Five -The Final Day on the mountain.
The final day on Mt. Kilimanjaro started
with the most spectacular African sun
rise one could ever wish to see. Rising
from over Mawenzie and the Indian Ocean
in the east the sun's rays seemed to turn
the whole sky into a flaming mosaic.
It could almost of been the mountain's
final salute and farewell to Project'98,
and a fitting start to the final descent.
Everybody's spirit's were lifted now,
with the knowledge that although we were
unable to summit, we had succeeded in
establishing a world record.
Although my watch had shown just over
16,000ft we had reached the snowline just
below Hans Meyer Caves and these are at
actually at 17,000ft. We had also won
the admiration and respect of our fellow
climbers and we were all safe!
of us now lay the final descent to Marango
Gate. We had taken two long, hard working
days to make the ascent but could now
only take one day for the descent if we
were to be off the mountain in TANAPA's
time schedule.(If all else failed we had
all agreed to mount Jon's wheelchair like
a motorbike display team and descend with
flags flying, could this have been another
record?).What no flags! With 'standing
room' only, there was little chance of
us all fitting onto the chair anyhow.
Energy levels did however, seem to be
bountiful and indeed the morning started
off in a light-hearted manner with a left-handed
stone throwing competition into the depths
of one of the ravines that made up the
seven fingers of Mawenzie. Why I don't
know, it just seemed to be the thing to
do at the time until we found out that
our doctor had conned us into believing
she was left-handed and threw the stones
with her right arm.
No wonder she was throwing them further
than anyone else!
chance of a final radio message, courtesy
of African Environments, Arusha,which
was then passed on to the organisation
M.A.F. and then finally onto the International
School Moshi (talk about going around
the houses, but this was our only form
of communication open to us), we arranged
transport to meet us at the gate for 6
p.m. in the evening. With both local knowledge
and our extensive vocabulary, (10 words
and plenty of sign language), we had now
finally established that there was an
alternative descent route, (the one we
had asked the guide for in the first place),
which was wider for the wheelchair. It
was a gamble, but one we hoped would pay
The descent started with a steep climb
out of the encampment, back in the direction
of Kibo. Memories of previous tortuous
days of climbing came flooding back, together
with the strain on arm, leg muscles and
joints as we re-traced our route to the
start of the descent path. For once, luck
was on our side, the track down was wider,
not too overgrown and was less effected
by the water erosion experienced on the
first two days of the climb. Before we
were really aware, we had made good time
through various different terrains, including
the rain-forest, we had covered approximately
25kms in five and a half hours and every
joint in our bodies knew it!
finally, civilization seemed to engulf
us, or to be more exact, thirty or more
children seemed to emerge from the hedgerows
and fields, following Jon in his chair
like the 'Pied Piper of Hamlin'. The final
stages were very memorable, as had been
the whole project. The very children the
project had endeavoured to help in the
first week of our visit before starting
the climb, greeted us on our safe return.
Africa, what a country!
Hopefully this diary has given you a small
insight to our entire visit and indeed
the overall success of Project'98, this
will be followed by a video and book.
Watch this space!