morning. It was weird, though; it all felt like a crazy dream. Maybe not one of Kate’s Aronofsky-inspired dreams, but a crazy dream nonetheless. Did we really climb Kilimanjaro?
I was the last one to arrive at breakfast that morning. When I sat down, I was promptly asked if I wouldn’t mind speaking on behalf of the group at the final ceremony after breakfast. I’m not sure why I was chosen–personally, I thought Kate would have been the obvious choice, especially considering her experience at the summit. Regardless of the reason, though, I was honoured to speak for the group. I only asked that they all contribute anything that they felt was important for me to mention in my speech.
And while I was chosen as the group’s representative, Gene was chosen as the money guy. He had to calculate how much we each needed to contribute to pay the tips for the guides and the porters, and then he had to count the money. I was grateful this responsibility fell to the Science guy and not the guy who actually teaches Math for a living, because I hate being in charge of money. (Though I don’t want to think about what that says about their faith in my teaching abilities.)
Once the tips were calculated and the money was put in the correct envelopes, we all went outside to find the whole group of guides and porters there waiting for us. I was given the envelopes and started into my speech, praising them for their support every step of the way, and thanking each and every single one of them. I thanked them not only for taking care of us and helping us reach the summit, but for being kind, funny, and caring human beings.
Then there was more singing and dancing, like on Day 2. Damn, I’m gonna miss that Harmonica Man.
The landscape and the vegetation transformed back to the forest that we hiked through on the first day. While it was a beautiful, I didn’t bother taking photos because nothing else on this hike was going to compare to what we’d seen the previous day. Nothing was going to compare to that kind of high.
Joseph was the leader on the last day, and at one point, he stopped and pointed to the right over his shoulder. There was an opening in the tree leaves with a perfect window view of Kilimanjaro off in the distance. What impressed me about this was that Joseph didn’t even turn around when he pointed the view. He just knew it was there, probably because he has climbed the mountain so many times that he knows it like the back of his hand.
As I said before, my right knee started to hurt quite a bit on the last day. Brandon offered me some of his miracle cream, but while it seemed to help ease the pain momentarily, it was back in full force before we were finished the hike. Towards the end, I could no longer keep up with JM and the others who were at the front of the pack, and I started to slow down. I was concerned that perhaps I’d pulled something.
Nonetheless, we eventually made it to the bottom. We took one last group photo in front of the congratulatory sign and boarded the bus to head back to Bristol Hotel, where it all started.
Everybody was aching for a shower when we arrived–God knows how badly we all smelled after a week of living together–but August wanted us back downstairs in ten minutes for the handing out of our certificates.
Kate was kind enough to order us a round of beers, though the guides insisted they wanted warm beers for themselves. Joseph claimed you can taste the beer better that way.
When I had first arrived in Tanzania, the guy who picked me up at the airport told me that “after you climb Kilimanjaro, you must drink a Kilimanjaro.” As in, a Kilimanjaro beer. I can objectively say that while Kilimanjaro is a tasty beer, it’s not a great beer. Despite that, though, it was certainly one of the best beers I’ve ever had in my life.
Cheers to you, JM, Nancy, Jim, Curt, Rich, Mary, Kate, Danielle, Sarah, Brandon, and Eugene.
Cheers to you, August 1, August 2, Maxi, Vincent, Jerome, and Joseph.
Cheers to you, Krispin, Spice, Luca, and the whole cast of porters.
And cheers to you, Kilimanjaro.
* Some photos courtesy of the stupendous Kate.
Some tips and information for anybody reading this who might be considering climbing Kilimanjaro:
– If not for the lack of sleep and lack of oxygen as a result of the elevation, the hike is physically not that difficult for anybody in decent shape. Those two factors combined have a cumulative effect that wears you down by the end.
– Bring a bladder and a reusable water bottle.
– Make sure you’re comfortable living in close quarters with your travel buddy. Most people slept two to a tent, either with their partner, friend, or relative. I slept on my own, but with all the bags you’re carrying between the two of you, I imagine it gets pretty tight in there with two people.
– Make sure you’re not squeamish about getting dirty, not bathing, and having to take a squat outside from time to time.
– Hiking poles are a blessing.
– Rent a sleeping bag from the hiking company unless you know yours can handle -30 degree weather.
– Be prepared for messed up dreams.
– I can’t give an opinion on Diamoxin, since I didn’t take it. Some complained of tingly fingers, and everybody had to go to the washroom constantly. Ultimately I don’t know how effective it was for the others. I could have just been lucky. Apparently a person in another group had a lot of problems because they were the only one in their group who didn’t take Diamoxin. So what I’m trying to say is that I don’t know what to say.
– Bring sweets and snacks for the hike, and share with everybody.
– Bring a solar powered charger if your camera or phone are really important to you.
– Bring some Benadryl or some sort of sleeping aid.
– Bring cards for after the day’s hike. It’s a great way to bond with your group.
– Bring a book to read.
– GO WITH ULTIMATE KILIMANJARO!