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Rlhdancer - Other Trail Journal - 2019

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Split & Two Step
City: Pleasanton
State: California
Country: USA
Begins: Oct 19, 2019
Direction: Eastbound

Daily Summary
Date: Sat, Oct 26th, 2019
Start: High Camp, elev 12,450 feet
End: Meeks Gate, elev 5379
Daily Distance: 8.4
Trip Distance: 42.8
Hours Hiked: 4
Daily Ascent: 20
Daily Descent: 7091
Max Elevation: 2477

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 128
Journal Visits: 840
Guestbook Views: 7
Guestbook Entrys: 1

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(Click image for full size)

Our final camp sign as we depart Kilimanjaro National Park

Climbing Down off Kilimanjaro

Climbing Down off Kilimanjaro

The rain stopped sometime in the night, and the night was quiet. I slept nine hours till 5:00am, then woke at the morning sounds of our team rising and starting their day. Our alarm was set for 6:00am, and Two Step was still deep asleep, so I read in bed for an hour. What a luxury.

At 6:00am we woke and started getting packed for our final walk down Kilimanjaro. We packed all our rented gear in the bottom of our rented waterproof duffle, and I stowed the rest of my gear in the top of said duffle before our 7:00am breakfast arrived. Our first course was Uji, the slightly sweetened millet porridge that we have most mornings. The team now knows that I like Uji, which is apparently unheard of among tourists, and I heard laughter as I exclaimed excitedly, Uji!, particularly loudly from our server Baraka. Our guide, Raj, later affectionately, but also with humor in his voice, told me that the team now refers to me as Mr. Uji. Worse nicknames are certainly possible, but I'm not changing my trail name!

A little before 7:30 we were done with breakfast and had emptied our tent. Raj called the team together, and within a few minutes the tent was disassembled and removed from our campsite. The eleven members of the team then serenaded us with the Kilimanjaro song, something we have heard occasionally during our trip, but never really knew. It is a fun upbeat song that highlights words tourists learn on the mountain, such as hello, thank you, good night, and has lyrics concerning the mountain. Sung in harmony by surprisingly strong voices and with lots of animated movement, it was a real treat!

Afterwards came the ritual of handing out the tips to each member of the team. We followed a guideline that suggested an amount for each of the porters, specialists, and guides. Everyone seemed to leave happy - after a couple glitches with an omitted name and a barter negotiation that fell through due to language difficulties.

Then came the our last hike on Kilimanjaro. We headed out of High Camp in the sun, but our clear view downhill showed clouds and mist far below us. Edwin was again our leader, and even though we were above 12,400 feet, he was not pole pole (slow) at all. The trail was two people wide and damp from last nights rain, but going downhill we walked at about three miles per hour. After our good nights sleep, we were not even breathing hard as we sped along. We walked through the moorland vegetation zone populated almost totally by a single type of shoulder high shrub. At about 45 minutes into our descent we entered the mist, and our speed faltered as the steep descent transitioned to an extended rocky, steplike pathway. There was an immediate 10F temperature fall due to the mist, but what would have been chill before our hike was now comfortable after 45 minutes of exercise.

After about two miles and just under an hour we came to Mweka Camp (10,170 feet elevation), stopped momentarily for a picture by the camps sign, and then headed off downhill into the fog. We had had the option of trying to hike this far yesterday, but had declined in order to have more rest yesterday afternoon, and to avoid this constant fog. As we walked through this next camp, we commented to each other about our wise choice.

We had about six more miles to reach the Kilimanjaro Parks gate. Edwin kept up his rapid pace, and by 9000 feet we were ensconced in a tropical rain forest. Appropriately, a light rain began to fall and would continue till we left the parks gate.

It was an relatively easy walk downhill through increasingly tropical forest with Raj answering endless questions about his life, and life in general in Tanzania. We definitely took advantage of our last chance for a bit of cultural exchange. At about noon, we came to Meeks Gate, the entrance to the park, and signed out of our trek. We were soon at the entrance to our van, with all the crew inside, and were accosted by locals trying to sell us some memorabilia. We succumbed to a t-shirt and fridge magnet, and then were on our way.

And that, we assumed, was the end of our trip, but about five minutes down the road Raj stopped the van, got out, and asked us to follow. After a brief stop in the gift shop, we were led to a table with a large bottle of sparkling juice. Raj presented us with our official certification that we had reached the Kilimanjaro summit - Uhuru - the roof of Africa. We toasted with Raj, Edwin, and Baraka who had tagged along as a guide-in-training. It was a festive way to complete the trip.

From this side of the mountain (east) it was a 25 minute ride to Moshi town along two-lane rural roads through large coffee plantations, and dozens of smaller family farms of banana, sugar cane, and corn. The van was full of our entire team, and after eight days without a shower, and most of the team without a basin of hot water twice a day, the vans odor was predominantly Kilimanjaro perfume. It didnt seem so bad since the two of us contributed nearly our full share. We arrived at our hotel, gave Raj our rental gear, exchanged telephone numbers, and had one last thank you to the team. Our adventure to and up Kilimanjaro was complete.

Hopefully, this travel log / hiking journal will help someone planning a trip to Kilimanjaro. The trip was much more luxurious than I expected, especially coming from the perspective of an ultra-long distance hiker. Still, our summit day, which I expected to be very challenging, was really off the charts. The cold, the wind, the stress induced by severe lack of oxygen - these were beyond anything I expected. For much of the later half of the climb, I just didnt know if I had it in me to overcome these obstacles, and when I did, I was overcome with emotion. It was not as emotional as finishing a thru-hike, but it had a brief intensity that approached that level of gratefulness and thrill of knowing you have gone beyond what you at one time thought was possible.

I left a frozen tear on Kilimanjaros summit.

From Moshi, Tanzania,
Split and Two Step

Entry 11 of 11
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Split And Two Step's 2019 Kilimanjaro Ascent

Other Trail is located off the beaten path, somewhere between the soles of your feet and your imagination.


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