Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Saturday, November 28, 2009

On Kilimanjaro again (Post 7 of several)

Monday 5 October
In the morning at Karanga Camp someone was playing the harp (we would cross paths with him the following day) Like yesterday, Mustapha from Nakuru called me to wish me luck. He said he is also keen on climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
The mountain's unique vegetation
Before we left, someone asked: "How are you? Did you sleep well?" In other contexts such greetings are only a formality; while climbing Kilimanjaro you realize these are no mere formalities. Someone really wants to know.
The team of glaciologists observing Kilimanjaro's receding glaciers
We had a good view of Kibo today and the sun shone brightly in the morning. Gerald Hando went live again on Clouds FM and piled praise on the courage and determination of Notburga Maskini during the climb. "I am inspired," he said.

Today, a guide who said he is from Shinyanga but has a Chagga accent shared his views on how domestic tourism could develop by inculcating the culture of visiting local attractions in our children. When he mentioned the poor working conditions of the porters, he was supported by a flood of complaints by guides and porters who were listening to the conversation as we slowly made our way towards Barafu Camp, revealing an undercurrent of overall dissatisfaction.
The guide from Shinyanga walked ahead to his group and, thanks to the publicity raised by Gerald's daily dispatches to Clouds FM, told his visitors who we were and the objective of our climb. When we reached the group we were greeted with, "We heard you are climbing to raise money for charity. So are we, we've raised $150,000 for cancer research."

At the final valley before ascending to Barafu Camp I told the others that I would walk ahead to find out whether "I'm made of whisky or Coca-Cola." One of Mt. Kilimanjaro's routes, considered the easiest, is also called the Coca-Cola route, and one of the challenging routes are known as whisky routes. I made such good pace with little effort that I impressed myself. I went from ceding the way to porters to keeping up with their pace.

We had an early lunch and retired to our tents. I was upbeat and felt quite confident about my physical condition. Sometimes I was worried I had given too many horror stories about the difficulty of the final onslaught towards the summit that perhaps it would be detrimental to the morale of the others. I realized if I ever became an army recruitment officer, new recruitments will dwindle down to nothing.

About an hour before midnight we were awoken for the final climb to the summit.

Next: Reminiscent of the sinking of the Titanic.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On Kilimanjaro again (Post 6 of several)

Sunday 4 October
Before we left, Gerald was interviewed during the live broadcast of his own program "Power Breakfast" on Clouds FM. The broadcast had the effect of making everyone and anyone who was listening to the radio to be aware of our presence. By the day's end, that included a large proportion of the porters and guides on the mountain and some of the other climbers.

We left Barranco Camp at our leisurely pace and within an hour we were trailing everyone. Nevertheless, I am impressed by how both Notburga and Gerald make mincemeat of the Great Barranco, maintaining an energetic pace throughout the day. It is at the Barranco climb where most first-time climbers give up and turn back, and where novice porters opt for non-climbing careers. It is one steep rocky climb that takes close to three hours, depending on one's pace.

At the top of the cliff, Notburga revealed she has eight cans of Red Bull, took out four and shared them with Gerald, Yahoo and Ben, the assistant guide. I still felt I didn't need an energy boost.

At around midday we met a group of British and American climbers, who were also on a fund raising climb, and one asked:

"Are you from South Africa?"
"No, we are Tanzanians."
"It's good to see Tanzanians climbing their own mountain."

That casual observation was so incredibly accurate that it actually defines one major characteristic of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Apart form the porters and guides, at any one time there are more foreigners on the mountain than Tanzanian climbers.

At Karanga Camp Gerald, who was complaining of a bruised toe since yesterday, received crucial medical attention from Godfried, an Austrian doctor who is climbing the mountain with a group of glaciologists who are studying the mountain's shrinking glaciers.

I reached the conclusion that if there is one person who deserves to reach Uhuru Peak, it has to be Notburga. During the daily walks she recounts colorful tales of places around the world that she has visited - and they are numerous! As she says, she decided to climb Kilimanjaro because while in Ireland she met natives of Ireland who had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and she was embarrassed to reveal that she had not.

When I visited one of the VIP (Ventilated Improved Pit) latrines, I discovered someone had written, "Will you please p*** directly in the hole."
A view of Mawenzi peak from one of the VIP latrines

Notwithstanding the apparent inconsiderate behaviour and inconvenience caused by these toilet users, I would still have asked the following questions to the writer of that message:

- at 3,893m above sea level?
- with hands half frozen?
- while gasping for breath and struggling against altitude sickness?
- and having woken up from sleeping on a slope and struggling throughout the night not to slide donwnhill below the clouds, and all the way to Moshi?

I don't know...I don't know...

Next: Am I made of Coca-Cola or whisky?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

On Mt. Kilimanjaro again (Post 5 of several)

Saturday 3 October
In the morning I heard a porter's radio tuned to a station playing gospel music. You can hardly predict that people who so frequently use four letter words also listen to church music.

We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning, and knowing how unpredictable mountain weather is, hoped that the day would remain just as pleasant.

At breakfast, the discussions centred on the plight of the porters and what Gerald felt were poor working conditions. He also realised, today, the relevance of using walking poles; they considerably reduce the load on the feet.

On the news today, we heard that power shedding will begin, countrywide, from morning to 11 at night. I thought to myself, Dr Idris Rashid, the former chief executive of TANESCO, our national electricity supply company must be saying to himself, "I told you so!" Dr. Rashid came under criticism from parliamentarians for suggesting a course of action that would have avoided power shedding, but which the parliamentarians rejected.

