Friday, 20 December 2013

The late Alex Nyirenda Remembered

It is the fifth death anniversary today of Brig. Alex Gwebe Nyirenda who died in Dar es Salaam from throat cancer.

At the eve of Tanzania's independence, Brig. Nyirenda hoisted Tanzania's flag (then Tanganyika) on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro as the Union Jack was lowered at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
Lt. Alex Nyirenda, with Tanganyika's flag and the Uhuru torch, at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro on the eve of Tanzania's independence, 9 December 1961 (Photo courtesy of Tanzania Information Services)
Two years earlier on 22nd October 1959, former President Julius K. Nyerere, in a speech to the Tanganyika Legislative Assembly, said the following:
We the people of Tanganyika, would like to light a candle and put it on top of Mount Kilimanjaro which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate, and dignity where there was before only humiliation.
That candle (which came to be known to Tanzanians as the Uhuru torch) was placed on Mt. Kilimanjaro by Nyirenda, and signalled Tanzania's long and unwavering commitment to the liberation struggle of those African countries that remained in the early sixties under colonialism and white minority rule.

Brig. Nyirenda was the first Tanganyikan in 1958 to graduate from Sandhurst Military Academy in England. He also became, prior to independence, the first African to become an officer in the King's African Rifles.

He was also related, through a common ancestor, to former Zambian President, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, which is a stark reminder to Africans that they are often closer to each other than artificial boundaries would indicate.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Valuable lessons from the Mt. Kilimanjaro Uhuru Climb of 2011 (post 1 of 3)

I have written before about my December 2011 of climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro but have not commented on why, in my opinion, I failed to reach the summit. That climb illustrated some of the donts that prevent climbers from reaching the summit and provided valuable lessons for those who intend to climb Kilimanjaro, whether for the first time or as repeat climbers.

The basic lesson I learnt is that training, and training, and more training, is a critical success factor. I cannot overstate its importance. I did not commit enough time to training and when the testing times confronted us on the climb I did not have the capacity to meet the challenge.

Many guides on Kilimanjaro will tell you that they have successfully led the most ill-trained climbers to the summit. Prior to that climb I managed to reach the summit with hardly any training and built this huge confidence in myself that the most crucial factor in reaching the summit is actually the will to continue pushing and exerting your body under immense physical strain. It is true, even with absence of training, if you summon your will power against Kilimanjaro, you will reach the top. But it is also true if you add some training to a will made of steel then the climb becomes much easier.

I normally maintain a daily log of the observations I make during each climb, but for some reason during the December 2011 climb I recorded only the first 3 days of the climb. However, by the third day, the recipe for what I consider my failure to reach the summit had already been cast.

The climb was jointly organized by the Tanzania Tourist Board and Zara Tanzania Adventures to mark 50 years of Tanzania's independence. I was chosen to lead the climb by TTB.

4 December 2011
During a short ceremony to flag off the climbers, the Moshi district commissioner referred to me as the "gwiji" (expert) of the climb. He said he was pleased to hear that I was the group leader of the Mt. Kilimanjaro Uhuru Climb.

[Lesson 1: Mt. Kilimanjaro does not care how impressive is your record; it will decide whether or not you reach the top.]

We have an interesting mix of 24 climbers: a presenter from Clouds TV and his cameraman; two young women, one from Tanzania Association of Tour Operators' Tantravel Magazine; a long distance runner; a German film crew filming a documentary during the climb with my participation; and others who I hope to know along the way.

This would go down as the worst start I have experienced during my several climbs of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Because of the poor road condition, after we registered at Londrossi Gate the minibus dropped us at the junction to the drop-off point at the edge of the forest. Some of the climbers hopped on a Landrover and those of us who remained began to walk in anticipation of being picked up by one of the vehicles. About 15 minutes into the walk the Zara off-road truck which we boarded during the September 2011 climb picked us.
We began our trek on a muddy road.
The current rains had damaged the road so much that even the truck took us only part of the way to the normal drop-off point. It took us well over an hour to reach the edge of the forest, at around 1800hrs.

[Lesson 2: If possible, avoid the rainy season. It can introduce the most unpleasant surprises to the climbing experience. Although weather patterns have sometimes become unpredictable, the short rains on Mt. Kilimanjaro fall between mid-November to December while the long rain period lasts between April and mid-June.]

A continuous light shower continued to fall throughout our trek to the first camp, Mti Mkubwa, and the forest floor was drenched and slippery. These conditions took their toll on the porters. When we reached Mti Mkubwa camp, well after 2200hrs, a significant number of porters were still behind. Consequently, some of the climber’s bags were missing and we ate late.

It is rare for a an experienced mountain guide to falter at any stage of the Kilimanjaro climb, but today I witnessed Yahoo regularly slipping on the trail and at one time I offered him one of my walking poles which he gladly accepted.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Riding with Ross Methven: day 18

This is the final post of my bicycle ride with Ross Methven. He  should be in Botswana by now. In his latest post on his blog he was heading towards Victoria Falls.

Ross Methven is riding a bicycle from Edinburgh, Scotland, to Cape Town, South Africa. He is currently cycling through Tanzania and I am accompanying him on part of the Tanzanian leg. My Mt. Kilimanjaro guide, Yahoo, says cycling is one of the best training options for climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Thursday 22 August 2013
I look forward to completing my epic cycling trip from Butiama to Dodoma today. Not that I am tired of cycling; it's always a huge anticipation when completing any milestone. And this, to me, is one giant milestone.

I have noticed that Singida region has far fewer cyclists than Dodoma region. For Singida it is understandable. It has extremely strong winds and is the site of the proposed wind-to-eletricity generation project.

At Bahi I told Ross I felt it necessary to supplement the chicken soup I had in the morning with tea and two chapatis.
If you want to donate to Ross' cause please follow this link:
After my 'revenge' breakfast and as we were about to resume cycling a man approached us and fiilded questions on our bicylces. He said we had 55 kilometres to reach Dodoma!

Along the way Idd Maalim of the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) called me several times to find out our progress. He informed me members of Dodoma's cycling club would ride and meet us at the outskirts of Dodoma.

When I stopped next to a huge Baobab tree at the top of a long descent Ross, who had cycled ahead as usual, called me to say he was having lunch with the mayor of Dodoma. That was a pleasant surprise. Dodoma was still 35 kilometres away.

When I reached Cigongwe Ross was seated at the compound of the mayor of the city of Dodoma, Emmanual Mwiliko. Earlier, the mayor saw Ross across the road and approached to find out whether he needed some help. Ross responded he was looking for a place to buy lunch. The mayor then invited Ross to have lunch at his house.

While waiting for lunch cooked by the mayor's wife four cyclisys led by Joshua Malanda (53) from the Dodoma cycling club whizzed past on the road ahead trailing behind a truck.
I (right) stand next to Mayor Emmanuel Mwiliko and his wife and son. On the right is Joshua Malanda from Dodoma's cycling club with some club members and next to Joshua is Ross Methven. I notice that not even 800 kilometres of cycling managed to reduce my pot belly.
By the time I reached Idd Maalim on the phone to ask him to alert our receiving party they had passed us they had reached a distance of 35 kilometres.

Later Idd Maalim interviewed us at the mayor's residence for the evening's television news. we reached Dodoma in the early hours of the evening and lodged at Ulanga Guest House.

My trip was over, for the moment. In 18 days of cycling I had covered an unprecedented 853.2 kilometres. Prior to this trip I had not cycled more than 10 kilometres.

Related links: