The Porters of Kilimanjaro


Buy from Amazon.com

The porters of Kilimanjaro are featured in my book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, which chronicles my attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The book is on sale now as an e-book for $3.99 and in paperback for $9.99 from Amazon and other booksellers.

They are the unsung heroes of any mountain climb — the guides, porters, and cooks who help climbers reach the summit and get back safely. The workers who serve on Mount Kilimanjaro are brave and dedicated souls who work for low pay and risk their lives to assist climbers in their quest to realize their dreams.

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Guides, porters, and cooks have helped thousands of people climb Kilimanjaro since the mountain was first summited in 1889. That team, led German professor Hans Meyer and Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller, included a local guide, nine porters, and a cook.

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Although climbers are responsible for getting themselves to the summit, their support team carries most of the gear and equipment they need to do the climb. Each porter and cook carries up to 15 kilograms (33 pounds), a heavy burden to bear for days and hours on end, again and again, up and down, in any kind of weather, over different kinds of terrain.

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Cooks carry all the food and equipment needed to prepare meals.

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Porters haul climbers who need to be evacuated from Kilimanjaro down in a mobile stretcher — something that looks like a wheel barrow.

Workers arrive at camps ahead of time and set up campsites so they’re ready when the climbers arrive. For every climber on the mountain, there may be three or more assistants helping them.

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Although working conditions on Kilimanjaro can be difficult, most guides, porters, and cooks are passionate about their jobs and take pride in being a member of an elite group. Many start out as porters or cooks and become guides after graduating from mountaineering school. Park management hires some graduates as park rangers. A few go on to start their own tour companies.

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Workers who don’t earn much money often make do with whatever clothing or equipment they can afford or hand-me-downs donated by climbers. In some cases, their wardrobe may consist of tattered shirts, light jackets, worn pants, loafers or tennis shoes with inadequate soles. Underdressed workers often race up the mountain and pass climbers with expensive clothing and gear.

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If you hire an outfitter or guide to help you climb Mount Kilimanjaro, please consider these suggestions when you’re on the mountain.

  • Meet your team. Get to know the guides, porters, and cooks who help you fulfill your dream. Tanzanians are generally friendly and helpful. They go to lengths to help those they care about, including their clients. Learning a few phrases in Swahili, the local language, will go a long way to building rapport with your team. They will remember you as the foreigner who spoke their language.
  • Pay decent tips. Many members of the support team earn very little on a climb. The pay is small but more lucrative than most jobs on the local economy since the guides and porters earn additional money from tips. Giving them a decent tip is the right thing to do. They work hard for you. There’s no set rule for the amount, but a decent tip is reportedly 15 percent of the fee you paid your guide shared among all members of the team.
  • Donate extra gear. You may not need some of your clothing and equipment after you finish your climb. Many climbers donate extra gear to the team. It’s a personal decision whether to give away your belongings, but your team will appreciate it. You can make a donation to any of the many porter support groups that help workers by giving away used gear in good condition. Many are online.
  • Treat workers with respect. The workers on Kilimanjaro work for you and other climbers. They are dedicated professionals and deserve your respect.

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I appreciate what my team did for me on my climb. There was no way I could have focused on climbing Kilimanjaro if I had to what they did for me. I’m grateful that they carried my heavy bags, set up and took down my tent every day, cooked and served me food, and made sure I survived.

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The workers on Kilimanjaro are heroes behind the scenes who deserve credit and respect for doing the difficult job of helping climbers reach a place that would otherwise be uninhabited by humans.

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More About Kilimanjaro

Click here to learn more about the book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill about the author’s attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.

Click here to learn about the fauna and flora on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read the story of the iconic wooden sign on Kilimanjaro’s summit and the metal one that replaced it in January 2012.

Click here to read about the vanishing glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read about The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the 1936 semi-autobiographical short story by Ernest Hemingway, the 1952 film, and the main character, Harry Street.

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M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

The Kilimanjaro Sign–Old and New


Buy from Amazon.comThe Kilimanjaro sign is featured in my book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, which chronicles my attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The book is on sale now as an e-book for $3.99 and in paperback for $9.99 from Amazon and other booksellers.

