“I prefer physical exhaustion over mental fatigue any day”. – Clotilde Hesme
After a three-hour sleep, it was time to get up, eat and continue down to the final base camp of the trip. The last thing I felt like doing was walking more yet I wanted to get down to a warmer place and closer to the end. My left leg were quite swollen which would eventually make my left knee throb the entire four hours down and for days after the hike. But I was determined to go. The thought of getting back to our hotel with a hot shower, a normal bed and alas a glass or two of wine kept me moving.
We had been incredibly fortunate to have had amazing weather the entire seven days on the hike. We never faced rain, the sky was clear affording us spectacular views of the peak and the valley below, and most important of all, it wasn’t too cold on our ascent to the summit. The only cloudy weather we had occurred during our descent down. It was gray and overcast but really it wasn’t bad at all compared to what it could be.
I didn’t talk much at this point because I was a little bit grumpy. Normally I am quite the conversationalist but looking back I realize that I was just plain exhausted. Despite being called the “Energizer Bunny” on the trip, my batteries were all out. Instead, I kept to myself putting one foot in front of the other and occasionally stopping to take a photograph.
It was still stunning scenery and I was amazed by how much it varied depending on altitude and where you were on the massive mountain. The vegetation also was truly fascinating and unique.
Our original plan was to climb back down to Mkewa Camp (10,170 ft/3,1000m) where we would have a short walk the next day to the gate but we didn’t make it that far given the varying speeds of our group. Instead, we went to a closer camp for the night called “Millennial Camp” where we would finally get a full night’s sleep before heading out the next morning.
I desperately wanted to go the entire way to the gate and get back to our hotel but it just wasn’t going to happen. We would have to spend one more night on the mountain (my least favorite part–sleeping in a tent on the rocky ground in the cold). For me, that last night was the worst as I was mentally and physically done. I just wanted to be inside on a real bed. Knowing how close we were to the gate and having to spend one more night in a tent without a shower for six days was grueling.
At least I wasn’t sick and being transported down in this contraption below. We saw a man who was deathly sick and strapped up inside one of these contraptions. It did not look the list bit fun but the other alternative was far worse of course.
One more long, cold night. But at least the view was good. I watched the sun set on the mountain for one last time from my tent and went fitfully asleep. I realized that I wasn’t sure if I would want to sleep in a tent again any time soon.