Wonderful memories and some great pictures
Over Christmas 2014 I went on a 7-day trek up Kilimanjaro via the Rongai route with Original Tanzania, who are a company based in the UK and in Tanzania. Elias and Sarah run the company – Elias is Tanzanian and an experienced Mountain Guide and Sarah is British. This put me at ease, as I felt that I could ask anything and would be given a straight and honest answer from people who know first hand what it’s like to climb Kili.
Originally I planned to do another route, but was advised by a seasoned Kili climber and a friend in the UK that the Rongai route was a good route to take up Kili. Sarah and Elias at Original Tanzania were really helpful and enabled me to make the change at very short notice without any issue at all. I was really pleased I took this route. There were a great deal fewer people on it compared with other routes and it was nice to experience a little solitude in a place where I had expected masses of people. The walking was sedate and I enjoyed it a lot. Being on my own with the guide enabled me to ask as many questions as I wanted and we exchanged a lot of information about our respective countries’ cultures.
For this route I had a guide, a cook and six porters. It seemed like a large team for a small person, but it was great because I felt confident that the porters weren’t carrying more weight than they should. I also know that Original Tanzania pay their staff fairly in accordance with Tanzanian guidelines and the staff all seemed happy. We had a lot of fun and laughter along the way.
My guide was called Filbert and I can say that he made this trip. His care and consideration made my summit possible. He was superb, knowing exactly when to give encouragement and when to tell me to get moving. Without Filbert there is no way I would have summited – it truly was the most difficult physical endeavor I have ever done and I am so appreciative of his genuine support and lovely sense of humour. We had a great time.
Upon my return to Honey Badger Lodge after the summit, one of the porters agreed to show me around Moshi, for which I gave him a tip of $10. The trip into town was a wonderful thing to do after summiting and I felt it gave me a safe and easy way to see the town without the stress and hassle involved in trying to catch a bus on my own with a plane to catch in the afternoon. He has stayed in touch on Whatsapp! He also helped me to sort my airport transfer.
Having come from Mozambique where food had been difficult to find in a few places I was really surprised at the fabulous quality and great variety of food I got from the cook, Mchomi. My favourite were some tasty banana fritters, which he managed to knock up throughout the entire trip of 7 days. There was loads of fresh fruit and vegetables and also lots of meat (which I had requested – I'm a bit of a meat head!). This surprised me, as I thought the food would deteriorate as the trip progressed. It didn't – it was consistently tasty. What was amazing was that I had trouble with gluten after the first day and the guide spoke to the cook to see if it could be adapted. Miraculously a low gluten meal appeared and continued for the rest of the trip. The food you’re eating can make such a big difference to your trip, so this was great.
My dates and times for this trip were very specific and I decided that I wanted to go with a reputable company with a face rather than a large company. I was surprised that the cost wasn't much more than I would have paid had I gone with a large group. I ended up doing the whole trip on my own with my 'crew'. I am a very sociable person, so it surprised me that I loved having time to myself to contemplate the journey and to get lost in my own thoughts. I highly recommend it!
Logistics & Communication
Sarah and Elias have been absolutely A1 throughout the whole trip, being on call via email and phone whenever I needed it. This is another aspect that shouldn't be overlooked.
Of note was their attention to making sure I had the right gear. Elias went through everything with a fine tooth comb and gave me superb advice specific to me – he was very knowledgeable, but also didn't want me to pay for things if I didn't need them. I felt that I could trust him from the start and it turned out to be true throughout the trip. At the end I realised that I had made a mistake with the transfer cost and didn't have enough money for the transfer to the airport. They immediately spoke to Honey Badger Lodge and agreed to pay it upfront for me, so I could repay in the UK. What great service is that!!
All in all an amazing experience - the most difficult trip of my life so far, with wonderful memories and some great pictures.