A 210-240 degree panorama of Kibo Crater, the top of Kilimanjaro, from Stella Point.

To the Roof of Africa
A Trek to Kilimanjaro's 19,341 foot Summit

Saturday, July 11, 2015 - Monday, July 20, 2015

by Dennis Foster


Part V - Descent & Exit - 7/19 - 7/20

Our group - Dewey & Tracy, Michelle & Mark, Kristin & Todd, and Dennis (me).

Click on any picture to see a larger image.

Kilimanjaro - Part I: Getting to the Trail
Kilimanjaro - Part II: From Forest to Shira II
Kilimanjaro - Part III: From Shira II to Barafu

Kilimanjaro - Part IV: Summit Day
Kilimanjaro - Part V: Descent & Exit
Kilimanjaro - Part VI: A Tale of Two Stories

Day 8 - Sunday, July 19, Barafu Camp to the Mweka High Millennium Camp
     Suddenly I am feeling quite good!  I wolfed down my breakfast - the most I've eaten since we started!  I can speak a bit, but am still a bit on the hoarse side.  It seemed like we would have a nice leisurely morning, but Todd and Kristin got an early start and were down to our camp by about 8 a.m. and we were all on our way by about 9 a.m.  It didn't take long to reach a point where we could see the Mweka High Camp down below us, very near to the edge of the heath zone.  I would say that it took us barely two and a half hours.  As usual, we can see the cloud bank below us.  When I arrived in Kilimanjaro it seemed to me like the clouds socked in the mountain.  But it appears that they hover around 10,000 feet with much clearer skies above.  I was often reminded of the view from an airplane window during this trip, looking down on clouds stretching out to the horizon.

Taking down the Barafu Camp.

Foster of Kilimanjaro - again!

Descending to Mweka High Camp.
     We actually had some time to kill before lunch!  I finally got a chance to visit the kitchen tent.  Everyone there was sitting on plastic buckets and they were quite accommodating for me to join in.  I'm not sure how much English our chef, Michael, speaks, nor really how much Ernest, the camp manager did, but Ahi was there to do some translating.  Michael was cutting up some fresh fruit for our lunch and, with the assistance of Ernest, stirring up a big frying pan of ham slices.  That was for the porters' lunch.  Ahi told me that every porter brings his own plate along for the trip.  Michael took some culinary classes at a local college in Arusha and seems to enjoy his job.  I am under the impression that Thomson crafts together all the recipes and that the individual chefs are schooled in their preparation.  I think that we received a supply of fresh food at Karanga so not all of it had to come with us from the start.
     I walked around and stopped to watch some of the porters playing checkers on a board where you could barely discern the different squares.  The red and blue "pieces" were old water bottle tops!  They asked if I wanted to play and I declined - I just wanted to watch them go at it.  There was much hooting and cheering among the lookers-on.  Like many of the camps we stayed at there was a new tourist outhouse here.  But, it may be unfinished as it wasn't open.  I came upon Penda, Ahi, and Adam sitting on a fallen tree and snagged someone to snap a photo of the four of us.  I never got a chance to learn much about Adam, but Ahi (and his wife while he is away) does some middleman retailing in town when he is not working as a guide and he has a daughter.  Earlier I had mentioned about how some environment we were hiking through reminded me of the movie, "The Wizard of Oz."  Ahi had never heard of it but said that he enjoyed watching old movies, so maybe he'll get the chance to see it sometime.
     Following lunch, the seven of us hung out in the dining tent pooling together our porter tip money.  We were given envelopes before leaving home for tip moneys - one for Penda, one for Ahi, one for Adam, one for Moses & Michael and one for the remaining 36 porters.  Amy, at Thomson, sent along suggested tipping amounts and I think we all pretty much just followed that advice, although I later gave a special tip to Aaron (who got water for us every day and was unbelievably cheerful the whole trip; Penda told us that he aspires to be a guide some day and I'm sure he'll be great at it) and another very special tip to Girard, who not only hauled around my duffel every day but also carried my day pack into our camps and up to the summit.  Altogether we had pooled together about $1800 for the 36 porters on this expedition.
     I brought along a bunch of Grand Canyon topo map bandanas as a special gift.  I gave them out including one to Girard and had Penda do some translating of my explanation of what it was - "This is part of the Grand Canyon.  I live down here (off the bandana).  I do a lot of hiking here (spreading my hand around the map).  But, I don't have a Girard to help me!"  There was much laughter.
     The tipping ceremony started at about 4 p.m. with the porters regaling us in song.  I recorded a couple of snippets, which are embedded below.  We each offered up individual thanks.  I finished off my short thank you with a loud "Asante!" which means "thank you" in Swahili.  The porters pretty much all replied instinctively, "Karibu," meaning "welcome."  Dewey presented the tips to the porters, and we individually tipped the assistant guides and chef/waiter.  Then Penda announced, "I believe that all the money that remains is mine."  LOL.  Then it was time for a group photo (see below).
     I was ravenous for dinner and feeling very good.  I turned down the boiling hot bottle of water - it just didn't seem cold enough that night for me to need it.  I had brought along Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" thinking I would have time to read it during the trip; fat chance when you're sick.  Well, that's what I did after retiring to my tent; by headlamp of course.  It is an interesting story even if Kilimanjaro is not really the main subject.

