Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Why I quit smoking: My Kilimanjaro Climb Adventure (Post 1 of 10)

I cannot remember the first time I decided I should climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, but it could have been eight years ago. For no particular reason, I decided I wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Making that decision was the easiest part, implementing the decision was a totally different matter. Years came and went and I realised if I did not take drastic measures, I would never climb the mountain.

As the years passed, I found more reasons for climbing the mountain. I kept on meeting people from all over the world who had climbed Kilimanjaro and I felt deprived of the fact that Tanzanians had a treasure that an increasing number of foreigners were discovering and yet few Tanzanians climbed. At a certain point I decided I could not live anymore with a situation where I would meet a foreigner who had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and not being able to say I have also been there.

In the past decade a lot has been said and written about global warming and its effect on the natural habitat. Some experts predict that because of global warming the snows of Kilmanjaro will melt away in the not-too-distant future. I was compelled to climb Africa’s highest peak to see that snow before the effects of human development wiped it off the face of earth.

It has to be said that an opposing view suggests that the glaciers on Mt. Kilimanjaro are retreating, not because of global warming, but because of a combination of other factors. I was not going to wait for the experts to agree.

In August 2005 I met Gen. Mirisho Sarakikya, former Chief of Defence Forces of the Tanzanian Army (1964 - 1974) and a veteran climber of Kilimanjaro. He has climbed Kilimanjaro 46 times. I promised him I would join him in September of the following year but I did not and his words kept on haunting me: “I would be very disappointed if you were one of those Tanzanians that I meet once and never see again.” Read: those Tanzanians who pledge to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro but never show up for the climb.

One reason that may account for few Tanzanians reaching the summit is the cost. It costs an average of $US1,500 to pay for the 8 day trek, a sum which is beyond the reach of most Tanzanians. There is a large number of Tanzanians who can afford to pay that sum, but the question is whether they can have a matching resolve to tackle a climb that, to most average human beings, is considerably tough.

I was surprised to find out that, apart from the guides and porters, there were virtually no Tanzanian climbers on Mt. Kilimanjaro. I probably met more than 100 climbers during the climb, but I met only one Tanzanian on his way up when I was descending. Sadly, he succumbed to altitude sickness and was brought down on a stretcher.

Next post: Preparing for the climb.

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