Today was going to be a very long day. We were to descend from Horombo Hut, past Mandara Hut and all the way back to Marangu gate. That’s two days worth of ascent decent in one. We made an early start. Breakfast was at 0730 at we were off at 0800. I took the lead and set the pace. It was a quick one and relentless. With Sab and Ray on my tail followed by the rest, we were determined to make our way down in less then the Guides predicted time of 5 hours. It was 3 hours back to Mandara and a further 2 back to the gate.
With food in our stomachs and the sun beaming some quality heat down, our spirits were very high. We hopped, skipped and even jumped over the rock strewn path, tearing our way down the slope. My knees were feeling good, my heels were feeling good, and my ITB was feeling good. I did fear the decent more then the ascent to be honest because your body takes such a pounding from it. The continual shock takes its toll and my knees especially start aching after not too long. Here however, they seemed mostly fine. Only when the path became steeper did I have to rely highly on the support of my walking poles to brace my step. It had rained the night before and so this very path that was dry and dusty a few days earlier was now moist and slightly muddy in places. We had to take care with foot placements and each of us had the scary ‘slip of the foot’ and so we had to keep our focus tight.
At one point, a porter passed me. I was intrigued at the exceptionally high pace that the porters move at so insisted on keeping on his tail for a while; firstly to experience this incredible movement on the mountain and secondly to play with the porter a little and let him know that a walker is keeping up with him. However, after only half a mile or so (it might have been less) I was spent. Try as I might, I could not keep up with his formidable pace and I backed off. 1-0 to the porter!
At one point, I moved out of the way to take a photo as the group all made its way round a bend. I got the picture but lost the front of the group… and never got back there again, those kids on the front were now hard boiled and were sure as hell quick on their feet!
We made our way through the savana, then the scrubland and were now in the lightly forested area. We were passing through climatic zones like courses of a meal and were enjoying every second of it.
Finally we made our way into the Mandara Hut area. 2 hours and 55 minutes later. We were 5 minutes ahead of our schedule. Here the guides had planned a hot meal for us but the cooks had just arrived themselves (maybe it goes to show the speed we were travelling at). The group however had other ideas. We were in good spirits and clearly full of energy. We insisted on a small rest with very light snacks and then were happy to proceed to Marangu gate. As much as we were loving every minute of it. We were now hell bent of finishing it off. We mustered up some snacks from our bags. Little did we know, Safiyah had been carrying a sweetshop full of snacks in her rucksack all the time! I had some chocolate and a packet of Hula Hoops and was ready to push on.
The pace from here back to the gate was a little slower. We were obviously a little beat from the previous three hours of marching. The group also split up a little. We passed a waterfall. Harune and myself decided that we need a picture here. The rest continued on. As we figured it, this was the least stressful part of the journey, there was nothing to worry about “Hakuna Matata!” So along the way, we stopped, took pictures, walked to the river and observed odd bits here and there, and talked to people ascending. Harune advised a couple of lads on taking Diamox and so on.
We then decided to catch up with the rest of the group as we wanted to walk to Marangu gate together. It didn’t take us long before we caught the tail of the group and together we were all heading back on the final leg of this great journey.
As we caught sight of the great triangle structure that marks the entrance point of the Marangu route, we all stopped, regrouped and a camera went on ahead to record this momentous event. We proudly marched our way through the gate with smiles from ear to ear. We started here six days ago, walked our way to the summit and all the way back down again. I was absolutely ecstatic… oh, and exhausted!
The porters signed us out and got our certificates, we insisted on taking photos with them at the gate even though they were blank as yet. Eventually we loaded our stuff back onto the bus and made our way to the MEM Tours office. There we were greeted by Mohammed who congratulated us and provided refreshments. It had to be a Coke for me. I had just completed the ‘Coca-Cola’ route!
Adnaan made a speech thanking Mohammed and all the team that helped us noting special efforts from exceptional guides and porters. We had gathered some money between the group for the customary ‘tip’ which we passed onto Mohammed to distribute amongst the guides, porters and cooks. He is a genuine and fair man so we trusted that he would honour our generosity.
I enquired about our safari and what time we were expected to be ready. This news came as quite a shock. “You have around 40 minutes to an hour and then the driver will come to pick you up”. This was not what we had in mind. Our idea was to get back, have a shower, have a meal with the rest of the team and bid them farewell and then depart sometime in the evening. We were told however that the drive is still quite long. There would be preparations at the campsite and so it would be best to go at the time suggested. We got Jackson at the office to order a couple of pepper steaks at the hotel and we wasted no time in bidding farewell to our guides and Mohammed. We took some more pictures, this time with our signed certificates that were formally presented to us and then piled back into the bus.
Back at the hotel, Harune and myself were not allocated a room as we were not staying and so he hogged Ray’s shower and I Adnaans. A jolly good scrub later we were clean and changed. Our pepper steaks were ready and tasted amazing. We also recorded our final message on camera for Minhaj Welfare Foundation.
Ishtiaq and Fakarul showed up and gave warming congratulations. They looked much better and happier now from the weary guys I last saw on Kili. I don’t think mountains are any places for these guys. It was good to see that they were relaxed and now enjoying themselves. It wasn’t so good to learn that Farkarul, who had reached nowhere near Gilmans Point had managed to lie at the gate and get a certificate. I felt that it insulted the efforts of all the others in the group that had got to a higher altitude them him, but such is life. I guess to some, personal achievement means less then an image.
Our driver showed up and so we bid the rest of the group well and loaded up the car. One journey was well and truly over and another was just about to begin…