Our last meal on the mountain was a wonderful breakfast in the Thunder Dome. Yes, it had been recovered after being blown away last night. A few rips in the top, but still able to stand. After breakfast, we had the traditional Thank You ceremony with the support team. This is where the clients present monetary tips to the various support roles - porters, cooks, toilets, guides, and lead guide. It's customary to present the money and announce the amounts in front of all so there is no chance someone might pocket some that should be distributed. A couple fun songs and we were ready to scurry down the hill to a bus, lodge, and showers!
Surprisingly, today's long walk downhill caused more slips and injuries than the rest of the trek. The trail was fairly steep through a beautiful rain forest with lots of terraced steps that meant hard pounding of feet. That trail opened into a gravel road for another couple miles. The sand on this steep road was very slippery and I heard that most of us slipped at least a few times on the way down. I slid four times myself, with no injury but just more stress, and I saw one person not in our group actually fall ahead of me.
One highlight of this hike was that there were many monkeys causing a ruckus in the trees overhead a couple times. The other highlight was reaching the exit at Mweka Gate and having a cold beer while waiting for the rest of our gang. When we were all down, it started to rain as we loaded the buses, and there was even a few claps of thunder up the mountain. We drove to Meru Meru Lodge for showers, drinks, and a celebration dinner, followed by sleep in a luxurious bed.
Even though the wind was a challenge on the mountain, we were very, very fortunate with weather on our trek. The wind destroyed some camps, and when we go off the mountain, it rained. Higher up, it snowed! This is the view of Kilimanjaro from our lodge the next morning when we woke to clear skies. Compare that to the photo of our mountain family above and you can see that our entire summit day would have been through fresh snow today.
We hiked from 12,500ft down to 5,400ft over a distance of about 7.5 miles.
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