Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Climbing wrap party (by Todd)

First I'll have to say a few words about the Kili Juli mentioned, it was so much more difficult than I expected - I had heard about so many people doing it, I thought it would be a nice little walking path all the way up...which in some parts it was, but to finish required lots of clambering over rocks and ice. Added on top of that was the 'false summit' of Stella Point, which is where I took in the sunrise. I was so burnt out once I hit Stella Point, sat down and watched the sun; it was hard to get my legs to move forward and take me to the summit, even though it was in sight and I knew it was close. Mentally and physically, it was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. It does feel good however to have made it to the top with such great guides (I should also mention that one of them took my pack for about an hour during the summit attempt after he watched me weaving back and forth on the path) and great co-climbers. I had thought maybe I would be hit with the 'mountain madness' bug and start to do more climbing, but right now I can't see that happening.

So after our mammoth summit day hiking experience, it was almost over as we descended to the final camp and had our last group dinner. At dinner the head guide awkwardly tried to talk to us about tipping, etc. - little did he know we had already decided as a group what to do. Each of us threw in some amount, between $150 and $200, which I collected and then came up with a couple options for how much to tip each porter, cook, assistant guide, & head guide. It was actually a lot easier than I thought to come up with a distribution scheme to which our group of 8 agreed. Then on the final morning we had a formal 'ceremony' where all the crew lined up while Danny and I said some big thank yous and handed them their money. They were pretty respectful when taking the money, we had heard that many porters act like you've just handed them a pile of doodoo when you give them the stepped back and counted his, and immediately the rest of them were very excited about the tips.

But perhaps the biggest cheer of all went up when our Japanese team member Noriyuki reached into his bag and pulled out a handle of Bombay Sapphire Gin. Immediately they all went scrambling for cups, or anything that would hold the liquid as the head guide doled it out. I asked Noriyuki if he had carried that bottle the whole way and he said 'No, they did!!' The general agreement between all of us was that they were more excited for the booze than the money!

Either way we had a very happy (but muddy) final hike four hours down the hill to 1800m, where we received our summit certificates and boarded the bus to head back to the hotel for a badly needed hot shower (however the water pressure left much to be desired).

At dusk we stepped into the road outside our hotel to take in the Kili peak - until that moment we had not seen it except when we were actually on the mountain as there was a constant cloud cover over Moshi - it looked massive and looming over the city, much more so than it had on the trek itself. At the hotel we arranged for some even more badly needed laundry to be done, attempted to pay the rest of the trek fee that we owed (there is a long story about this, but the upshot is, if you travel to Africa, just bring a suitcase full of US dollars - it is far and away the currency of choice - traveller's checks, Tanzanian Shillings, and Scottish Pounds are near worthless), and Juli and I secured a flight to Zanzibar, albeit one that left at 7AM the next morning, making one more early wake-up necessary.

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