By Al Qalam Reporter
If you ever happen to be in Tanzania and want a taste of Mt Kilimanjaro – but not yet ready to climb to the summit; or just don’t have the time – then opt for the one day hike along the slopes which is bound to get your heart pumping, as Imraan Buccus, editor of Al Qalam found out.
Buccus, who is also the research fellow in the school of Social Sciences at the UKZN, and academic director of a study abroad program on political transformation, was on academic business – and had a day to spare – when he decided to book the hike from the town of Arusha.
“I had a day to spare before flying to Rwanda and the DRC for similar academic seminars, and simply could not let this opportunity to hike up the slopes pass me by,” he said.
Buccus booked the hike with a local tour company in Arusha – and was impressed with their professionalism.
“The hike started with an early morning drive from Arusha. I soon discovered that the driving estimate to the start of the climb was way off the mark. In the past, the drive to the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro would take about 90 minutes, but our trip took three hours, largely as a result of dramatic speed restrictions, stringently enforced by Tanzanian speed cops. And, somewhat surprisingly, drivers dutifully obey, he said.
For the serious climber, hiking to the summit would take at least five days where the climber would have to break the trek by staying in huts along the way.
“The highest point of Kilimanjaro is 5,895 m above mean sea level. To climb such a massive mountain would indeed be a huge accomplishment.
“Because I had just one day to spare, I decided to book the hike to Mandara Hut that took me along the Marangu Route up. This route, also nick-named the ‘Coca-Cola Route’ is the second most popular route up the mountain. It is the only route that allows climbers to stay in huts as opposed to tents. You begin the hike at what is referred to as ‘Marangu Gate,’ at an elevation of 1970 m.
“If you are fairly fit, it’s a relatively easy 8.5km hike through forest vegetation for the majority of the way, taking you to a significant 2700 m. One is then greeted by a much-anticipated set of huts, known as Mandara Camp.”
Buccus said he was blown away by the lush vegetation, abundant bird life and the numerous black and white Colobus monkeys that darted from vegetation along the route.
“The guide and I got to Mandara hut earlier than expected and I immediately took up his offer to keep going. And we did at least another 3.5km of climbing.
“On our return to Mandara, I was given a sumptuous packed lunch and soaked in the amazing views and atmosphere. The trek back down is somewhat quicker but it definitely has a greater impact on your knees. Back down after close to eight hours, we had covered a total of 23 km.”
Buccus said the experience gave him a greater appreciation of nature and a healthier respect for humanity.
Being in Tanzania, Buccus recalled how the country gave refuge to our liberation heroes.
“Tanzania’s hospitality to our liberation movements knew no boundaries. The well-known April 1969 conference of the ANC was also hosted here – in Morogoro. In fact, Dar-es-Salaam was not only a place of peace but it was also a hub where the Robert Mugabes, Oliver Tambos, Laurent Kabilas and Che Guevaras could commune and plot the freedom of their countries. Wave upon wave of exiles flooded into Tanzania attracted by its ideological innovations and consistently warm welcome.”