Sunday 30 October 2011

Kilimajaro July 2000 Part 2

Image taken from

I very much regret not taking some pictures at the time, but it was quite a frantic situation, with one of the group refusing to co-operate. I appreciate exhaustion was a factor but we were in the middle of the rainforest, exiting via a route which was used for ascent and rarely used because it was steep. We wouldn't meet others so our safety and evacuation was paramount.

I left my rucksack with Chris as I needed to have very little weight to ensure I could make it to the rangers station as quickly as possible. I left the others at 19.15. The journey was arduous, nothing to reassure me that the guide even knew the way, no GPS, no maps, all we had was his experience and instinct. By this stage we had been walking for over 12 hours. My feet were a mess, I knew I had developed a blister, which I later discovered covered the entire length of my left foot from little toe to heel. It was agony.

After we left the others, the guide and I started a jog, we pretty much kept a jog / fast walk pace going for about 2 hours. I honestly thought my heart would explode. I had no water left. We stopped at a stream, I was begging him "pole, pole", Swahili for slowly. I needed to go at a slower pace and all he kept saying "sir, your friends...they need you"...he was right. To help my thirst, he scooped water up and i drank it from his hands. I still can't quite believe I did this, I was so thirsty I could have drunk it from a dirty sock.

We struggled on, eventually reaching the rangers hut at 22.00. Some 3 hours after I left the others...the rangers came out, torches shining in my eyes...I felt very vulnerable. They kept saying "first light", I told them no way...begged them to go and find my friends...and then i remembered I had some £20 soon as they saw Queen Elizabeth 2, they were collecting some gear and preparing to leave.

The guide ushered me into a dark concrete outbuilding, it had no electric, no bedding just a concrete floor and bars on the window. I gave my headtorch to the guide and he prepared to join the rangers. He pointed at a candle, lit it and that was to be my light in this dark, gloomy room. I was starting to get quite cold, the lower half of my trousers were wet, I was worried about hypothermia so thankfully I could zip of the lower part and tried to get to sleep on the roll mat the rangers gave me.

I drifted off the sleep, when I woke around 2am, my solitary candle had gone out. It was just me, the darkness, the spiders and the distance howls of a stray dog. I kept thinking at least I am inside, it was now raining quite heavily.

At 6am the door banged. Chris and the girls had arrived safely. He told me the rangers reached them at midnight, but because of Claire it took 6 hours for her to make the journey back. He told me the hours waiting for the rangers in the dark were the scariest he had ever experienced, looking out to the jungle and all he could see was images and things moving.

I was ready for Moshi, but we needed transport. Asking for a taxi was a non-starter, this is remote Africa, I gave the guide and rangers a generous tip. The guide then nipped out and a short time later a pick-up truck arrived, complete with rust so bad you could see through the floor. And off we went to our hotel New Castle Ltd in Moshi.

Most annoying things? We weren't even missed by the group leader...and the showers in the hotel were cold.