Travel – Kilimanjaro: The guide, cook and three porters

2014-08-08 18:45

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Let me tell you the one about the guide, the cook and three porters.

It’s the story of how I climbed Kilimanjaro. The summit is merely the cherry on the 5?895m-above-sea-level top. The cliché about the importance of the journey definitely applies.

That said, standing on Uhuru Peak after reaching it by the light of the full moon, watching the sun rise over an African horizon while surrounded by glaciers tinted light pink by the morning rays will be one of the most special moments you’ll experience in your life.

That is, unless you’re driven mad by mountain sickness or bent over double while losing your midnight snack on your shoes because of the altitude.

Fortunately, neither of these applied to me. With the shortness of oxygen spinning my world a bit, I hugged my guide, Nicolaus Shirima, thanking him profusely. Nico, having done this more than 150 times in the past 10 years, merely looked relieved – and a little amused and cold.

The cook: Zigi

On our second day, the War of the White Bread was looming. I refused to eat four slices of bread on top of three other starches. The cook, Zigi, was worried that an undercarbed woman would never make the peak.

So he made French toast, delicious pancakes and flat bread, and spiked the fresh vegetable sauce, my favourite, with flour and pasta. Every afternoon when we put up tents, I’d get popcorn and tea, and runny millet porridge with some egg and fried potato in the morning.

The force-feeding stopped after summit morning (on day five) and when Zigi put on an apron with the words Kiss the Cook. I did so and we made up.

The porters: Simon, Julius and Harry

Kilimanjaro’s people treated me like a queen. The porters, cook and guide are compulsory (by law). I initially resented this, being a do-it-yourself girl, but later I loved seeing the Tanzanians – four or five per tourist – claim ownership of the mountain.

The porters effortlessly ran up and down the paths with 20kgs of food and odd-shaped luggage on their backs and heads – think camping chairs, pots and portable toilets.

Julius, who spoke almost no English, won me over on the first rainy, muddy day when my tent was already pitched when I arrived at the camp while he stood there smiling.

My main responsibility, besides walking and eating, was to wash myself in a small bowl of hot water twice daily. Then I’d read and wait for Simon to bring me food and enquire about my health. I didn’t see much of the third porter, Harry.

The guide: Nico

Back and showered in Moshi Town, Nico took me to a local for some Kilimanjaros. I was buying. The beers were more easily conquered than the mountain.

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