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Project '98.

To the Roof of Africa on wheels.

Day 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!

Ahead 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!

With 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 off.

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!

Well, 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!