Today's section was particularly difficult on the approach to Lava Tower where it began to snow on our arrival. Unlike last year, when the place was packed, it was totally deserted. Gerald and Notburga went absolutely berserk with excitement because of the snowfall and when we began the descent towards Barranco Camp everyone seemed in high spirits. When Notburga wondered why they felt they had smoked an illegal substance, Yahoo explained the snowfall increases the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere; we were all high on oxygen.

Nevertheless, the pace became quite slow; we reached Barranco well after dark. Today, I felt like I was maturing into a mountain guide; Yahoo walked ahead with Gerald and I stayed at the rear with Notburga.

Next: Are you from South Africa?

Monday, November 16, 2009

On Kilimanjaro again (Post 4 of several)

Friday 2 October
"Fun" is not always accurate in describing climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. When I say fun I actually mean the hard work. The second day of the Kilimanjaro trek on the Lemosho route involves a long walk. We bypassed Shira 1 Camp and camped at Shira Camp, our destination on this day. I recall that day last year as being particularly difficult.



We walked from Big Tree Camp through the Shira Plateau to East Shira Hill. The Shira hills are described in literature as part of an extinct volcano whose peak stood much higher than Uhuru Peak.

While on the plateau, and just before climbing towards East Shira Hill, it began to rain, and I remembered I had forgotten a nice raincoat that I had specifically bought recently in South Africa specifically to prevent getting soaked on Mt. Kilimanjaro. This was another instance of the disadvantage of failing memory when climbing Kilimanjaro.

The view from the top of East Shira hill was stunning. Yahoo said the altitude was 4,000m and it is a detour from the main route which is recommended on the Lemosho route for acclimatizing climbers. Think of it as a vaccination against altitude sickness.

The East Shira Hill detour made me worry that Notburga might not cope well with climbing Kilimanjaro. It appeared she sometimes had difficulty with breathing, and it was only the second day. Gerald, on the other hand, appeared to be coping well and he had a sense of humor that was absolutely necessary in tackling the difficult stages. My worries about Notburga were later proved baseless.

At Shira Camp I met a guide who I also met last year and felt it was a remarkable coincidence. Unless you are a guide or a porter the chances of meeting someone you know on Mt. Kilimanjaro are quite remote.

Next: Gospel music on the mountain

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On Kilimanjaro again (Post 3 of several)

Thursday 1 October
In pilot talk a preflight check precedes all flights; the pilot goes through a list to ensure that the plane will actually take to flight without unforeseeable problems. There is a similar concept related to climbing a mountain. We went through the pre-Kilimanjaro check with Yahoo, our

mountain guide who also led my two person team last year, going through all our clothes and equipment to ensure that we were properly clothed and equipped and that no one freezes en route.

When all was well we hopped on a Land Rover and headed towards the starting point in western Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately the car developed some mechanical fault and we lost about an hour waiting for a replacement. That mishap didn't stop Gerald Hando from making several calls to Clouds FM to follow-up on progress of work he had left behind. The marvels of mobile communications! You never leave the work at the office; it follows you all the way up Kilimanjaro.

We were dropped at the starting point sometime after 3:00 PM and began a slow walk towards Big Tree Camp which we reached at around 7:30 PM. I recalled how exciting it was last year to begin the trek; and the feeling was the same this year.

I like to think that between the three of us, I was the more experienced climber, although given how unpredictable mountain climbing is, it is hardly wise to boast about anything; nevertheless,

I decided I would stay behind, a position I also chose last year.

Next: The fun begins

Monday, November 9, 2009

On Mt. Kilimanjaro again (Post 2 of several)

The good news is I did not loose my Kilimanjaro notes (diary), I found them in my bedroom on my return home; the bad news is I might be getting old and cannot remember where I leave things.

Wednesday 30th September
I boarded the flight from Mwanza to Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) through Dar es Salaam and reached KIA about 4:00PM. At Moshi I stayed at a quiet hostel and I suspect I was one of only two guests who slept there.

In the morning, the manager (or owner?) was curious to know where I was heading and when I revealed I was on my way to climb Kilimanjaro, he asked, "Where are you from?" Hearing that question I felt like an alien from a distant planet. The man had only passing interest in me until I said I was on my way to Uhuru Peak.

I have heard a saying that people who climb mountains are not normal. I disagree. Those who climb once are perfectly normal. It is those who return to climb for the second time that are less than normal. In fact recalling my testimony of how tough it had been to climb last year, a waitress at the Moshi hotel where I stayed before the climb asked me, "You are back again?"

When I responded in the affirmative she asked, "I thought you said you will never climb this mountain again?"

I couldn't remember saying that but if I did that just shows how important it is to have a fading memory if you decide to climb Kilimanjaro more than once. Poor memory will not only might make you temporarily loose your Kilimanjaro diary, but it also most certainly will erase any unpleasant experiences you had from last year.

In the evening Notburga Maskini and Gerald Hando, who joined me on the climb this year, arrived at the hotel. Gerald brought me a camera that I borrowed from Muhidin Issa Michuzi to supplement my own camera so that I am not restricted by my camera's memory or battery hours and am able to take more photos than last year.

Next: The first steps

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Oops! I may have lost my Kilimanjaro notes

I may have lost the notebook on which I recorded my recent experience on climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro for the second time.

There are two possibilities: First, I may have dropped it while pulling out a book from my bag while on a flight yesterday from Mwanza to Dar es Salaam on Air Tanzania's De Havilland Dash 8 Series 300. Second, I could just have forgotten to pack it in my bag and it could actually be in my bedroom.

If I have lost the notebook, I have lost some important observations I made just after the climb, which I will not be able to recall a few weeks after the climb. I will find out within a few days. If the worse has happened, I will try to rewrite from memory what I can remember.