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Coming Down: Chara Completes his Trek

by Rob Simpson / Boston Bruins
The whole gang.
Trekking with Zdeno – Day 6

The two oldest guys, Mark Berg and I, the two that pushed to Uhuru on day-5, were likely aching the most on day 6. My feet were killing me and Bergy had a legitimate hitch in his giddy-up.
“My knees are sore,” he said.

His limp spurred John Wayne comparisons. He walked like he had just hopped off his horse and was about to enter a saloon.

The downhill walk lasted a little more than five hours. During the first three, we strode through dry moorland and later crossed small valleys with streams across footbridges. At the start, there was actually a dusting of snow on a few of them. The second half of the hike, we descended through rain forest.

In fact, according to the locals, over the course of the previous 24-hours, we had transcended through practically every climate on Earth. Glacial ice at summit, all the way down through rain forest at the bottom of the trip.

Just short of a spot called Mandara Hut at about 8,500 feet, the midway point of the day’s downhill, we came across long white-tailed Colobus monkeys. We were told they rarely leave the trees. They lived up to that reputation, by hardly moving around at all.

A few minutes later, once the rain forest became thicker, we had our first of a few interactions with bands of “black” monkeys. Our guide Aloyce didn’t have any other name for them, just “black”, and they were very active, jumping over our heads across the path from tree to tree, and walking and eating very near to us at ground level.

On the last day, the group had some company. Click the pic to watch.
Cousins, if you will, of humans, it’s always startling to see just how human-like they really are: staring back at you like little kids, casually chewing on leaves and jumping and swinging around with the help of long opposable thumbs.
As we neared the National Park gate and the village of Marangu, we came across small children and later women, who came up from the village to essenitally beg. A German couple walking ahead of me stopped and gave a boy a dollar for a flower he had picked and was selling. The others simply asked for money, clothes, whatever you could spare.

It was a sudden reality check for us, after six days on a mountain, and should remind everyone of the importance of Right to Play's mission.

Once over the final few steps, and back at the National Park gathering area, we bid farewell to our porters, tipped them (a bit more generously than they were used to) much to their appreciation, and gave them some of our gear.

Chara gave away practically everything he had taken up on the mountain.

You’d think they’d won the lottery. They applauded enthusiastically when Aloyce read out the tips. He, his assistant, the cook, and the three porters who toted the TV gear all the way to the summit earned extra.

“These people can use everything they can get, and if I had more stuff, I’d give that to them as well,” Zdeno stated.

Bergy, Darryl Lepik, and Mark Brender were generous as well. I couldn’t help out unfortunately, still without any sign of my lost bag from the airline. I had to turn in my rental clothes and gear rather than give it away.

We bid the porters and Aloyce farewell, jumped into a Land Rover and headed out through the gate, through the village, and toward the lodge.

There was a sense of relief, satisfaction, and sadness, as we bid adieu to a group of men we’d never see again. They are faces we’ll remember, images that will forever be tied to our once-in-a-lifetime trek upon the great Kilimanjaro, an adventure that soon after seemed more like a dream than reality.

It won't be long before Chara and the rest of the Bruins are back on Garden Ice.
Parting Tidbits:
  • TSN play-by-play man Chris Cuthbert also climbed Kilimanjaro a few months ago. Not sure if he stopped at Gilman’s or went on to Uhuru. In my recollection of him telling the story, I believe he did.
  • On my way to Africa I had a long layover in Amsterdam. I took the fifteen-minute train ride from the airport to Central Station in town and hoofed around a bit. On my only other previous visit, I had failed to make it to the Rijks Museum, renowned for its collection of Rembrandt’s, including Night Watch. I made sure to head there, and during my perusals, I came across a painting by Dutchman Hendrick Avercamp. It was a winter landscape I believe called “Frost Fair”, which included ice skaters, and most notably, ice skating men holding sticks. Now admittedly, they resembled golf clubs more than hockey sticks, but without a doubt, these guys were whacking around a ball. Could this alter the healthy claims of those in Montreal (organized game) and my friends in Windsor Nova Scotia about being the birthplace of hockey? Was something like it being played previously in Europe? The painting was dated 1609.
  • I still don’t have my lost luggage.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLYReaders who wish to recognize Zdeno Chara’s efforts with a donation to Right To Play can do so at through Right to Play.
Rob Simpson hosts “Hockey Odyssey” on NHL Network. His 2nd hockey book, “Black and Gold”, with photographer Steve Babineau, will be released in September.

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