Kilimanjaro: A Journey of a Lifetime


Between September 27 and October 11 2003, eight Canadians (almost all Newfoundlanders) banded together to for a trip to Tanzania, Africa. We wanted to summit the tallest mountain in Africa (Kilimanjaro at 5895m) and to explore a country, culture and a small part of a continent none of us had ever been to or experienced.

“Then they began to climb, and they were going to the east, it seemed…
and there ahead, and all he could see, as wide as all the world, great,
high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of
Kilimanjaro and then he knew that there was where he was going.”
(Ernest Hemingway, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, 1937)

The Group…

Aaron McKim (St. John’s, NL)
Chris Myrick (St. John’s, NL – Singapore)
Colin Murty (Ottawa, ON)
Duleepa “Dups” Wijayawardhana (St. John’s, NL – Edmonton, AB)
Keli Ryan (Ferryland, NL – Ottawa, ON)
Mike Mannion (St. John’s, NL – Montreal, QC)
Sujji Murthy (St. John’s, NL)
Santhi Murthy (St. John’s, NL)

Thinking back on it now, it is truly remarkable that we managed everything we set out to do. In the process, good friends became best friends: If you can survive 7 days in close quarters, not showering, listening to each other whine, get sick etc. and come out of it still talking to each other, then you’ve got a great bunch of people. Was it difficult? Certainly. High altitude is no joke, all of us were affected by some form of Acute Mountain Sickness during the trek. We are all lucky to have all 8 people summit: 100% success rate despite all our trials and tribulations.

“Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to
be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called by the
Maasai ‘Nga’je Nga’i’, the House of God. Close to the western summit
there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained
what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.”
(Ernest Hemingway, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, 1937)

Trekking a mountain

Kilimanjaro is a special mountain, it’s the world’s tallest free standing mountain, and the world’s highest volcano (not to mention the tallest mountain in Africa). It is a mountain trampled to death by tourists and every year thousands reach the peak. It is by no means a “difficult” mountain to trek. Anyone with a decent constitution and determination will get to the top. The trick is to go slow and acclimatize. We arranged our trip through Zara Travel who were most helpful in getting everything organized. One tip though, it’s not a 4-hour drive from Dar Es Salaam to Moshi.. Go to Nairobi, Kenya instead.

Our trek took us through the Machame Route. It’s a popular route (not as popular as the so-called “tourist” or “coca-cola” route Marangu) and has a high success rate, it is, however, longer but not especially physically demanding, other than the acclimatization and high altitude considerations. We would normally climb higher than we slept each day and it helped. We also broke the 6 day trek into 7 days with an extra acclimatization day. Honestly, if you are intending to try this, take the extra day, it’s worth it.

The weirdest part of the entire journey were the porters. If you are into climbing mountains without aids, then this will not please you. At the same time, it is not possible to do such a journey in 7 days without porters. It will be interesting how we fare in Aconcagua, Argentina where porters are not around…

“I ate ugali for breakfast with scrambled eggs, with tinned sardines or
salmon for lunch, with chicken stew or wildebeest curry for dinner.
Sometimes I would slice off a piece of cold ugali and … pour some
golden syrup on it – and that was ugali for pudding as well. We always
had ugali. Noone ever went hungry, because, if worse came to worst, you
could have some ugali and gravy, or ugali and meat, or ugali and fish,
or ugali and jam.”
(Christopher Ondaatje, Journey to the Source of the Nile, 1998)

Final thoughts…

Do it. Such trips with great friends really make you appreciate life, love and laughter. I highly encourage you to do this trip or others like it. The glaciers on Kilimanjaro are fast disappearing, and while the touristy nature of the mountain may put you off, it’s still a worthwhile accomplishment. On these pages you will find many photos and journal entries. Take a gander and drop us a line.

“The Swahili word for ‘white man’ is mzungu, which comes from mzungu
kati, meaning ‘wandering around in circles, going nowhere’.
(Christopher Ondaatje, Journey to the Source of the Nile, 1998)

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