Arrangements prior to our travel were very good indeed with Kate at Exodus exploring lots of options for our rather complicated itinerary from Aberdeen and Rwanda to the start of our trip at Arusha. Our chief guide, Makeke, was very welcoming and highly professional throughout but wasn't terribly aware that payment for our transfers had been made or of the arrangements at the end of the safari for transfer back to Kilimanjaro airport for our flights home. In the end, we had to pay for a room in which to shower at Kia Lodge and for the transfer to the airport. This part of the plan was not made clear to us at all beforehand and seemed rather ad hoc on the day.. However, once, the trek began, we quickly fell into camp routine and gelled as a team. This was greatly aided by the good nature and positive approach of the assistant guides and porters. Even when the inevitable effects of altitude took their toll of us on different days, the guides encouraged us and we regained our self-belief. Catering throughout was extraordinary given the camp conditions and the need for every item to be carried, unpacked and packed again every day. There was never a shortage of tasty food. All of us were well fed and only suffered from the predictable loss of appetite once or twice. Porters were outstanding. The two girls who carried our gear welcomed us into camp each afternoon with congratulations and smiles even although they had carried more than twice our loads at high speed past us. We certainly take our hats of to them all. The summit day was one of the most challenging of our mountaineering experience. Don't be lulled into false expectations because of the term, trek. It was a very serious and demanding mountain experience that took everyone to their limit. The cold, the driving icy wind and the altitude conspired to make us feel absolutely miserable. However, the guides maintained the necessary "pole pole" pace for us to maintain confidence that we could reach the summit. Ten out of twelve of us succeeded in this. The determination in some team colleagues was inspiring. Disappointingly, we had little opportunity to take photographs as the guides seemed to be working to a tight schedule for descent. Frustration about opportunities to stop for photos and drinking had surfaced earlier when, despite constant advice to drink from the guides, we were given little opportunity to do so while walking. The descent back to Barafu Camp was as grueling in some ways as the ascent with the further challenge of another descent to Millennium Camp. The next and last day also involved a massive descent back into the heat of the rain forest that was the final test of endurance. We were very glad to have succeeded in the climb but gladder that it was over.
The stage of the trip that we had rather neglected in our thinking was the safari with the focus being on Kilimanjaro but it proved to be an absolute highlight. The landscapes, the density, variety and proximity of the wonderful animals and the quiet expertise of our safari guide were all utterly memorable. We would advise anyone to add on this element if they can. It was exciting, awe-inspiring and relaxing with perfectly tuned accommodation and great quality catering.