Well hello there loyal readers. Thanks for stopping on by. I realize that yesterday’s blog post must have been a bit of a slog, but you have to understand that for me, it was as much a slog getting through that day, and then having to write all about it, so you’ll just have to deal with it 🙂 On the plus side, I think I should be able to keep today’s post to a manageable length, on account that it was more of a transition day for us. Yup, although we were still on Mount Meru, we had a relatively short hike out followed by a night in a new hotel to re-pack and prepare for the penultimate part of the trip: our climb up Kilimanjaro! That’s right, no rest days in between, off one mountain, and onto the next one the following morning. Hence my post title. Clever, non? At any rate, to start the post off as I usually do, I invite you all to check out the map that I made of the days’ hike, as well as the set of pictures posted over on flickr. Once done, head back here and read my narrative for the day.
After a really nice restful night (nothing quite like about 15 hours of hiking at altitude and a bit of wine to make you sleepy!), we awoke to a fairly reasonable day. And when I say reasonable, I mean that it looked like we’d get rain, but that it wouldn’t be too severe. Time would tell. As per usual, we got up and quickly packed all our possessions into our pack in order to hand them off to the porters, who tend to get a start before we do on the hike. From there, off to the mess hall to get our morning grub and hike briefing.
Emotions at breakfast were a bit of a mixed bag. After reflecting on the relative failure we experienced at the summit the day before, the group had some fairly strong opinions of the quality of our trekking experience so far. There was no shortage of talking amongst ourselves about everything from the food, the pacing, as well as the quality of ‘guiding’ we’d experienced on Mount Meru. The general consensus appeared to be that we weren’t all that impressed, and that we needed to press for some changes before taking on Kilimanjaro. Our decision was to raise it with our tour rep once we got off the mountain, so that he might be able to address some of the problems. With that slight issue out of the way, we focused on eating our breakfast, and gearing up for the final hike out. The night before I’d also collected tips from everyone in order to carry out the porter tipping ceremony that would be expected of us at the end of the trail today.
By the time we started out from Mariakamba hut, most people had once again donned their rain gear to ward off the wet and and chills. As expected, the rain was pretty light, and I actually felt pretty good in spite of it, already looking forward to the next challenge. I really didn’t want to dwell too much on the Meru Peak, as there is no past, and no future, only the present, right? I wish I had some great stories to share on this final hike out, but it truly was uneventful. We were all sort of in our own headspaces I think, and focused on just hiking down. As per usual, a few of us made our way a bit further in front of the rest, and just kept putting one foot in front of the other to get to the same gate that we started out on 3 days previous to this.
In a pretty short time, we all found ourselves back at the start of the trail. As we waited to be told what to do, we hung out in the ‘tourist shelter’. Near us were a group of Germans (actually, our nemesis in some respects, but that story remains unposted :-), who were enjoying a celebratory bottle of sparkling wine on account of having summitted. That’s okay, we had learned they weren’t even going to Kili, so we’d still have the last laugh when we beat that mountain. After a little wait, our ranger came back with the official log book for us to sign back out, and proceeded to also bring out certificates for our failure, err, I mean near-success. Normally, you get a certificate for Little Meru (which we didn’t climb) and for Socialist Peak (which 6/7 of us failed to reach). As a consolation prize, the ranger saw it fit to give us all the Little Meru certificates, as we’d all climbed higher than that on summit day.
Only robo-Deb got the full certificate treatment. It felt like having lemon juice poured in a paper cut to me! No one had mentioned there was a certificate on the line 🙂 I got fairly vocal about how sad I was that I didn’t get one, and was soon branded a whiner for it. Ha ha. That’s okay. I was sad, but it really wasn’t the end of the day, I just felt like being a little brat for a moment. There wasn’t a big difference between the certificates or anything, it was just the fact that there was a memento that I wouldn’t get to take home with me to commemorate a Christmas Day summit. However, I had my wooden rhino, which was good enough! We tipped our ranger and thanked him for his services, and were then led over to the parking lot to present all the porters with their tips. They were all appreciative, and we held off on tipping the guide, assistant guide, cook and waiter, as we knew for sure they’d be with us on Kili, and would just pay them a lump sum after that. After all, we also wanted to see if there would be any improvement on the trekking for the next mountain.
