and then we made it! To the top of the white volcano! We planted a Polish flag on the desolate moonscape and joked about how if I had done so with my country's flag, well, that would just be so typically American.
We were tired when we made it to the top (how did we all climb Kilimanjaro??). We had hiked for over an hour and a half across rough terrain in the hot, desert sun. The summiting was steep with loose gravel, threatening a fall. But we made it and the view at the top was spectacular and worth the effort. There was a sunken crater on one side, and on the other, prehistoric panorama for as far as the eye could see. We did not linger long, though, just enough time to snap a few photos and gulp our remaining stashes of water. We knew that the sun was setting and it was a long hike back to our camp. But just how long the return would be, we did not know...
...we had been hiking for an hour following our summit of the volcano and yet still, we had not had so much of a glimpse of our campsite. I held my fingers up to the retreating sun, parallel with the horizon, I counted just thirty minutes worth of remaining daylight. We had now said, "oh, it must be just over the next ridge" at least six times and I was really starting to worry. The boys started to run up the crest ahead to scout our camp that must certainly be near. But when they reached the top, short of breath with legs cramping, they looked down on us and just shook their heads. Still, nothing but desert for as far as the eye could see. The thing is, in this kind of place, everything looks exactly the same. There are no trees or diverging paths to mark the way. There is only hill after hill after hill covered with rough brown stones and forget about other hikers, you are the only people for many many miles. We had consumed all of our water at this point, and the light was getting low. I called to the boys to wait up for us and they barely heard over the evening winds. We all decided that we had better stay together, because you get lost from the group, and you will never be found again. And then the sun set down. It would be twelve more hours before the light would come again. We huddled around our GPS, and saw that it said that our campsite was just ahead of us. The same thing that it had been saying for hours. But there was nothing more to do besides continue, slowly now, trying not to trip. We continued on. and on. and on. I started to plan in my head how sleeping on unprotected rocks would go. Are there dangerous desert creatures waiting to come out at night? Scorpions, spiders, snakes? How long will it take for dehydration to set in? We are lost.
And then suddenly, it appeared. A little tree. Almost invisible from the distance and lack of light. But it certainly had to be the one. But we had passed so many like it? And then as we got closer, indeed, we had made it home.