The Kilimanjaro Sign. It’s what every climber tries to reach when they attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Not only does it make a great photo op, it symbolizes achievement. They did it. They made it to the top of Kilimanjaro!

Until recently, the summit was marked by an iconic wooden sign with yellow lettering, covered with stickers left behind by climbers who wanted to leave their mark.

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The old Kilimanjaro Sign was more than a marker erected by the Tanzanian government on the top of Uhuru Peak, the highest point on Kilimanjaro. To many, it symbolized that they had beaten the odds and achieved something remarkable – standing on the rooftop of Africa. Thousands of photos of climbers next to the sign adorn desks or hang on walls around the world. Thousands more dream of taking their own photo with it.

The wooden sign, in English, read:

CONGRATULATIONS

YOU ARE NOW AT

UHURU PEAK TANZANIA 5895 M A.M.S.L.

AFRICA’S HIGHEST POINT

WORLD’S HIGHEST FREE STANDING MOUNTAIN

A fourth plank on the sign that read “One of World’s Largest Volcanoes. Welcome” disappeared by 2010. A box containing a logbook next to the sign vanished by 2007.

At 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above mean sea level (AMSL), Mount Kilimanjaro bears many distinctions. Among them:

  • It is the highest mountain on the continent of Africa and in the country of Tanzania.
  • It is fourth highest of the Seven Summits, the highest mountain on each of the world’s seven continents.
  • It is one of the world’s largest volcanoes, active or extinct.
  • It is arguably the highest mountain you can climb without technical gear.
  • It is arguably the highest free-standing mountain on Earth. Some say that Mauna Loa in Hawai’i is the highest based on its height from the ocean floor, although that is subject to debate. Of course, none compare to the volcano Olympus Mons on Mars, which, at more than 22,000 meters (72,000 feet), is three times higher than Mount Everest.

The old Kilimanjaro Sign listed all of these records. But now the iconic wooden sign is gone!

The New Kilimanjaro Sign replaced the old one at the summit in January 2012. The metal sign is bright green with yellow lettering. Reports suggest that the new sign was erected to commemorate Tanzania’s 50th birthday. (Then-Tanganika declared independence from Great Britain on December 9, 1961. The island of Zanzibar, which became independent in 1963, united with Tanganika to form Tanzania on April 26, 1964.)

What do you think of the New Kilimanjaro Sign? Will it replace the old one as an enduring symbol of Kilimanjaro in the hearts and minds of those who have reached the summit or long to climb it? Only time will tell.

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More About Mount Kilimanjaro:

Click here to learn more about the book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill about the author’s attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.

Click here to learn about the fauna and flora on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read about the dedicated guides, porters, and cooks who work on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read about the vanishing glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read about The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the 1936 semi-autobiographical short story by Ernest Hemingway, the 1952 film, and the main character, Harry Street.

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He recently published a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an ebook and in print on Amazon.com. His upcoming book, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, will be available in March 2012. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

Copyright note: Photo of the new Kilimanjaro sign courtesy of Pendaely Lauwo, Zephyr Adventures guide.

Resolve to Make 2012 A Great Year


Happy New Year! How did you enjoy ringing in the new year? Did you wake up feeling great or with a literal or proverbial hangover? Now that the celebrating has subsided, are you ready for 2012?

This year may be a momentous one with some major milestones on the calendar, from the Chinese Year of the Dragon to the end of the Mayan calendar. Some dates are already set, such as the Expo in Yeosu, South Korea (May 12-August 12), the Summer Olympics in London (July 27-August 12), not to mention the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars in August, and, barring a new framework agreement, the end of the Kyoto Protocol on December 31. Some major events this year are already known, while others are not. No one really knows what will happen in places such as North Korea, where newly-installed “supreme commander” Kim Jong Un takes over as leader; possible sanctions and threats to blockade the Strait of Hormuz; unrest in Syria and other protests sparked by the Arab Spring; the European financial crisis; protests in Russia; potential economic slowdown in China; general elections in the United States and in dozens of other countries worldwide. No one knows what will happen. On December 21, 2012, when the Mayans purportedly predicted the end of the world will occur, we’ll look back at the year 2012, analyze the fall out, and, hopefully, be around to tell about it on December 22. Until then, we can only speculate about the future.