Chef Michael prepares lunch for us and the porters in the kitchen tent.  I imagine he was busy all day long!  Here he takes a break from prepping pineapple to stirring some fried ham.
New toilets are not opened.

High Millennium Camp (12,500 ft.).

Camp manager Ernest assists.

Porters playing checkers.

Ahi, me, Penda and Adam.

Kilimanjaro from High Camp.

The tipping ceremony begins.

Group photo following the tipping ceremony.

I got to record most of the first song the porters sang (that is Mawenzi in the background),
but always feel somewhat conflicted - should I record this or should I just hang back and
enjoy the moment?  I don't know, but I did get another snippet, here:


Day 9 - Monday, July 20, Mweka High Millennium Camp to park exit
     I slept very well and ate a full breakfast.  We were probably on the trail by 8 a.m.  We were soon in the forest and the trail was quite slippery.  Dewey had a tough time of it and because he was in the front, our progress was slow to the lower Mweka camp.  From there Penda split us up with he, a couple of porters, and Dewey taking up the rear position.  After a bit we ended up with Adam leading the first group of Todd and Kristin, Tracy, and me.  I tended to lag a bit and would catch up to them when they took short breathers.  Probably fifteen minutes behind us were Mark and Michelle (and probably Ahi).  Although we raced down this slick forest trail, I managed to not fall at all.  At one spot we stopped where Adam had spotted a blue monkey nearby, picking berries to eat.  From the lower Mweka camp it probably took about two and a half hours for us to reach the trailhead.  As we got closer, the trail turned more into a road and was often muddy and rutted.

The forest trail is generally well-groomed, but on this day it was precariously muddy.  Deciding I wouldn't get a chance to hike on some ice I didn't bring along my Kahtoolas!

Kili from the forest trail.

Adam, Kristin, Tracy and Todd.  We blazed the way down the trail ahead of the others, although they would stop every so often for me to catch up!  Happy to say I never fell down.
A blue monkey picks berries.
     At the Mweka Gate we had to sign in (with our passport numbers!) and then we were sitting down at our usual dining table to enjoy a nice lunch.  There were a few guys and gals there washing boots.  Woo hoo!  At $2/pair I think we all took advantage of this service.  Mark and Michelle arrived as we were finishing lunch and then along came Dewey!  I think Tracy had barely gotten her Kilimanjaro Beer when her dad got into the station.  He and his porters must have been flying down the trail!  Following lunch we had another ceremony - for our summit certificates.  Penda called us up one at a time while the porters that we still had with us were again providing the musical accompaniment.  I was the last to go and I decided to high five all the porters on my way around the semi-circle to Penda.  They were enthusiastic and we all had a great time.
     At a bit past 2 p.m. we were off - Mark, Michelle, Dewey and Tracy in one of the Land Rovers and on their way to a multi-day safari; Todd, Kristin and me in the other Rover (still with Mohdy as our driver) for a return to KIA lodge.  Todd and Kristin were heading to the Seychelles Islands the next morning while I was on the late flight to Amsterdam.  It probably took an hour or so to drive to the lodge so we got to see a bit more of the local environment, although still more rural than urban.
     At the lodge I welcomed the chance to shower.  I couldn't get the wifi to work for my phone, so I had to give up on sending out a message.  Just outside my door there was a great view of Kili so I snapped off one more photo.  Then it was time to repack my bags.  No more wearing boots!  I could have done a better job as I ended up with my duffel weighing in at over 50 pounds and so I had to pay a surcharge of $50 for it.  Oh well, so it goes.  Mohdy gave me a ride to the airport and I tipped him as well (and gave him one of my bandanas).  He was a very pleasant guy and didn't mind chatting it up with us on our drives.

