But, I’m saving all my thanks for second-in-command John.
That uphill terrain of scree described in the fifth day of ascending, well, it’s equally maddening a surface to descend on.
Gravity grabs us and makes our strides swift, using an entirely different set of muscles and putting my knees through joint boot camp. The slippery scree makes balancing an issue and within the first twenty minutes, I have fallen on my butt, toppled like a drunkard and rolled.
John, identical to Harold’s gesture upon ascension, grabs my hand. We are off – accelerating like tandem skiers, using a heel-toe rapid fire walk that requires equal parts balance and mobility. It’s rough on both knees and shins but I say a quick prayer of gratitude for my trainer Philippe back in Atlanta who made those mobility exercises our number one priority the past year.
In less than an hour we are back on solid terrain.
The entire descent to the bottom of the national park takes a day and a half. We sleep at Millenium Camp after having traveled down to Barafu, gathering remains from the night before and continuing on for another two hours. In total, that final summit day plus our beginning descent was around 13 hours.
Millenium Camp is beautiful, or is it the relief within me that makes it so?
It doesn’t take much for any of us to collapse and sleep that evening.
The next morning, our last delivery of ginger tea arrives and tastes extra satisfying.
Drinking it, I stare off into the distance as the bright sun casts its rays off Mount Meru. The porters gather around us and we are serenaded by a song – a long held tradition on the final day of the Kilimanjaro adventure.
A few more hours and we will have returned to the tropical rainforest area and then, finally, the final registration booth and state park exit where we receive our official certificate for mastering the illustrious mountain.
My mind wanders to a scripture from the book of Malachi in the Biblical text that contains the words prove me now. The word prove was, I’ve come to believe, the great impetus for this entire adventure. How can I prove philosophical principles that I profess to believe in – that I’ve built my whole life around, unless I do so through action?
I continue the descent, pondering – feeling the unparalleled satisfaction and quiet, internal joy that is birthed from such an action. I now have a greater depth of experience for having applied the prove me now energy as an intention. In those last hours, I feel I am physically capable of more than I can imagine, expect or hope for. All of us are.
Now, to maintain that sense of invincibility in the everyday world.
(Here are more pictures provided by fellow climber Mark Wyrick, and the video of the closing song from our wonderful porter team. Harold joins in the singing at the end, wearing the blue jersey with the number 8 on the back)