There’s no reason to worry about 2012. We can only control what falls in our own sphere of influence, which for most people amounts to whatever affects us directly. What do you have planned for yourself this year? Have you considered making some life changes? I believe in making and achieving goals, and I consider New Year’s resolutions worthwhile. Realistic resolutions can help frame a goal and give you a specific objective to achieve. You may not achieve everything you set out to do in a given year, but if you achieve at least one resolution or make progress toward one, you’re better off than you were. I met half the resolutions I set for myself in 2011 and set some new targets to achieve in 2012. The ones I did not achieve will be carried over to this year. They range from publishing a new book to losing weight to strengthening my faith to learning the guitar. Some will be easier than others, but I resolve to tackle them all in the next 12 months.

Even if you’re not the type of person to make New Year’s resolutions, there’s one goal you can resolve to achieve this year. Make this year a better year than 2011. Make it the best it can be. It doesn’t matter if you had a good or bad year last year. Life can always be better. Resolve to make 2012 a great year.

Battle of the Bulge


Like many of you, I need to lose weight.  In fact, I need to lose a lot of it.  For years my body has carried a dozens of pounds more than my ideal weight (granted, the experts who calculate a person’s ideal weight seem to think it’s good to be very thin—perhaps too thin).  I’ve been too heavy since I was a child.  My weight has fluctuated over time depending on how much activity I do, and every five years or so I swing from lighter to heavier and back again.  I’m on my way down again and am about 15 pounds lighter than I was at this time last year.

I started working out aggressively in December because I’m tired of being fat.  It’s been a battle.  So far this month I’ve run or walked 30 kilometers, swam 600 meters, done some light weight lifting and sit-ups, cut back on eating bad foods, and faithfully taken vitamins and supplements.  How much weight have I lost this month for all this work?  Just 1.2 pounds.  I have to admit that it’s disheartening to work so hard for what seems to be so little to show for my efforts.  I take some comfort knowing that I’ve traded some fat for muscle, but I still have many pounds to shed.  It’s cold comfort.  I need to work harder to lose the pounds regardless of how much muscle I acquire.  Fortunately, the belly that’s analogous to wearing a 20 pound sack of flour on the torso has been shrinking lately, making it easier to tackle the deep, entrenched fat.  The “big guy” cackles I’ve heard for years are fewer and farther between than they used to be, so I know I’m heading in the right direction.

I won’t stop until I reach my ideal weight.  History is driving me to reach that hard-to-reach milestone.  Both my father and paternal grandfather died of heart attacks by age 61.  That’s far too young.  Although their unhealthy lifestyles undoubtedly contributed to their early demise, I know that I too am susceptible to the same fate if I don’t do something now to improve my health.  I want to do it before I develop any health conditions such as diabetes that would force me to change my lifestyle.  I would rather do it voluntary and if possible, avoid the same fate as my ancestors.

Training for a Triathlon


I signed up for the American School of Lusaka’s triathlon taking place on April 10.  It’s not a full triathlon, mind you.  I signed up for the intermediate option with six kilometers of cycling, a two-kilometer run, and a 200-meter swim.  I’m fit enough to complete the bicycle ride, but I still have some work to do to finish the run and swim.  I should be able to do the run after a month of preparation.  I decided that I will power walk if my legs or lungs fail me.  I power walk at about 70 percent as fast as I run.

I’m unsure, however, whether I’ll be able to finish the swim.  I measured our neighborhood swimming pool and calculated that I will need to do 16 laps in the pool to swim 200 meters.  I gave it a try this morning – it was freezing! – and swam just six laps before I quit exhausted.  Swimming uses a different set of muscles I haven’t exercised for quite some time.  Fortunately, I still have a month to prepare for this triathlon – time enough to build up my endurance.  I decided that each time I finish my power walk/run I’ll end it with a swim.  I wish I had time to do each event separately, but I don’t have enough time and figure I’ll need to practice doing all three at once before actually doing it.  Very likely my neighbors will do double-takes when they see some oddball using the pool in the dark.