Tracy's Kilimanjaro beer.  Still feeling under the weather I decided to forgo this pleasure, although I did have a second piece of the sliced avocado!

The Mweka gate.

The certificate of completion (or, of success).  I met some students at the airport that finished the same day with the same certificates.
For $2 we got our boots washed.

I give high fives to the porters ...

... at the certificate ceremony.

Kilimanjaro from my hut at KIA lodge.
     It was a long trip back.  Boarding at the Kilimanjaro airport was as chaotic as one can imagine, but at least it is a small place.  I met three students in the waiting area that had summited Kili the same day as me, but they did the midnight hike up.  Our 8:45 p.m. flight took us to Kigali (Rwanda) for a short stopover to pick up more passengers.  An elderly black woman had an inside seat next to me.  Her daughter was in the row behind me and before we took off I offered to switch with her so they could sit together (and I would still have an aisle seat).  She was happy to do so, but the young boy next to me and the young girls next to him were all her children!  Well, it still worked out for the best.  She was on her way back to Norway where she lives.  [Although I gathered that she and her family are all from Rwanda].
     We arrived in Amsterdam at 7:15 a.m. where I had a five and a half hour layover.  Seeing the cheese shop here on the flight coming over from the U.S. led me to seek it out and buy a bag full of cheese to bring back with me.  The stores and shops would take credit cards without problems, but you could also pay in many stores in U.S. dollars.  And, I think most, if not all, made you take change back in euros!  I listened to some podcasts I had recorded on my mp3 players (which I took on the hike and never used!) to pass the time.
     I couldn't replicate my itinerary back to be the same as the trip out, so I ended up with an 11 hour long flight from Amsterdam to Los Angeles.  And, when I tried to board I found out that I had been reassigned to another seat!  It was still in the middle of the right side, but it was the first row - the one that has no storage under the seat in front of you ... because there is no seat in front of you!  Just miserable!!  And, the tray table swings up and locks you into the seat.  Also, the TV swings up and once up it is impossible to do anything with the tray table.  Just awful.  But what is even more awful is the window seat.  It had just half the usual legroom because that's where one of the plane's hatches is located.  Yikes!  A woman was in that seat for a brief time (she was part of group escorting 16 horses to the U.S.) until some guy agreed to a switch, for reasons that are unclear to me.
     I arrived in L.A. at about 3 p.m. and followed the crowd to customs.  The "non-U.S. resident" line(s) were insane - there must have been two thousand people snaked into mazes leading to one of about 20 customs desks.  Yeech!  I had to go through an automated kiosk, which scanned my passport and took a photo of me, printing it out as my receipt.  And, I had to answer a few questions about anything I am declaring.  Then, off to a line to see a person.  "Do you have anything to declare?"  "No."  "Any food, fruits or plants?"  "No."  Then, later, I wondered about the cheese.  Was I supposed to declare that?  I don't know.  Anyway, my passport was stamped and then I was out on the street hoofing it up to the proper terminal for my next flight.  With a four and a half hour layover here I wasn't in a hurry.  At the proper terminal I had to go through security and after my bag was screened I wondered about the cheese again.  Were they supposed to let it pass?  It would seem so since I bought it in the airport in Amsterdam, but I don't know.  Down at my terminal was a restaurant where I grabbed a cheeseburger and fries and settled in to wait for my flight.
     I made it into Phoenix at 8:30 p.m.  Seemingly it has been 24 hours since I left Kilimanjaro, but of course it has been 34 hours due to our "catching up" with time.  And at Phoenix, no duffel!  The lady at the customer service desk asked me if I claimed it at customs in L.A.?  Should I have?  Nobody told me and it was ticketed to Phoenix.  So, no I did no such thing (and I still have no idea where I should have done that and how).  Well, she said, we'll just expedite it on a later flight tonight.  [Good, as I was staying at a local hotel anyway.]  Since I live in Flagstaff, should they send it on up to that airport?  Sure!  So, that's what they did.  And I still wonder, if they can just have it sent on, why would I need to claim it in LA?  Picking it up here in Flagstaff was a breeze, done on the way into town.  The TSA did search the bag, but they didn't bother to wash any of my dirty and stinky hiking clothes!

