Climbing Kilimanjaro - memories
for life !!!
A statement from Mario Dobeck.
"Now you are in africa" my guide told me after reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro
exactly at the time of sun rise behind the panorama of the cliffy neighbour peak Mawensi.
Even after having no alcohol during the 6 hour final hike you feel drunken of happiness,
jollity and lack of oxygen due to the nearly 20.000 feet altitude. And wouldn´t
there be temperatures of about 20 degrees Celsius below zero you would like to stay
the whole day on top starring at the wonderful coloured huge walls of ice surrounding
the crater rim.
The Kilimanjaro is maybe the highest point in the world you can reach without expensive
climbing equipment or special experiences and knowledge. The only but very important
question you have to ask yourself is - am I in a reliable good health condition having
no chronical cardiovascular or respiratoral diseases. I never thought about the possibility
of coming up altitude sickness until I felt seriously hit by head aches, qualm and
vertigo already on the second day of the tour. But as I´ve been told - this is
the normal way - the body needs to get used to the height. Being basically in a good
physical condition the problems are gone the next morning and you will get payed off
for this couple of hard hours. Nature around you presents flowers and other plants
you only can find in this area and which are looking so strange that you feel like
millions of years back in time. Clouds are embedded between the cliffs thousands of
feet downhill coming up slowly in the early afternoon to play a wonderful and impressive
game with the ice cap of the peak.
All you need for such a trip are warm and water resistant clothes, sleeping bag, hiking
shoes and hiking sticks as well as very good sun glasses and lotion to protect against
the aggressive sun. Several drinking bottles made for outdoor usage you should also
have with you. Your equipment should be split up into a day pack filled with the things
you need during climbing all the day and the stuff you only need in the tent during
night as well as in the morning/evening. First part you carry by yourself - it should
not exceed a weight of about 5 kg to feel always comfortable. The second package will
be taken by a local porter up to a weight limit of 20 kg - if you have more another
porter is needed who you have to pay for.
Regarding the variety of clothes - you will have temperature differences of about 50
degrees Celsius (30 above zero in the rain forest on first and last day / near zero
in the nights all the time and arctic conditions on the summit) - so be prepared for
this as well as for possible heavy rain. Food, tents and gas for cooking will be provided
by the tour operator and carried by the porters joining you on this trip (there will
be 3-4 porters per tourist going up plus guide, assitant guide and cook).
An important notice you should be aware already planning the trip - everybody of the
local porters and guides coming with you expects a tip from you when you are coming
down the last day. This tip shouldn´t only be good for some beer - they count
on their "second half of the whole wage" for doing the job despite you payed
more than thousand Dollars in advance to the tour operator !!! For example a porter
calculates with 8 USD per day to come as tip, the guide even more of course. Having
13 local people payed for together 8 days by only 3 tourists (like my trip was) means
some hundreds of Dollars you should have with you on the trip. In some cases you will
be asked to leave some of your equipment instead of giving money - it´s up to
You can go several paths up to the Uhuru Peak - the highest point of the crater rim.
The most important question to be answered by deciding for one trail is how many other
people you wanna meet on the route and ... how difficult the hiking level shall be.
For example the easy but overcrowded way up is named the "Coca Cola Route"
(officially Marangu-Route) - the hard way but much more impressive and not frequented
that much got the name "Whiskey-Trail" (officially Machame-Route). Both are
finally feasible for a person in the right health condition.
The fantastic thing hiking Kilimanjaro is this jumping from one vegetational zone into
another experiencing nature in all facettes within some days. Starting with the hot
and humid rain forest you´ll see huge trees as well as wonderfull never before
seen flowers. Then coming into an area of downsized underwoods decorated with moss
and tresses, crossing huge fields of vulcanic ash and strange formed lava rocks you
will end in the only arctic zone of Africa. This combined with these wonderfull friendly
people around you who are carrying, cooking and guiding you as well as havin you take
part in local habits (also after the tours down in their villages) is "living
Africa". And to stand in the silence of the night on Barranco Camp having a wonderful
peaceful view down to the lights of Moshi Town by listening to the winds in the cliffs
is just a pay back of all your investments with a huge profit for your soul.
Finally for people who are looking for the right base near the mountain, but outside
of busy Moshi Town with wonderful view to the snow caped Queen of Africa with a Cocktail
or beer in his hands - but at the same time to be lovely welcomed by the village people
just as you would know them since decades - my only recommendation is Honey Badger
Lodge of Mrs. Lucy Renju in Msaranga village - we couldn´t have made a better
Mario Dobeck, Summit February 2007
Pictures, text and translating: Susanne and Mario Dobeck.