I don't remember the first time I decided to 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 while I had not. I felt deprived that Tanzanians had a treasure enjoyed by many foreigners but known to few Tanzanians. I decided I could not live anymore with a situation where I would meet a foreigner who had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro while I had not.
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 determined to reach Africa’s highest peak to before that snow disappeared.
There is an opposing view claiming 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 2006 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 why few Tanzanians reach 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. Tanzanians who can afford to pay that sum, probably lack the resolve to tackle a climb that, to most average people, is considerably challenging.
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 my first climb, but I met only one Tanzanian on his way up when I was descending. He had succumbed to altitude sickness and was brought down on a stretcher.
Next post: Preparing for the climb.