My wife inspired me to try a triathlon.  She didn’t suggest it.  She led by example when she climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, a 19,000 peak in Tanzania, during the holidays earlier this year.  This pales in comparison to climbing a peak like Kili, and Jing accomplished it with even less training than I have had for this event.  I too would like to tackle Kili later this year, but I first need to push myself and do activities I’ve never done before to gear up for Kili – like doing triathlons and running road races.  I’ll decide at mid-year whether I’m ready to summit Kili and train accordingly.

Will I finish this mini-triathlon?  I’m not sure, but as the Little Red Caboose once said, “I think I can.”  If I do, I won’t be one of the first to cross the finish line.  I may not be able to finish the run or swim without stopping or walking.  But, I’ll give it my best shot.  The only one I’m racing against is myself.  Everyone else can pass me by.  As long as I cross the finish line, that will be enough of a victory for me.

Happy New Year


I wish you a happy and prosperous 2010.  I hope 2009 treated you well and that the new year will be even better.  What do you have planned for the new year? 

I’m one of those people who believe in making and achieving goals, and I consider New Year’s resolutions worthwhile.  Resolutions help one think about what needs to change and how to change it.  Unfortunately, it’s very easy to break resolutions because they usually focus on aspects of our lives that we continually struggle to improve.  Hence, “resolve” is a key aspect of resolutions, and one must have the resolve to achieve the resolutions they make. 

I’m as guilty as anyone in making and breaking my resolutions for the new year, so I have made three personal commitments this year that I hope will help me achieve my resolutions for 2010.  One, I chose goals that I am already pursuing and have already made some progress in achieving.  Two, I chose incremental targets for my goals rather than “pie-in-the-sky” aims that I know I will never achieve.  Third, I pledged to prioritize these goals, focus more on achieving them, and balance them with other responsibilities so they’re not superseded by life’s daily demands.  With these three commitments I hope to accomplish these resolutions by year’s end. 

Here are my personal goals for 2010:

  1. Make a major life change
  2. Lose weight (10 percent)
  3. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro
  4. Run (not walk) a 10-kilometer race
  5. Read half the Bible
  6. Stop one bad habit
  7. Write or update 25 short stories
  8. Go golfing three times
  9. Read ten books
  10. Increase our net worth by ten percent

If you haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions, I encourage you to try making some and make the commitment to follow through with them.  If you achieve even one, you increase your chances that you’ll end this year happier than you started it.

Whole Lifestyle Model revisited


Last August I wrote about the Whole Lifestyle Model, a way to balance key aspects of one’s life to make it a better experience.  I’ve been meaning to develop a matrix for this model, but alas my time has pretty much been dominated by a few time-consuming aspects of life.  I attached a sample of the draft model I developed showing nine different aspects of life.  The categories may change.  The basic premise of the model is that it is preferrable to balance the different aspects than to focus too much on just a few of them.  When too much focus is placed on the few, the others aspects suffer, leaving one feeling in a state of disequilibrium. 
 
I placed Faith & Spiritual Growth at the center of my model, but I think all aspects of life are important.  The model is not intended as a way to dictate how to manage one’s life; rather, it is a model for how to devote a most precious commodity–time–to all aspects of life so that life is balanced and fulfilling.  For example, my focus on investing is a part of Financial Security and Hobbies & Exploration.  However, I don’t want to let investing get in the way of exercising, which is necessary for Physical Health & Wellness.  Unfortunately, I still don’t exercise as much as I do, and I probably too much attention to investing.  I need to remedy that.
 
Dear Reader, please share your thoughts on this model.  What do you think of it?  Is it a good idea?  Did I miss any important aspects of life that should be added to this model?
 
Blog Note:  I’m reminded something I’ve been meaning to ask you, Dear Reader.  I’ve noticed that although many people visit World Adventurers, few people leave comments.  Why is this?  I love comments and feedback.  You’re always welcome to post a comment or two.