I HAVE CLIMBED MOUNT KILIMANJARO IN TANZANIA, HAVE YOU?
You can get bruises in very interesting ways. take my toes for instace. sometime ago Iwas forrced to nurse 5 blueish outcrops. They were my badges of pride, acquired whilewalking down ffrom the roof of Africa-Kilimanjaro. my feet were thust to front of my boots with evry step.
Anderson and I will not complain too much, however . For the view is one of the most remarkable in the world .at the Roof of Africa, you are presentd a vista that encompasses Kenya and Tanzania, a magnificent panorama of high plains and distance horizons.
And you know that the rest of your journey is downhill. that , let me tell you is a blessed reief, whatever the effect on the toes.
Records at Kilimanjaro National park gate sho that over for thousand people a year climbe the majesticf Kilimanjaro , and take it from me, I raise my hat to them.
Itis indeed without doubt a rewarding experience, but it tests your endurance to the limit. At least half of those who attempt it , fooled perhaps by the suggestions that it is no more than a hardy walk, give up. Those who succeed never stop boasting about it.
At 5895m above sea level, Kilimanjaro is the highest in Africa and the highest free-standing outcrop in the world. It is not, by serious climbing standards, a difficult ascent. Any body who is physically fit can make it to the top. The route does not need ropes or crampons, and there are no overhangs or tricky crevasses.
Anderson's tour was organized by the Tanzania Tourist Corporation's office in New York, USA. His adventure started at Kibo Hotel, Marangu which is at the foot of the mountain. Run by a very capable manager Mr. Labrose, Kibo Hotel has a colourful garden consisting of rose flowers and may other species.
This alone is a warm welcome. Interestingly, staying with this manager is like being cuddled by a lovable elderly aunt. The first night or two is normally spent either at Kibo or Marangu Hotels or at the park's gate.
This enables the visitor to check if he/she has the necessary climbing equipment and to acclimatise. The above mentioned places can also provide the equipment after making the necessary deposit. The team is assembled - guides; assistant guides, porters' porters. Two of us ended up with a staff of 5!
Two phrases linger in the memory. As you wander the lower slopes, gently gaining hight through tropical rain forest, the words "pole pole" are constantly muttered by your guide. "Slowly, Slowly", they say in Kiswahili, urging you to conserve energy. Later the words change to "Ok?" to rouse you from your momentary gasping rest and urge you to take a few more steps towards that elusive peak.
The average recreational climb of Kilimanjaro takes five days - three days up and two days down. You aseend around 4572 vertical metres from what were already prettly lofty foothills. You see forest, heathland, desert and snow, get soaked, bake and freeze and enjoy the cameraderie of the mountains. If you are lucky you get your photograph taken at the top.
Day One: Of you go, "pole Pole", for the first nine kilometres from the park's gate to Mandara, like the Horombo Hut later, is a collection of "A" frame buildings, simple wooden, weatherproof structures which each sleep four.
A Norwegian design this one. There is no heating no lighting and the simplest of facilities. all those urgings not to forget torches, toilet papers are suddenly remembered. The book says it takes three hours to get to Mandara. Admittedly, you take nearer four.
Day Two: We walk twelve kilometres. The day of ridges. Out of the rain forest into marshy meadows, lobelia and then rugged moors, with round boulders, strange flowers, heather bushes and thin penetrating rain. The ridges come one after another.
I start giving them names - the conquered Ridge, the Ridge of Sighs, the Ridge too far - at over 3353m you start getting fanciful.
You also start feeling the effects of high altitude. Your legs are not getting enough oxygenated blood. You start getting headaches, but we press on. We reach Horombo which stands slightly over 3658m, wet and disheartened. Another "A" frame.
We meet our first drop-outs, an Italian and a Canadian. Anderson tells me later his heart nearly skipped a beat on seeing this; hie adrenalin is pitch high, and his confidence is rapidly dropping to zero. I tell him this is not for us.
Day Three: A day of relaxation and acclimatisation. While others continue with the safari, our guide prepares tea, (no cofee,l "it will make your heart go too fast") porridge, home made jam, stews, bread and fruits.
Day Four: To Kibo Hut. More ridges, but then the plain, where the vegetation peters out. My heart - and Anderson tells me the same thing - beats thunderously even without coffee and I gasp for breath.
The last water point is passed. We are now climbing through 4267 and 4572m. The rain has gone and the air is crisp. Above me is a huge crow-like creature that clearly sees me as its next meal. I tell it to go to hell.
I start asking myself many questions one of which is the type of j9ob the Tanzania Toursist Corporation has hvin me. But then another thought creeps in my mind and says: If others can do it why not you? This consoles me and I press on.
As we continue with our adventure, we meet the champions. The Irish who stood before us with wobbling knees saying: "never again". The crest fallen groups who had given up. From time to time, the peak itself nosed out from clouds. Hugely high, snowy and