Kilimanjaro Day Seven: The Finish


4 minute read

September 1, 2010

We climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, but it wasn’t over yet.

On the last day of our journey, we had to put on the most mileage: a 19 KM hike down to Marangu Gates where the journey began…


There are several different routes that a climber can take to get to the roof of Africa, and there is and always will be debate over which route is the toughest and which is the easiest.

For example, we utilized the Rongai route, which is said to be somewhere in the middle.  But after learning that two of the routes don’t require climbers to get up over Gilman’s Point, I wonder where the challenge lays in those two routes.

On the way back to Marangu Gates, we went down a trail that other climbers were coming up, and thus we were able to learn exactly which routes, camps, and points they’d be utilizing.

The Marangu route is nick-named “Coca-Cola” by the locals as it is by far the easiest.

On our way back down, we passed through TWO camps where hikers coming up the Marangu trail would be staying, which I guess is fair considering that our 19 KM trek down would be far easier than their 19 KM trek up – hence the reason why they camp halfway at Mandara.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t and still don’t understand WHY after spending six days climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, we had to finish with a whopping 19 KM trek!

Why make it so tough for somebody who had been through so much?

On the morning of the final day, we were actually in better shape than was expected.

Subash and I had enjoyed a “great” meal the night before – white rice and baked beans, which was the best tent-food we had all week.  And although my Dad hadn’t eaten at all the night before, he was raring to go by morning.

The 19 KM trek was an interesting one.

We started at about 12,700 feet and finished at just above 7,000.

Think back to summit day where we started at 15,600 and summitted at 19,334, only to climb back down to 15,000.  That’s 8,000 vertical feet in one day!

And on the final day, we’d be trekking 5,700 – all at once, and all downhill.

We started the trek above the tree-line although there were ample shrubs and small bushes.

After about two hours and maybe 2,000 feet, we began to see small trees that were waist-high.

Although the change was gradual, it hit us all at once – suddenly we were surrounded by trees that were ten, twelve, fifteen feet tall!  We hadn’t seen trees in five days, and now we were entering a forest!

Within another half hour, we entered the first true rainforest I had ever been in.  We were now at about 8,500 feet, and the plant-life was something that I had only ever seen on the Nature Channel.

We spent an hour walking through this magnificent rainforest, and then we came back to civilization.

It took about six hours to trek the 19 KM, all downhill, and we arrived at Marangu Gates at 2:00PM.

It was so surreal.

We had been sleeping in a tent for seven days and eating crummy food, and now we were in the gift shop ordering Coke Light and starring down eight different brands of chocolate bars!

What a trip.

It took us about three hours to drive back to our hotel in Arusha, where we learned that our shower didn’t work…

71% of people who start the trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro are unsuccessful, and this fact was never lost on me during our week’s journey.

The one thing I never really talked about in my last seven blog posts was the “unlucky ones,” and I avoided this topic intentionally.

Part of me was superstitious, and part of me just didn’t care to think about them.  But any good writer or storeyteller must leave no stone unturned.

Every day, we would hear through the Kili-grapevine about those who turned back.

We were told by Jonas and Jackson that there are actually people who turn back the first day!  Tourists, feigning as hikers, have been known to love the two-hour trek through the beautiful Pine Forest on Day One, but when the going gets tougher as you leave the forest and enter the jungle, many people turn back.

After the first night and while beginning our trek on Day Two, I recall a very large Eastern European woman sitting on a rock, huffing and puffing, and explaining in broken-English (to her guide, who also only spoke broken-English), “I can-nt doooo eeet!”

Was she REALLY ever prepared for the summit?

On the third day, we heard about a family of fourwho had to turn back because one of their kids was sick.  Who brings a KID on a mountain trek??  Those parents should be shunned…

We also heard of the group of seven Germans, of which four turned back.

Then incredibly, there was a group of two 20-somethings and their father who turned back on Day Three, only to walk their father down to base at Rongai and re-start the trek from there!  Talk about difficult!  They’d basically now turned a seven-day trek into a ten-day trek and they’d have to hit all six camps again on their way to the top!

The people that dropped out never really impacted me – even those who slid down the skree at Gilman’s at 4:30AM on summit-day.

If somebody dropped out on Day Two, and I made it to Day Six, would I have won anything?

The SUMMIT was always the goal, and anything else would be epic failure for Subash, my Dad, and myself.

Just as I said that I don’t care that it took us NINE hours to summit whereas some people do it in four, I also didn’t care who dropped out of the climb and who kept going.

I did this trek for myself (and my Dad!), and nobody else.

All the rewards for summitting are personal, as are the gains from doing so.

It was the trip of a lifetime, the experience of a lifetime, and the greatest day of my life.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the most amazing thing I’ve ever done.

And even though the shower at our hotel didn’t work, and even though the pizza that we’d been dreaming about for seven days on the mountain took two full hours to get to our table and was awful, it’s good to be back in civilization.

I’m just about to step out for a much-needed massage, but I’ll probably continue the blog-theme into Friday where I’ll turn this into a virtual Facebook and post a few choice pics for everybody who is still in the city to see!  And I wish everybody else a safe and happy long weekend!

Starting next Tuesday, we’re back to blogging about REAL ESTATE! 🙂

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

Find Out More About David Read More Posts

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  1. dogbiskit

    at 6:57 pm

    what?! this is a real estate blog? hmph

  2. moonbeam!

    at 7:52 pm

    A 6-hr. downhill trek is still not a walk in the park. What a triumphant venture!! kudos to you for being in the 29% who made it to the top — and I hope you finally get a shower & pizza!!

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