Tanzania and Mt Kilimanjaro

Welcome to Ethiopia! I am sitting in the terminal waiting to get on the plane from Addis Ababa to the Kilimanjaro Airport and this terminal is something else. The walls are made of a mud-like plaster and are a desert sand color. People are openly smoking in the halls throughout the terminal and the bathrooms have signs saying “Passengers Only”. The array of people in the boarding area is quite impressive. I think south America is the only continent that doesn’t have a representative.

My Kilimanjaro aerial view

An aerial view of Mt Kilimanjaro from the plane flight into Kilimanjaro airport.

A large Kenyan man is sitting in my assigned aisle seat as I am boarding the flight to Kilimanjaro; he insists that I take the middle seat. It’s only a 2 hour 20 minute flight so I oblige. 20 minutes before we land we fly right by Mt Kilimanjaro and there is a rare, clear view of the mountain and the summit. Since I am in the middle seat I have a much better view.

As everyone gets off the plane, the terminal has a sign that says “Kilimanjaro International Airport” and most of the passengers start taking pictures of the sign. The airport is similar to Kona or Lihui airports in Hawaii with outdoor waiting areas and lots of plants. This is not worth pictures in my mind. I proceed through immigration, where I am given a 12 month multiple entry visa, I think the $100 bill I payed with was so brand spanking new or the immigration officer saw the huge wad of cash I had and decided to give me 12 months entry rather than the usual 28 days.  Once I am outside of the terminal with my luggage, I find the driver who is scheduled to take me to my hotel in Moshi, the Bristol Cottages.

Kilimanjaro Airport Terminal

Many people were taking photos of the terminal upon landing…including adan.

Walking around Moshi and talking with people, it seems like all the mountain and safari guides here choose names like chinese people choose names. Although I haven’t met anyone named “Wednesday” or “Orange”, I have met a “Good Luck”, a “Good Time”, and two men named “Mr. Moshi”. While everyone is very friendly, it sure seems like a dog eat dog world here. Everyone is making deals behind the hotel manager’s back. Perhaps he should pay the employee’s more? The night receptionist said he makes 120,000 tanzanian shilling (~$75) per month. He also said 50% of his children don’t get educated even up to the age of 10. YIKES!!

While the tourists/local relationship in Tanzania isn’t really too much different than many other developing countries….at least the countries that have realized they can exploit tourism. Eventually the locals at any tourist destination realize they can sell tourist t-shirts and other souvenirs (e.g. cambodia). The people here in Moshi are really nice, but they all seem to want something from you. They walk with you and talk to you and tell you some fact about their country and at the end try to sell you some stupid bracelet or necklace or worthless item. Then when you decline they act as if you have just completely betrayed them and their country.

Kilimanjaro support team

Our support team consisted of 8 porters, 1 cook, 1 assistant guide, and 1 head guide.

Adan and I finished our Kilimanjaro trek, both reaching the summit on the morning of June 17. We started on the Rongai route and 47 km later finished at the Morongo gate. I guess I am a little disappointed with how little the guides and porters are paid. By law there must be one guide per trekker and at least 3 porters per trekker. We had a head guide, an assistant guide, a cook and eight porters. The porters make $5/day to carry 45lbs of gear from camp to camp and to set up the campsite. The cook make $7/day to cook for all 13 people. The assistant guide makes $8/day and the head guide makes $10/day. All this for two people. The standard tip is to double what each person makes per day. For all the hard work these guys did, this just didn’t seem like they were being paid enough.

Rural town in Tanzania, Africa

Many rural areas in Africa are extremely poor.

Mr. Moshi, back at the hotel, makes $75/month, plus tips. This is not enough to pay for his kids to go to school.  If he were a taxi driver in the US he could easily make $30K, live a very basic life, and send $5K back home each year. This would easily pay for school for all his kids; and after a few years he would have enough savings to return to Tanzani and could start his own business. Kajeli, our Mt Kilimanjaro guide corroborated this point during a conversation on the mountain when he said: “I could work two years in America and save enough money to live a good life in Tanzania for the rest of my life”. Meanwhile, Kajeli is a guide on Mt. Kilimanjaro making $10/day plus tips. Sometimes you don’t realize how well off you are until you visit a developing country and see real, ubiquitous poverty firsthand.

Thoughts about the Kilimanjaro Trek

Luke Fostvedt Summit Kilimanjaro

Posing in front of the old sign at the summit of mt. Kilimanjaro just after sunrise.

1. You cannot drink too much water. Drinking water helps you acclimate and at high altitudes in dry climates, you lose water with every breathe. The recommend amount of water to carry was two liters; but this was not enough for me on the 12 hour summit day.

2. You cannot hike too slow on the days leading up to the summit attempt. Hiking too fast just gets you to your next camp quicker where there is nothing much to do. Further it affects your altitude acclimation. Walk slowly.

3. The sun is much more intense at 12,000ft. Now add an anti-malarial drug that exacerbates sun sensitivity and the sun becomes nearly  unbearable. I was putting on sunscreen every 45 minutes and I still got burned.

Adan Caraballo summit Kilimanjaro

Adan at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro with Godfrey and Ilsa.

4. My hands and toes got really cold on the summit attempt even though I was wearing two pairs of smartwool socks, double gloves, and at least four layers of windproof/water resistant pants and shirts/jackets. My toes started to really warm up when we took a 5-10 minute break in the middle of the night.

5. I remember telling myself I never want to do another high altitude climb again because of a whole bunch of reasons. However, a few years have gone by and now I have forgotten those feelings and want to try something again. I do remember right after the trek how miserable adan was. He straight up told a brother and sister who were about to do the climb that this would be the most miserable experience of their lives. Hyperbole on Adan’s part, but the altitude definitely adds a lot of challenges to the trek and Adan nearly turned around on the summit attempt.

[wzslider transition=”‘slide'”]