Soon after, we were piled back in a shuttle bus and whisked off to the Kili Mountain Resort. When I use the phrase ‘oasis’ I really mean it. The heavy rains had done a number on all the dirt roads, and just getting there we saw a lot of mud and ruts that had formed. We drove what seemed far up a dirt road, only to turn into a driveway and pop out at a really gorgeous hotel (the best of our trip). This was exactly what we needed, and we were all pretty excited to unwind for a few hours. However, first, we raised the issues with our tour rep, who then arranged for a 6pm meeting to discuss it further, after giving us time to unpack, unwind, clean up, etc. Probably a good idea not to chat with irate adventure tourists that were fresh off the mountain!
The rooms were impeccable and just plain gorgeous. So what did we do right after arriving? Well, I filled the tub with hot water and ‘camp suds’ to do some laundry 🙂 The hope was that in a few hours, we’d be able to dry our clean laundry on the big balcony we had. Let’s just say it was partially successful (thank goodness for the hair dryer as well). Also, Mike and I took advantage of the beautiful pool and went for a dip. Deb for her part was most excited about there being a gym. She decided to get up early the next morning for a workout. Crazy Aussie! Admirable though 🙂
Oh and did I mention we’d stopped at a grocery store on the way? I had picked up couple large cold beers to enjoy while doing laundry and packing. After that and the pool, we met with the rep who told us he’d had some discussions with the guides, and that things would improve. I’ll leave it at that, since the rest is irrelevant. He also gave us a nice map of the route we’d be taking on Kili and went through every day in detail so that we’d know what to expect. It was a great briefing and we couldn’t understand why no one had done that with us for the other mountain. Seemed like it would have made things much better for everyone.
Post-briefing, we basically agreed to all just meet at the bar for a drink before supper. Once again Cantrailia were left to their own devices, but rather than hang out in our rooms, we chose to spend the time together again. Just another testament to how well we all got along. I was even lucky enough to have a beer bought for me by the lovely Deborah, on account of me ‘fixing’ her gloves on the mountain. Sweet. Thanks again Deb :-). Actually, as memory serves me, I bought my own beer that time, but later in the evening, she got me another one, which the next day I was accused of not having paid for by the bar staff. Me: “Don’t you remember, the lady paid for it with Kenyan shillings. One glass of red wine, one Kilimanjaro beer??” Ahhh, memories….
Supper was a touch disappointing, as it was ‘buffet’, but with limited selection. I’d had a hankering for pizza all day and was sure this place would have an a-la-carte menu for supper. However, all was not lost, as it turns out the supper was included, which we hadn’t expected. This of course left me flush with cash for more drinks. Most people opted to disperse after supper and either do Internet or ‘retire’, but luckily Deb graciously offered to join me for drinks. Why is it that when I travel, the Aussies are always willing to match me drink for drink? One of life’s mysteries, and one which I don’t care to ever solve. So with that we settled into some comfy chairs and enjoyed our drinks and some good conversations.
While talking, we were entertained by a most intriguing local performer which had obviously been brought in for some special occasion. As it turns out, it was the first day of Kwanzaa, so we guessed it must have been that. The musical stylings are hard to categorize, but he had quite a repertoire. It was just him, and his keyboard, which he used to play the beats, backing chords, and even the main melody. He was a regular one-man-band. He also would intersperse whistling into some of his ‘hits’. It was strangely satisfying to hear live music in Africa, but not what I had expected. Jody came down from ‘the Internet’ and sit with us for a bit, but also decided to head off to bed before too late. We finished another drink, and decided to also hit the hay. After all, Deb had a workout planned for the morning!
With that came the end of our Mount Meru portion of the trip, and it was a fitting ending. Comfortable and in a nice hotel. We all sort of wished we’d end Kili there as well, as the other lodge wasn’t quite as nice, but such is life. So, I’m left now with my thought of the day. The thought? Hmmm. New friends are good, and never under-estimate the value of good travel companions and conversations. Yup, that’s probably the right thought for that day. Till tomorrow friends, remember to enjoy the world around you!