x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Kilimanjaro Diaries: A fitting end to the journey

Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Al Thani's Mt Kilimanjaro climb for antimalarial charities comes to an end.

I didn't remember noticing much about Mweka camp when we had arrived the previous evening. We were so exhausted from the previous day's climb that we went straight to bed after dinner at eight and woke up 12 hours later. It was the best sleep we'd had in days. Our last breakfast on the mountain this morning was a traditional porridge the porters had prepared, but it somehow felt incomplete without the daily briefing we'd grown accustomed to over the past week.

We packed our gear by 10 and had stepped out of our tents for the three-hour hike down to Mweka gate when we heard the sound of clapping and singing behind us. The porters and guides had put on a show with the famous Kilimanjaro farewell song I'd read about. We'd grown attached to them over the last week, trusting them with not just our backpacks, but our lives too. We reached Mweka gate with another group at one in the afternoon and signed a register to confirm that we had all returned. The last thing anyone would want to be on Mt Kilimanjaro was lost, but the park rangers weren't taking any chances. The people in the other group received their green summit certificates for reaching Stella Point, and we eagerly awaited the gold-coloured ones for going the extra mile to Uhuru. It felt like kindergarten all over again, but I was going to frame that certificate to inspire my son to make the same journey one day.

Certificates in hand, we continued down the muddy trail to Mweka village for another hour before stopping for lunch. It was the first time in a week that we were able to take a shower and have a wholesome meal that didn't consist of oats or energy bars. In fact, we'd grown so used to the bitter aftertaste of the chlorine-tablet-purified water on the mountain that I'd almost forgotten what bottled water tasted like until we had our first sip at the village.

After resting at Arusha for the afternoon, Zed took us to visit the famous Ngorongoro conservation area, west of the city. The ride through the open countryside had me grumbling days earlier, but after what we'd just been through, it felt like being in a limousine. And it was worth it, because the view, when we arrived at the crater in the middle of the reserve, was simply breathtaking. Rumoured to be one of the largest in the world, the Ngorongoro crater was nature at its finest; guarded only by the mountains around us that had kept it free from mankind until the late 1800s. There must have been thousands of animals, from flamingoes to zebras and lions to elephants, in the area alone. It was the most memorable safari I'd ever been on and a befitting end to day seven of our journey.

You can follow more of Sheikh Al Thani's adventures at www.musafir.com.