The Big Descent!

For group 1, the science group, the descent was more gradual.  But for group 2, the big descent would be today. They would summit and descend most of the mountain on this day.  

While waiting to leave Millenium camp, we collected data using GLOBE protocols.  Following this we had a rousing chorus of African songs, and we were all invited to join in. The group was in great spirits as we began our relatively short and all downhill hike.  We also passed a few other hikers as we walked -- this was an encouraging sign.  We were still in the moorland biome and were surrounded by Giant Heather trees. For the first time we saw protea (Protea kilimanjaro), also the national plant of South Africa.

A view of a reddish and leafy plant.
Protea kilimanjaro, seen on our descent to Mweka camp.

As we continued the descent, the landscape began to change and we knew we were getting closer to the rain forest biome when we began to see epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants, like mosses and lichens) on the trees.  This reminded me of the woods around Killarney, Ireland where I grew up.  They also receive lots of rainfall and somewhat warm temperatures, so the trees there are covered with mosses and lichens. 

Epiphytes: a mossy plant grows on a tree.
Epiphytes, like spanish moss, growing on trees indicate high levels of moisture in the air.

After a few hours we reached camp, before many of the porters.  We collected more data at this campsite, Mweka (3100 m).  This camp is on the verge of the rain forest so we saw lots of birds hanging out around the campsite.

A brownish colored bird with a reddish breast stands on a weathered log.
Male Ground Thrush around the campsite.

Just like the first campsite, this one was also crowded.  We awaited the arrival of group 2, who would join us here. There is some excitement with the Omani to rejoin with the others and hear about the ascent. In fact, the women on the Omani team decided to cook for the whole group, now that we would all be back together.  The dish, Biryani, was excellent and very well received.  For Thursday we plan to all hike out together.

Several women sit with food on plates and bowls.
A number of the Omani team and a US teacher cook a meal for us all on the final night we camp out


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