Day 9 (Sept. 10, 2005): Descent to Mweka Gate


Trip Participants
Selecting the Route
Guide/Trekking Company
Training for the Climb
Gear List

Travel to Tanzania
Pre-Climb Orientation
Day 1: to Forest Camp
Day 2: to Shira 1 Camp
Day 3: to Moir Camp
Day 4: rest day at Moir
Day 5: to Lava Tower
Day 6: to Arrow Glacier
Day 7: Western Breach
Day 8: Summit day
Day 9: Descent

Safari After the Climb

Hiking  Distances
GPS Coordinates
Contact Information

Daily Climbing Summary

Start:  Millennium camp 12,590' elevation
Finish: Mweka gate 5,500' elevation
Distance: 7.5 miles  
Time on trail: 6 hours  
GPS Data Latitude Longitude
Millennium camp S 3o 07.901' E 37o 22.316'
Mweka camp S 3o 09.377' E 37o 22.030'
Mweka gate S 3o 13.186' E 37o 20.476'

After breakfast, all of the porters and support crew gathered in a group and called us over. They sang a song called "Kilimanjaro." I had heard this song before on a DVD on climbing Kili. As every trekking group that morning was preparing to leave Millennium Camp, their porter team also sang the song to them. It was a song of congratulations for successfully climbing the mountain. Everyone was clapping and singing, and it was a very fun time.

I told our team from Tusker Trail (in English, and Elias translated) that they had done a great job, that they took very good care of us and we were very grateful, and that we would never forget our trip. Then it was handshakes and high-fives with every single person in their group. They seemed as happy and were celebrating the end of the climb as much as we were. It made for a very happy end to the trek. The "goodbyes" at camp would be the last time we were together as group. The porters stayed to break camp (as usual), then individually passed us on the final hike down. When we got to Mweka Gate at the park exit, they had already gotten rides home.

We began our final day of hiking about 8:15 am. The hike began in the Moorland zone, with heather dominating the landscape. We walked through thick cloud cover, which obscured any views that we might have seen. After about 2 hours (2.1 miles from Millennium Camp), we reached Mweka Camp. As we passed through this camp, we were required to sign the log book, then we continued downward. Mweka Camp was just within the Rain Forest zone. As we saw on our hike up the mountain a week ago, the transition between the Moorland zone and Rain Forest was amazingly abrupt.

From Mweka Camp, Ellen and I were accompanied by Michael (who was still carrying the heavy yellow duffel full of medical equipment). We enjoyed talking with him, and found him to be very good company on the trail. Elias stayed with Rick and Pauline, who kept a somewhat slower pace. Both Pauline and Ellen stopped a lot to take photos of the flowers along the trail over this last stretch.

The trail down was remarkably well maintained to manage erosion and heavy rainfall. There were water run-off ditches on either side of the trail. The sides of the path were lined with 3-4" wooden forms to keep the integrity of the walking portion. In sections where the trail was steep, the path was terraced into steps.

All that being said, the trail became wet and slick as we were going through the rain forest. You had to step down 12 to 18" onto the next terraced level in the steep sections. If the ground was even slightly uneven (which is inevitable), your foot would slip as you set it down. Although I had dozens of "close calls," I didn't actually fall. (I think Pauline said that she had a couple of "seat plants" on this slick section.)

The miles really dragged on the last walk to the park exit gate. Although the hiking wasn't hard, I was ready for it to be over. About 1/2 mile from the park gate, the trail widened into a dirt road. Emergency vehicles are able to drive up as far as this point to pick-up trekkers who are being evacuated.

As we walked down the final section, we saw Kevin walking up the trail to meet us. He had driven over to the park gate with the driver from the Keys Hotel to meet us. He was feeling better, but definitely not fully recovered. He had spent most of the last several days in his hotel room (watching a lot of Tanzanian documentaries on TV).

We arrived at the Mweka Gate (park exit gate) about 2 pm, and had to sign-out on the National Park log book. I bought a Kilimanjaro tee shirt ($12) and several postcards ($1 each). We had expected to see a lot of vendors at the gate selling tee shirts and souvenirs. However, we were so slow coming down the mountain that they had all gone home by the time we reached the gate.

We had a 45 minute drive back to the Keys Hotel, arriving about 3 pm. The hot shower felt very nice, but I was surprised how good I felt after 9 days on the mountain. Although I was tired from the two day rapid descent from the summit, my knees and joints were not sore like I had expected them to be.

We arranged to meet Julian at 4:30 pm to give him the tip money for all the guides and porters. Tusker Trail recommended that we give the tips to their representative rather than directly to the support people on the trail. They have a set way of dividing the tips according to the seniority / responsibilities of each member of the mountain team. (Of course, if you wanted to designate a certain amount for any particular person, for example someone who had done a specially good job for you, then you were welcome to do that.)

We had a nice dinner at the hotel, with a bottle of wine to celebrate our successful climb of Kilimanjaro. The next morning we would begin a four-day safari through three of Tanzania's national game parks, and then return home.



Copyright 2005. Michael E. Coltrin, Albuquerque, NM. All rights reserved.