Half an hour at the summit, and it is time to go. My trekking poles adjusted to shoulder height, I head straight down. Most of the descent is like skiing in deep sand. The trail we climbed is to my right. It looks like a piece of bric brac, each zig about forty paces before a zag is taken. Some porters and hikers are coming up the trail. They plan to camp in the crater at about 18,000 feet.
The descent takes about three hours, and I'm welcomed back to Barafu Camp with a song and a tray of cups filled with juice. My tent already smells like the Chinese herbal rub I brought - a mix of orange, ginger and cinnamon - and I take some time massaging more into my sore quads. After a brief rest, it's lunch then time to pack up and head further downhill (six more miles) to Mweka Hut.
The trail is rough, stony and lots of steps; my legs are rubbery. My attitude is bad. I'm exhausted, and when I trip and fall, the tears flow freely. There's no time for a long break, however, and I can only trust that I trained enough - that my muscles are strong - and continue on hoping to arrive at camp before dark. I am so tired of hiking downhill, I'm actually glad when we arrive at a small uphill, especially when the guide tells me camp is just at the top. The sight of our orange tents under the trees cheers me more than a pile of Christmas presents. It won't be dark for another hour.
I eat dinner quickly, and crawl into my sleeping bag around 7 p.m. - not stirring until the next morning's 6 a.m. wake up call.