Kilimanjaro Climb : Day 5&6: The descent

Uhuru Peak (5985m)  – Barafu Camp – Mweka camp (3100m) – Mweka Gate (1980m)

I wish I had wings. Or  enough money to pay for a helicopter to take me down from the peak to the base. What was about to come on the descent was even harder than the climb itself. It wasn’t only me saying that. Almost everybody had the same story: descent was the hardest part!

What goes up, must go down. So, after only 4 hours of sleep in the past 24h and a 7h climb to Uhuru peak Kilimanjaro, a successful one, it was time to go down! Somehow those biscuits gave me the power I need to go down.

I was still fragile and a bit dizzy after reaching the highest altitude I have ever been – 5895m – and going down alone was not an option. Actually, never and I mean never, go down alone on a mountain.

Or up; the same. Anything can happen: lack of water, heatstroke or breaking the ankle. Alone you have a big chance to die.

Charlie-Charlie saw I was a bit lost and powerless and we began the descent tougher. Holding hand. What can be more romantic than 2 men holding hands on the mountain? One girl and one boy can be the answer. What was hard about the first part of the descent was the field of scree we were about to pass. It was like skiing on small rocks. It would be more than 3 hours and a half of descending on rocks; small rocks. My knees were starting to hurt. My calves we feel the pressure too. My hands were hurting me a bit of pressure of the walking sticks. Our main objective was not to fill. Mission not accomplished cause I felt twice, I think. Maybe five times, but I don’t remember too well. We were going on a fast speed descent. As if we were followed by a pack of wolves.

The group was scattered on the entire mountain. Same behind me and some in front of me. Everybody had a guide or a colleague next to him. Now it was getting hotter every step we went down. All the big jackets were taken off and I was wearing only a long T-Shirt. The Sun was getting stronger too. We started the descent early in the morning. Now it was almost noon on  the Kilimanjaro mountain.

The 4 hours have passed and had no idea how much it was ahead. The Barafu Camp with the colorful tents was in my visual area. Less than one hour I supposed. But the worse was about to come. Luckily I had good boots. Unfortunately I have bad feet. You can call them baby feet. Soft and not so resistant. The pressure on the toes was huge every step I made on the rocks in order not to fall. After I while I started to feel pain on my feet and toes. I knew I had some corn and blisters. I tried not to think about it and kept walking.

Kilimanjaro View

The last part of the descent to Barafu was even harder. Not due to the difficulty of the route. I could barely walk. I had a little water left and that left was still ice. And did not have any duct tape to put on my bloody feet. Even if the last km was on a normal road I walked like a zombie and very pole, pole.

Finally, after almost 4 hours I arrived at the Barafu Camp on Kilimanjaro. And I wasn’t the last one. One Dutch girl was behind me; her run out of water and was not feeling great at all. Down at the camp everybody was pretty damn exhausted.

I entered my tent, changed the clothes with dry ones and tried to remove the boots. I was scared and did not want to see my damaged feet. Finally managed to remove the boots and the socks. It wasn’t that bad: only 3 toes were damaged and were red due to the bloody wounds. The rest had only small or big blisters.  Cleaned it with some cold water and putted 2 pairs of socks to protect it.

An orange juice was my reward when I arrived at the camp. At the lunch the reward was a glass of Coca-Cola. Max carries it all the way up. What an amazing body, he was! Don’t remember what was at lunch. I was so tired that I barely could keep the spoon in my hand. Next was a long sleep and rest!

But again, I was wrong. Well, everybody thought the same; that we will rest and spend the night at Barafu Camp. No, we will continue the descent to Mweka Camp on Kilimanjaro. Another 5 hour descent. Everybody asked if would be possible to do the route tomorrow. We will wake up earlier and finish the descent in time. The answer was no. Only one hour and a half rest and in the round again!

I was impossible to sleep. For the first time it was very warm in the tent. And being very tired made it difficult too. Inside my tent was a mess, too. The night before the ascent I did not have time to sort my things out. And I had to cut from sleeping minutes to make my backpack. Of course, everything was simple thrown  inside.

And we hit the road again. 4 hours descent to  Mweka Camp. Bandaged my feet with 2 pairs of socks and a lot of bandage I was ready for my Golgota road. I tried not to think about the pain. I kept walking. First part was done at high pace. I kept the pace with the rest of the group. But at some point something happened. The pain became almost insupportable and my  rhythm slowed every step I made. Meter after meter the group was getting further and further from me. Every half and hour I was asking Max the guide how much it will be. The answer was almost the same. At your pace it should be at least 3 hours.

Last one and a half hours were done in the dark. Step by step like a 98 old lady trying to descend some stair. On slow motion. The path was following the course of an old river.  With my head torch lightening forward, each rock was turning to life. I tell you the truth. During the night the rocks turn to life. Each rock was transformed in front of my eyes. They all had human resembling. Not sure if it was due to the altitude or due to tiredness.

After almost 42 hours of non-stop walking I finally managed to reach the Mweka Camp at Kilimanjaro. It was 8 pm and the group was already having dinner. I was late only one hour and a half. But my feet were more dead than alive.

Rain forest

Each night  our blood pressure and oxygen level was measured. Now, finally, the numbers had been shown to us. My numbers had been pretty decent.

Now, after this last dinner tougher  in this 11 formation, it was time for a good and long deserved sleep. I went to sleep with only one thought: to have a hot and long shower. Less than 24h to achieve this dream. After 5 days with no running water at all. And with the thought at the a soft pad and pillow.

But before that another decent day was about to come. Time: 3 hours to Mweka Gate. My time: 5 hours. I descend throw the tropical first; the same forest which 4 days ago I was climbing it. This time it was not rainy of foggy;  it was a sunny and clear. Reached Mweka gate, took my diploma and that was all folks!

An experience I would never forget! An experience I said after it I would never repeat it again. But I have changed my mind often, so don’t believe everything I say.


by Sorin

Sorin is a freelance travel writer. He is an experienced travel writer and traveller. Since 2012 he explored more than 60 countries on 4 continents: Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. Currently is based in Romania after spending the last 7 years in Myanmar.