Saying Goodbye to the Mountain….
I would love to be able to tell you that our trip down from Upper Mweke Camp was uneventful, but it wasn’t quite that simple. Coffee, breakfast and breaking down camp were all on schedule and we began our long descent, first passing the Lower Mweke Camp where the trail turns from descending slippery, wet rocks to steps cut into the dirt ground that in the rain forest can be a bit treacherous. The porters practically run by us as they “pass” on the right and we try to stay out of their way.
I felt pretty good and was leading the group (normally the responsibility of one of the guides) as everyone felt well. We had a good pace to descend well ahead of schedule when we encountered a bit a slippery area and watched as a porter went down with all his baggage and luckily didn’t hurt himself. Immediately after watching this accident and restarting our trek, I somehow slipped in almost the exact same location, going down forward, face first, without getting my hands up in time to protect myself. I recall slamming my face into a long smooth rock that I saw coming, but couldn’t do anything about it. With a huge thump and a thud I came to rest with my head downhill and just lay there, first trying to determine what I had injured. I thought I had put a tooth through my lip and luckily hadn’t, but I could see some blood covering my nose so I knew something was amiss. Danielle saw me not moving and was really worried, but everyone was atop me quickly, helping me to slowly get to my knees and access the situation. Amazingly, all I had was a gash over the bridge of my nose, probably from my sunglasses, a thoroughly scraped nose and bruised and swollen lips. The guides dressed my wounds and we continued on after a few minutes, albeit a bit slower. Lots of jokes about “you should see the other guy” were heard, but all in all I was very, very lucky that I hadn’t broken anything or done more serious damage to myself. Sorry, no photos of my injuries.
We signed out at the Mweke Gate and got our Kilimanjaro certificates. The ordeal was over and we all reflected on the experience. To a person, it was the toughest thing any of us had ever done in our lives. Also to a person, none of us would choose to do it again in similar conditions. It was an experience that will never be forgotten, nor can it be taken away. For each of us, we will be able to tell of our struggle and survival on Kilimanjaro, a normally gentle and kind mountain, that chose on our day to challenge each of us as we had never been challenged before. I’m very glad I did it and am also very glad that it’s over.