Some of the responses were interesting. Joseph Ibanda, a pilot, wrote: "...the view must be spectacular from there..." He could not have used a better expression to express how I felt and there was no beter place to live that experience than where I stood as I read his message. On my left was the vast expanse of the saddle between Kibo and Mawenzi, at a distance but in clear view. Further below I had a clear view for about 1,500m that was interrupted by a thick cloud cover. I cannot describe the exhilaration of standing on the ground and yet be above the clouds, more than 1,500m above the clouds. Only a pilot could make that statement.
Having announced to the world that I had made it, we began our descent towards Barafu. The porters who rush past us contradict the difficulty that most novice climbers face. Nowhere is this difficulty brought to the fore as between Stella Point and Barafu where many of those who succumb to the high altitude and the physical exertion are separated from the experienced climbers. Amidst all this an old man of perhaps 70 years passed us almost running downhill with his mountain guide desperately trying to keep up with the pace. With the Beijing Olympics in progress I cannot help suspect that the old man could be using performance enhancing drugs. He put to shame climbers who were young enough to be his grandchildren.
Further downhill, past Barafu, we met climbers going up. They asked, "How was it?" My immediate response is "Tough". Le's response was more encouraging: "Fabulous, breathtaking." Then I remembered that I too climbed Kilimanjaro for the scenery: the breathtaking sight of Mawenzi at sunrise, the long vistas and the bird's eye view of the winding paths on the saddle, the feeling of being in the North Pole at the Crater Camp, but above all, standing on the ground with the clouds below. I stood there breathing the cold crispy mountain air and all I could say was "tough."
Today we walked all the way from Crater Camp (5,790m), Barafu Camp (4,600m), Millenium High Camp (3,950m), to Mweka Camp (3,100m) where we spent our final night. This was another tough walk as my rarely exercised thigh muscles began to succumb to the six days of regular walking.
Next post: Frozen brains and why I quit smoking