Saturday, 9 October 2010

Day 9 - 24th September 2010

The Kili family get together

I woke up feeling more positive than I had all week, probably because I knew that everyone was on their way down from the mountain. We had been told that the first of the guys would be arriving back at Marangu gate by 2pm so we had the morning to while away. The sun had finally decided to put in an appearance so after breakfast everyone gathered by the pool for a bit of sunshine. It was actually too hot to sit in for long, so I found a bit of shade and plugged myself into my i-pod.

The AWC man arrived to inform us that he was unable to organise a bus to take us to the gate and that we would have to arrange a taxi ourselves. Donna, Paula and Karen decided that they didn’t want to go so it would just be the four of us, myself, Helen, Ronnie and Kirsty. I must admit that I found it difficult to understand why they wouldn’t want to be there to meet everyone, especially to see Kim who had summited without her buddies. Ok we hadn’t achieved what we’d come out here for but that shouldn’t stop us congratulating everyone else and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. We had left our close friends up there and knew they would be feeling absolutely shattered at the end of a hard 19km walk out today. I personally couldn’t wait to see everyone, to hear their stories and celebrate their wonderful achievement.

Organising a taxi seemed to be the hardest thing in the world and it looked at one point as though we wouldn’t be able to go. I was gutted, however AWC man came back mid morning and said that a minibus would be arriving at 1pm to take us to the gate. Helen and I decided to buy everyone a bottle of water and excitedly set off with Ronnie and Kirsty. On the way to the gate we saw a magnificent view of Kibo and Mawenzi so got the driver to stop. It hadn’t been until that very morning that I had actually seen Kilimanjaro in its full glory and I couldn’t quite comprehend that the rest of the group had been at the top just the night before.

Arriving at the gate we thought we would have about an hour wait until anyone came through. There were lots of other trekkers from other groups milling about, all looking a bit shell shocked. We decided to take a look around to find exactly the point where we would have the best chance of spotting one of our guys. It was at this point that I heard someone shouting “Debbie”. I had one of those ‘please don’t tell me I’ve just bumped into someone from home moments’ when I saw Paul Davies come sauntering over looking as fresh as a daisy! We all had a bit of an over excited moment at that point and he downed a bottle of water followed by a bottle of Kili beer! He looked like he’d lost a lot of weight but looked absolutely amazing. He had ran down the last bit and thought the others would be about half an hour behind. It wasn’t long before, Scotty, Paul L, Ram, Megan and Gilly arrived too. It was so great to see them all and it was hugs all round. Scotty looked completely wasted, I’d never seen anyone look so tired and still being able to walk! I was so relieved to see Paul and to know that he was safe too and I was so, so glad we had gone. It seemed to raise everyone’s spirit and even though the group had been parted earlier in the week I felt like it was back to being whole again.

Others were arriving, stories being exchanged, water and beers being drunk, photos being taken. The most heart warming reunion took place between Kirsty and her Dad Ivie. They both looked equally proud of each other and had grins from ear to ear. I suddenly heard my name once again and was told that Annemarie and Audra were coming through. Helen and I rushed to the gate and I don’t even have the words to describe how brilliant it was to see them. They looked absolutely knackered and the filthiest they had ever been. We hugged, laughed and cried all at the same time. Perfect.

Once everyone had arrived, Jenny signed the book and we all climbed aboard the buses to take us back to the hotel. It was brilliant to hear everyone’s tales and the group spirit seemed really high, despite the exhaustion on their faces.

We arrived back at the hotel at about 4.30 and everyone scurried off to find their rooms and spend the next few hours trying to get clean.

We met at 7pm for a celebration dinner, where certificates were handed out to all those who’d summited and medals given to everyone for participating. It was a nice gesture and set us all up for retiring to the bar for a few drinks!

I had taken up drinking Kilimanjaro beer whilst on this trip…mainly because there was a t-shirt in the hotel shop that had the slogan ‘if you can’t climb it…drink it’! and was happy to sit in front of the chimnea chatting and having a laugh in to the early hours. The drinks flowed and every one was having a great time. The power kept coming and going so when it went off once again Megan stood and gave us a rendition of The Penguin Song, a favourite from the mountain! It was hilarious and Megan did so well to keep it going when the power came back on and she was in full view for the whole bar to see! As the night went on, Scotty and Paul got funnier and funnier and we giggled like school kids as they moved all the wooden animals about the hotel, beers and vodka (in Scotty’s case) obviously making this a lot funnier than it sounds now! It had been the perfect end to a perfect day.

As Helen and I headed back to our room we agreed that it had been a brilliant night and how sad it was that tomorrow we would all be heading home. Our adventure was nearly over.

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