Day 206 - Our Way Back to Moshi
Trip Start Jan 10, 2011
221Trip End Jan 08, 2012
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After an early breakfast it is a short 3-hour and scenic hike back to the park gate. Logically, it is strongly recommended not to pay your porters any tips until you and all your gear have reached the gate safely. At the Mweka Gate you sign out of the park where successful climbers receive their summit certificates (yep).
We broke camp and made our way down still feeling the effects of yesterday's physical efforts. We were passed by almost every porter on the mountain who were literally sprinting down, most with lightened loads (we still had ours!) to take advantage of the time before their clients arrived to clean up.
On the way down, Timos taught Mia the words to the 'Jambo Tanzania' song. It was refreshing to be back in the moist rainforest, even with the mud underfoot, after 4 days in the dry and gritty environment mostly above the tree line.
At the base, the atmosphere was frenzied. Elated climbers were met with waves of touts selling all varieties of 'chachcas' and trinkets including "Kili" t-shirts, bracelets etc. Shoe shiners almost salivated at our mud caked boots to whom we pleasantly and insistently said no thank you in Swahili, then in English, then again in Swahili. We rejected offers to trade our headlamps for bracelets and the like.
After checking out of the park and receiving our certificates of summiting we posed for a group photo before tipping our crew. They awkwardly (at least for us) lined up and we moved along the line thanking them individually and handing them a wad of bills. We then piled into our white Toyota van for the 45min ride back to Moshi. Tipping is a contentious issue with organizers insisting it is NOT mandatory and the crews expecting it with some blatantly discussing their detailed financial expectations (though ours were rather reserved in this regard we did have a couple of westernly uncomfortable conversations on the subject).
We stopped off at the bank in order to get the cash (and convert it) to pay back our generous benefactor at dinner later that evening. At the best of times we stood out in the crowd; dressed in muddy climbing garb and not having showered in 6 days we may as well have had a flashing light on our heads as we walked around Moshi.
Funds secured we picked up our bags at our previous hostel and were dropped off at our new place which fit our budget and was appreciatively subsidized by our guide as a means of making up for the rigmarole with the park fee payment. It was a recently renovated place that we seemed to have all to ourselves!
We promptly set about negotiating laundry. Like much of our travels they charged laundry on a per item basis. It's always an experience when the 'concierge' is counting out your dirty shirts and socks (and underwear!). Unlike most other countries with this system (for example in Manado, Indonesia they wanted $32 CDN for one small load!) the pricing was comparatively reasonable; though the cost was still out of whack with the relative purchasing power of the Tanzanian Shilling and the low cost of labour.
We also had some muddy gear that we wanted to wash by hand and asked about cleaning it with a hose or an outdoor sink etc. The proprietor literally insisted that we clean it in our shower saying "I give you permission" in reply to our concerns. Eli still went and banged out his caked boots outside the entrance gate curiously watched by the staff.
We gave both our climbing kit and the rest of our travelling gear a complete overhaul. For us pedantic organized types this was cathartic and enjoyable. With our gear cleaned and packed, us showered up and even with a little make-up on (well Mia specifically) we jumped in a cab to join our climbing comrades for a celebratory dinner.
It was a nice evening with the seating taking on clear gender lines at the table. The conversation flowed with a convivial cadence as we started to really get to know one another. Our mutual instincts were right and we got on very well - so often the case we've found with Kiwi's!
Pizza and beer were a perfect recipe for our hungry metabolism and weary bodies. After the last of the toasts were given, pictures taken and facebooks exchanged we said goodbye and hope to see you soon to our new friends.
Back at our BnB we fell into bed smiling: proud of our accomplishments on the mountain and revelling in the joy of new though familiar relations.