I often wonder how people with so little can be so giving. Five of the nine people on our Kilimanjaro team live in a small village called Kahe, about one hour outside of Moshi, the largest town at the base of Kilimanjaro. Abdul, Allen, Moodi, challis, and sule are the names of the five from Kahe and the others (Roger, Epson, Solomon, and Stevo) were all from Arusha, the city we stayed in the night before we left for our climb.
What we have discovered is that the experiences that are the most beautiful are those we spend with the people around us. We planned on climbing Kilimanjaro in 6 days, but we ended up pushing through and climbing the mountain in 5 days. This left us an extra day to spend in the Moshi area before we headed to a city called Tanga on the Swahili Coast, the next destination on our journey.
Lowe woke up early at camp two and made our way all the way to the bottom of the mountain (nearly 2,500 meters or about 12 miles climbing downhill). Abdul and Roger, our guides were with us the entire way. During the last few kilometers my legs were so sore that I could barely walk. My toes were sore from descending downhill and every muscle in my leg was sore from sumitting the mountain the day before. I knew God answered my prayers when a porter vehicle arrived just in time to take us the last few kilometers down the hill. Although we started climbing at 8am, by the time later afternoon approached we were still climbing through the rain and mud. We finally reached the bottom around 3pm.
When you hike Kilimanjaro it is customary to tip your team at the end of the climb. Andrew and I tipped each of the crew members and watched as their faces lit up with excitement. Each of the porters, the chefs, and the guides have become very good friends with Andrew and I.
William (the director of the toe group we climbed with) was at the bottom of the mountain prepared to take us back to Moshi. Before meeting with William, Abdul (our main guide) offered to have us stay with him and his family in his village outside of Moshi Town. Usually tour companies do not like when guides do this, so we had to make sure that William dropped us off somewhere where he thought we were looking for a hotel. He dropped us off at an Internet cafe outside of the main bus station where we could buy our tickets to Tanga the following day.
Abdul, Allen, and Moodi ended helping us purchase our bus tickets to Tanga and making sure we were safe at the Internet cafe where we could message our families and friends. They set off to get something to eat and do some shopping at the local markets while we spent some time catching our breath… Literally.
When Abdul, Moodi, and sule returned they suggested that we take a Bajaj (Similar to an Indian tuk-tuk) to get to their home. Andrew and I love hanging and staying with locals because they make sure that you rely get the local experience. We set out on an adventure across rain-weathered dirt roads in a three wheeled Bajaj crammed full of 6 people. The ride lasted a little over an hour and we arrived at Kahe (Abdul’s village) a little after 8pm. I distinctly remember two things happening during the bumpy trip, first, Abdul told us we needed to take a bath (which I was so grateful to hear because I hadn’t had an a opportunity to shower the entire time on the mountain) and second, Abdul’s grandfather had just passed away so we needed to go attend his funeral that evening. I was anxious for both, I really needed a shower even if it was only with buckets and cold water, and I had never before attended an African funeral before.
We arrived at Abdul’s parents home to be welcomed by the cutest and plumpest African lady I have ever seen. She was Abdul’s mother and she invited us in to drop our bags in our room and take a bath. At the time we arrived the electricity had gone out in all the village so Abdul’s mother put a kerosene lamp in the bathroom so we could see.
The bath, cold water and a bucket, was the most refreshing thing I had felt in a long time… After our showers we walked over to the funeral with our head torches and greeted all of Abdul’s family. Abdul is Muslim so there were many Muslim people there giving their condolences and preparing for the additional ceremonies to come further in the week. We meet Abdul’s brother and spoke with him a bit about Kilimanjaro and his dream to start hai own climbing company with his brother.
The time was past 10pm when we arrived back to Abdul’s parents home yet they still had dinner all prepare for us. After a long climb in the morning and only a few snacks throughout the day, Andrew and I were both famished. The food they served was some of the best food I have tasted during my time in Africa, the rice, potato stew, Chinese vegetable, and fruit were absolutely delicious.
In Abdul’s parents home his mother had painted and covered all the floors with beautiful tiles, making it one of the most beautiful homes I have seen while here in Africa. Along with a bathroom and a handful of small bedrooms, the house also consisted of a lovely siting room, small kitchen, and a beautiful courtyard where they wash and dry their clothing.
The electricity came on right before we went to bed, so of course we had to watch a few soap operas with the family… We were in bed by about midnight.
(Below: Andrew’s Post)
What a day. What a day. Our final day on the mountain most certainly was an eventful one. With the tip situation mostly handled, we began our day as usual – tea, washy washy, and breakfast. We even chatted with a couple from LA looking to reach the summit. Abdul and Alan both seemed cheerful despite the circumstances last night and chatted with us during breakfast. We checked with them our proposed arrival time of 1pm and set off for the base of the mountain. Going down was significantly faster than our climb and we found ourselves passing landmarks at a remarkable pace. Kylie and I chatted cheerfully along the trail. It wasn’t until we hit the second imagine zone, the moorlands, did the going get rough. The zone is no stranger to open space and lots of rain. Kylie, who never is a fan of cold and wet was not a happy camper. Our pace as a result slowed below a walking pace and our guides became anxious about our pace and tried a couple of things to help speed is along. Their efforts were in vain and we continued at our pace for the base of the mountain. Kylie was exhausted. With no lunch to be had on the trail and still several hundred meters to the bottom I wasn’t sure if her legs would give out, she would faint, or if she would collapse from hunger. Thankfully none of the above occurred and we were able to make it down to Madara hut despite the frustration and fatigue. At that point Abdul suggested calling the rescue car which could pick us up halfway down to the last leg of the mountain. Kylie who was nearly at the end of her fuse by this point accepted. The walk down however was not a quick stop off. It was another hour of walking before we reached the rescue point. Thank goodness we reached it when we did as Kylie was burnt out. As the car pulled up a few porters who had hitched a ride up hopped out. We boarded the car and made our way to the base of the mountain. It was incredible to me to watch what would have taken us hours, minutes and to watch foot after foot vanish behind us. Who knew climbing a mountain would make you appreciate a simple luxury of moving without having to walk.
