Still buzzing from the enormous achievement of conquering the 19,000ft peak of Kilimanjaro, there was a special surprise in store for Cheryl Cole and the rest of the celebrity fundraising team. Take That star Gary Barlow delighted the weary trekkers by chartering a a special plane to take them home from Africa.
The nine team members, who included TV presenter Ben Shepherd, Denise Van Outen and Boyzone singer Ronan Keating, received a heroes' welcome when they touched down in at RAF Northolt in West London on Monday.
They had expected to return on a scheduled passenger flight, but Gary decided they deserved a treat and splashed out £50,000 to hire the private jet. "Everyone was shattered after the climb and not looking forward to the long flight," says a source. "So Gary decided to surprise them. A chartered jet from Africa doesn't come cheap, but Gary was happy to pay the money."
"To be back in a warm room in the UK is brilliant," said Gary, as the red nose-wearing team gathered to talk about the trip. "It's brilliant to be back," agreed Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles, who was visibly slimmer than when he left the UK for the expedition.
Recounting their aches and pains as they travelled home, Chris' radio colleague Fearne Cotton said: "walking to the toilet was sheer agony". But TV presenter Ben added: "The fact that we had a toilet on the plane was just such a luxury."
The celebrity team, which raised a whopping £1.5 million for Comic Relief during their climb, will meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown in Downing Street on Thursday. A documentary about their trip will be shown on TV the same night.