A baritone reaches the summit

Final part of Gerald Finley’s diary of climbing Kilimanjaro:

 

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Day 7

The sleep was deep and full of dreams, of airplanes, opera and adventure fantasy,

but perhaps it was the extra oxygen. We woke late, (nearly 7:30!) and had a final

breakfast of millet porridge. The packing up of the tents was quick and full of energy

so that we were on our way by 9 a.m. Immediately the path was well made up, hard

packed and with drainage, but slippery! Not too steep, but every step needed to be

managed. The porters decided this was a superhighway, as they bounded by us, feet

firmly planed, as we skidded and jabbed our sticks into the hard mud. The descent

into the cloud forest was magical and as excuse for stopping, many photos were

taken of plants, trees and atmospheric forest glades. The excitement of the finish

was palpable, with high energy from everyone. We chatted between us about the

porters, their lifestyle, and what tips might be appropriate. We marveled as they

smiled, said, “Jambo!” or “Poa ca chisi, ca mandisi” (cool, like a banana =ok) or even

better “Mzuka!!” (Ghost=great!!), and generally were happy to see us happy, which

made us happy. As we neared the end of the route on the now wide road, suddenly

we found our small trio alone, very unusually and in the presence of activity high in

the trees. As we stood silently, we could hear and detect in the top branches,

movements and rustlings. “Colobus monkeys,” said Filex, and for ten minutes we

enjoyed watching them active in the trees, screened very well by leaf and branch. It

was a wonderful sight – interrupted by the call of male monkeys deep in the forest

on the other side of the track, guttural warnings to the young monkeys of danger. It

was a further uplift to an already enchanted walk through the African rainforest. At

last, the road opened onto the car park of the Mweka Gate with vans and buses all

being packed up, loaded with all the used provisions from the mountain. The photos

at the route signs and the queue for signing out of the National Park were part of the

ceremonial end to the trek. Back at 1800 metres in oxygen rich air, high humidity

and grateful for cloud cover, we could just about comprehend that we had

descended from the heights, through our own layers of physical and mental

challenges. Yes, perhaps we had been crazy to attempt the climb, but we had

actually done it! Pole, pole.

Perhaps a phrase for the rest of one’s life.

 

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