When we arrived at the base we were awarded our certificates for reaching Uhuru (independence) peak. We handed Abdul the tip amount, the ports were paid by William and we set out for Moshi. Moshi was a good break as we were able to buy our bus ticket to Tanga, restock on supplies, email our families, recharge our electronics, and generally acclimatize to life off the mountain… Aka civilization.
One experience there, while buying a local sim at a small wooden stand, a large group of nearly 25 or 30 men came around the corner shouting and chanting. It was quite a fearful experience provided I had no idea what was going on. Despite the swarming crowd that charged past me I felt very calm as I prayed for safety. I asked the lady I was buying the sim from what was going on and she told me the crowd had caught a thief and were seeking retribution. Was pretty eventful!
Afterwards I went back to Kylie who was at the Internet cafe just to make sure she was alright. Once we’d finished our business there, we set off with Abdul, Moody, and Alan for Hake, a small village outside of Moshi. We were uncomfortably packed into a tuktuk (bajaj) and away we went. We travelled for nearly 45 minutes down uneven road with little light or sign of where we were going. I thought to myself what if the car were to stop or if the tires went flat, etc and how we would respond. These weren’t fearful thoughts, but just ‘game plan’ checks to think through the scenarios. When we finally arrived at Abdul’s place. Abdul’s home was beautiful. His family all greeted us outside in the moonlight since the power had gone out for the entire village. It was such an incredible experience meeting them. Abdul told us to ‘feel at home’ and showed us to the spare room we could stay in. Even more amazing than having a place to sit after such a long climb, was the chance we had to shower with cold water. It felt so nice to wash off the mountain that had been our home for the past week or so. To feel clean again after swearing, toiling, and climbing in the same clothes day after day (yeah… Gross). After cleaning ourselves off we found out that Abdul’s grandfather had passed away while on the mountain and tonight he would need to go and greet people at his grandfathers home. We walked through the village by torch light to Moody’s home to also bring him along with us. We entered a very humble single room home where Moody, his wife and daughter all stated. There was a small bed with a mosquito net, a small TV in the corner, and several buckets where water was stored. Even though by our standards Moody had nothing he offered us some soda- a reminder about the generosity of people here in Tanzania. We then set off in the dark through Kahe (the village where most of our team lives) until we reached Abdul’s grandfathers home. There was a large gathering of men outside, all sitting around kerosine lantern light chatting in hushed tones. Abdul sent from group to group greeting them. The only thing that I could make out distinctly was Abdul’s ‘Asante’ which means thank you, I assume for the condolences being offered to him and his family. We walked through the final group to where a bench was set up for Kylie and I. A moment later, a man came and sat by us and introduced himself as Abdul’s older brother. Also a mountain guide, he had helped Abdul move up from being a porter to a guide in nearly half the time he’s spent as a porter. He explained to us that traditionally at a funeral there would be many groups of people sitting outside the home to give condolences to the family. The group we were invited to sit with was where the family was to sit. We felt very honored to be near to the family and learn about the various traditions. We weren’t at the place long, maybe after 30 minutes Abdul stood up and mentioned he would take us back home before he would return. We walked back through the dark and spent a moment at his brothers home which was the only place with lights on because of the solar panels he had installed. We talked about the book he was writing and the plans he and Abdul had to start their own guiding company. It was incredible to hear about the dreams of these two young brothers and the hopes they had for the future.
Shortly after chatting we were taken back to Abdul’s home where we were served dinner. It was simple and delicious, a meal of Chinese cabbage, rice, and potato. During our dinner we chatted with Abdul’s family about their lives. Abdul’s father has diabetes and wanted to know what medicines would be best to take and how best could he afford them, his mother wanted to know more about us and our experiences, and Abdul’s cats were content to stay on the opposite end of the house for which I was grateful. As we finished off our food conversation turned to the business idea Abdul wanted to start. We spent a good hour brainstorming and chatting with him about what he was trying to create. It was a lot of fun to see the spark of excitement in his eyes and the hopes he had for the future. Just before going to bed Abdul set up our mosquito net for us and wished us a good evening. Before departing, Abdul pulled off his Kilimanjaro guide bracelet and handed it to me saying ‘a gift for you. I better see it on you tomorrow.’ I was so touched by the gesture and the kindness. I’m wearing it now as I write as a momento to a good friend. Shortly after Kylie and I called it a night. Before drifting off Kylie and I both said that our stay in Tanzania has been the highlight of our trip, what an incredible amazing experience.