Millenium Camp (3,800m/12,600ft) to Mweka Gate (1,600m/5,400ft)
Distance: 14km/11mi, 5-7 hours
Altitude: 2,200m/7,200ft down in elevation
Finally, the last day has arrived. Some can’t wait to get off the mountain and jump under a shower, others don’t want their adventure to end so soon. Either way, enjoy your last sunrise on Kilimanjaro and your last close-up view of glacier-capped Kibo!
One highlight of this last day is the tipping ceremony. This is an integral part of any climb, no matter which operator. Often it is performed already towards the end of summit day, but we thought it would be nicer to do so the next morning when everyone is fresh and recovered. Highly recommendable!
And don’t leave your preparations for the tipping until the end because it’s quite an effort – to figure out in your group how much to tip each crew member, what this means for each hiker and to collect the money from everyone, and then to distribute it accordingly!
We had already prepared the numbers prior to going up to base camp when we still had a clear head, and we had a lot of smart numbers people in our group, mind you. Nevertheless, sorting out the tipping still caused us some headache. You could of course also tip individually, but that would perhaps make it even more complicated if you’re hiking in a group.
Should you, against all advise, have booked your hike with a non-KPAP Partner company, also make sure that you don’t hand all your tipping money to your guide, but to give it directly to each porter. Otherwise, chances are high they will never receive their fair share. In such case, also make sure to bring enough small change.
Once all numbers have been sorted, however, you will be rewarded with your porters’ cheerful and heartfelt singing.
The final descent down to Mweka Gate makes you experience four different zones of vegetation all in one day: Millenium Camp is settled just behind the first tree line, right at the edge towards the alpine moorland. From there, the first hour of your hike leads you through a thick forest of rather short scrubby trees to both sides of the path. Gradually, the trees grow taller and taller, and their twigs start to cover the path until they fully block out the sun.
By the time you reach Mweka Camp, you will find yourself back amidst a tall forest of coniferous trees, at times covered by Spanish moss that gives them a spooky touch. Shortly after, almost without transition, you will finish your descent through a lush rainforest. Its growth is so thick that you can’t see further than a few meters down the path until its next bend.
It was there, when we thought we had already seen it all including porters carrying all kinds of heavy things in crooked positions, that our eyes opened wide in disbelief. Porters came walking uphill carrying each one of those heavy metal rescue stretchers that we had seen the day before! “How heavy?” we asked the porters. – “50kg,” they replied. No matter the exact number, those things are heavy for sure. Why did these porters have to carry one each, despite the 20kg limit otherwise imposed by the park? This remains a mystery to me.
Eventually, you will reach a clearing and your path turns into a dirt road. From there, it’s less than half an hour to your final gate, Mweka gate. By the time you get there, it will most likely already be early to mid afternoon – yet another long hiking day! Finally, however, it’s truly time to relax and enjoy that very special feeling, knowing that you have made it all the way.
Back at your hotel, the so-called certificate ceremony will be yet another highlight of your adventure. It’s not just a simple handing out of climbing certificates, as most hikers would expect, but often a truly ceremonial celebration of your achievements, just as the name suggests.
Often, hikers will feel that they have become friends with their guides over the past week. With heavy hearts, it’s now time to say goodbye.
However, even now you still have something to look forward to: shower, dinner, drinks and a relaxed last evening with your hiking group . . .