Climbing Kilimanjaro: Day 8

A Long Goodbye


This was Michael, the guide's 50th successful summit. I learned this would be the case on the bus ride to Kili on day one. In the morning at Moir camp I folded up the first page of my itinerary (since we’d already hiked the points on that sheet) and made him a card. I had to draw most of Kili from memory since the only part I could visually reference from where we were on the mountain was the summit cone of Kibo. All the climbers signed it during breakfast that day. Later, the head guide Emma snuck it into the rest of the staff's hands. On the last day before the tipping ceremony we surprised Michael with the card. I think he liked it.

Michael showing the card we all signed to celebrate his 50th successful summit.

I was nominated by the group to say some words to the staff before we handed out the tip envelopes. I suppose that’s the honor they give to the most talkative person in the group. I had to really concentrate on what I was saying to avoid getting choked up. It was pretty emotional for me. This group of people was so good to us and we’d grown close in such a short period of time that it felt kind of heart breaking to know that we were about to bring our time together to a close. I also handed out the tip envelopes to the staff. I was filled with gratitude when I handed my tip to my porter. He speaks about three words of English but we managed to get along just fine. There really is something special about people from Tanzania. Everyone we met there were the most friendly and welcoming people.

Hugging it out with my porter after summiting Kilimanjaro.

Head guide, Michael leads the entire team in a traditional Swahili song.

On the hike out, the guides stopped us at a gap in the trees for one last photo-op with the mountain. It was a bitter sweet view, and very strange to think that a little over 24 hours earlier we were standing on top.

Obligatory couple's shot at the last view of the Kilimanjaro.

After six days of being above the trees it felt strange to be back beneath the canopy. The vegetation on this side of the mountain felt more exotic. I preferred it to the beginning of the trip. But maybe that’s just because I was impatient at the beginning to start seeing our objective.

After spending days above the tree line, the return to the jungle felt even more foreign and exotic than the beginning of the trip.

Porters pass us on their way to the gate.

As per usual, a few hours into the hike, our porters went bounding past us. They were especially animated. I’m sure they were eager to be able to shed their loads and to be able to get back to their families. The guides and porters typically do two to three trips a month depending on the route. Their favorite is the Lemosho route. While longer in duration, it is physically less demanding.

Still, the trail may be topographically easy, but you must also factor in the quality of equipment that most porters use. At Barufu Camp, approximately 15,000 feet and 37°F, I spotted a porter barefoot in sandals fashioned from automobile tires and twine. We felt like we were suffering as we climbed into the colder, thinner air, but what the porters endure is remarkable.

Our group stopped at this gigantic tree for a group photo. It was big, but not necessarily worthy of a photo in my opinion. I think we were just looking for excuses to prolong our last hike. We're short a few climbers in this photo because one was having knee pain so he and his father left camp before the rest of us.

Most of team Duma taking a break beneath a gigantic tree on the way out of the Kilimanjaro park.

The path widens and opens up and we can hear the noise ahead.

The gate is frenetic. After eight days of relative quiet it was overwhelming.

Arriving the the Mweka gate was surreal. Only 8 days of "roughing" it and the sight of people in street clothes and vehicles felt slightly overwhelming for a few minutes. It felt like sensory overload. I wanted to be back on the mountain. Everything felt like it made more sense there.

Climbers and guides celebrating a successful Kilimanjaro expedition.

After we boarded the bus, I promptly passed out. I don't recall ever having a greater sense of satisfaction.

Kilimanjaro guides celebrating getting all their climbers to the top of the mountain.

One last group photo with the climbers and guides. (Sadly the bozo we handed the camera to cut off the top of the sign.) I miss these guys so much. I don’t think it is possible to assemble a better group of people. This was a life changing experience. If you like this sort of activity, I highly recommend you give Kili a try.

We had one last activity to enjoy - a group lunch in Moshi. Once my butt hit the bus seat I was done. Heidi documented it for me. I know I was snoring... I just hope I wasn't drooling. The sleep was that good.

At the restaurant, we toasted in celebration of a safe and successful climb. Sadly the restaurant couldn’t sit us all together and the guides refused to split us up. I wish we could have enjoyed a meal with them. I felt bad they were at a separate table, but then I remembered that this was work for them.  After eight days babysitting us, they were probably thrilled to have some time to chat without having to constantly worry about one of us keeling over from the altitude.

For summiting, we were issued official certificates — officially filled out by our guides. Due to sloppy handwriting by DJ, his buddy Doug got his name entered with an “n” instead of a “u”. This magnificent error gave birth to the best trail name of all time. Henceforth he shall be known as Donglas.

Ten happy Kilimanjaro climbers who all summited and descended safely.

Doug got snagged by an international typo and became...

Donglas.  Or just Dong for short.  Welcome to the team, Dong.

 —   Fin.  —

Thank you for letting me share this adventure with you. Kilimanjaro was a life changing experience for me. I returned with a calm, zen-like perspective that lasted several months. On this adventure I proved to myself that I could overcome a chronic knee injury and thrive at altitude—provided I take the time to adapt. The people I met both climbers and staff were remarkable and fascinating. I keep in touch with some of them still and even find the time to adventure with a few.

A good way to rinse away the exhaustion from climbing Kilimanjaro is simply to drink Kilimanjaro.


That's All. It's Over. Go Home.

Ok, I joke, I joke.

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Climbing Kilimanjaro

Welcome to the final day of our eight-day Kilimanjaro climb. If you’re just tuning in, you may want to start at the beginning of the adventure.

If you're interested in someday climbing Kilimanjaro, check out the main Kili trip page which has links to additional information and resources. 

If photos are your jam, head over to my Google Photos gallery.