Best of the rest - Other photos from this part of the trip by the other members of the group.
Click on any picture to see a larger image.

From ...





Appendix - Miscellaneous Items

SPOT GPS tracker - I wore the Spot every day.  I wasn't sure that the forest readings would be properly recorded, due to the vegetation canopy, but plenty of way points were received.  I sent out a special custom message from Uhuru Peak which those on my mailing list got.  I downloaded the way points onto a map and saved it at My Spot Adventures.  The map is below (and linked to the site):

The inventory of the 30 lb. duffel at the start of the trip:

In a garbage bag:
Big Agnes pad
Big Agnes inflatable pillow
Big Agnes air funnel (to fill up pad)
Space blanket bivy
Sleeping bag liner (in pouch)
Fleece pillow cover
In a green dry bag:
**Snowboarder's jacket
Quark fleece coat
**Heavy gloves
Heavy mittens
Fleece hood
In a small red dry bag:
Sleep wear - long johns, shirt, socks
Cotton briefs for camp
2 bandanas
Small towel & wash cloth
Fleece cap
Camp shoes
In a medium yellow dry bag:
Kahtoolas (left in Arusha)
2 spare battery packs for camera
**Micro towel
Folding bucket
**Gold Bond, liquid soap, earplugs
Rope, pole tips, flashlight
Xtra shovel duty supplies, tissue, wipes
Spare TP
2 packs of bandanas (for gifts)
In a large yellow dry bag:
Extra long johns (for hiking)
Under Armour long sleeve tee
**UA long sleeve shirt
REI long sleeve shirt
3 base layer tees - red, green, blue
LS base layer fleece shirt
LS base layer wool shirt
Heavy hiking pants
4 extra pair briefs
3 extra pair socks
5 extra pair sock liners
In the zippered mesh pocket of duffel:
Snows of Kilimanjaro book
Chemical hand/toe warmers
Packets of hot apple cider
Packets of Gatorade

In a garbage bag:
Stuff sacks with 2 sleeping bags

Extra garbage bags and other bags.
**Item was not used on the trip, either due to weather conditions or I just didn't need it.

The inventory of the 15 lb. day pack (no water) at the start of the trip:

All weather shell coat
All weather shell pants
Fleece coat
Windbreaker/lined coat
2 knee braces (not used)
3 liter water bladder
2 water bottles (@1 liter)
1 16 oz. water bottle (for Gatorade)
Map, trek guide book, journal
Money/Passport pouch
SPOT GPS tracker
Ground pad for use during hike
Shovel & supplies
Meds - Cipro/Melox/Diamox

A note on batteries:  I brought along two spare batteries for my camera and I did swap one out deep into the trip.  I brought extras for my headlamp and SPOT tracker but never had to use them.  I kept my phone off during the whole hike, not being able to conveniently recharge it.  Still, its battery was down to zero when I got back to KIA lodge.  I had a small battery charger that I used then to get my phone back up and running.  And, I was able to fully charge it on the flight from Kilimanjaro to Amsterdam.  Its seems to me that each of the other groups brought along some kind of battery charger - Todd had one that would recharge a phone maybe a dozen times and Dewey had a solar powered battery charger which he was able to use.  I think everyone else tended to use their phone cameras to take pictures, except for Mark and me.  Well, Tracy also had an SLR that she used to take photos, although I am pretty sure she mostly tended to use her phone.

A note on sleeping bags:  We were advised to bring zero degree rated sleeping bags, although it seems that the usual lows are in the teens and twenties (Fahrenheit).   I brought my fifteen degree Big Agnes bag (the Lost Ranger) which sufficed for this trip.  I also brought along a one pound summer down bag to use as a super liner which I did one night and it was toasty warm.  That bag is a mummy type, while the Big Agnes is rectangular.  Then, I also had a lightweight fleece liner that I used every night.  In an emergency I figured I could also use my space blanket (as noted in my commentary) and, of course, I could wear a lot of warm clothing.

Return to Kilimanjaro - Part IV web page
or on to Kilimanjaro - Part VI web page
[The story of the story in the paper.]