If you are not an experienced mountaineer then you’ll definitely need the help of a team of local guides and porters. This was the first time I’d climbed a mountain and I can safely say I wouldn’t have done it without the help of the guides we had.
If I had to use one word to describe our guides and porters it would be machines. Many of them make the trip up Africa’s highest mountain every two weeks. It’s an ordeal for tourists to do it once but for them it’s a standard way of life each month helping others to achieve their goal and complete a once in a lifetime experience.
Our guides were Wilson an John
Wilson was our main guide with John his aspiring assistant.
There were some quiet times when trekking on the mountain due to the toughness of the hike, well for me and my friend (not for Wilson and John who found it all very easy), but when we did find time to catch our breath we managed to chat to them about lots of stuff finding out about their families and themselves. Wilson was a Chelsea fan which may have been partially influenced by him meeting Roman Abramovich on the mountain a couple of years back. My friend though who was a Tottenham fan tried to convince to be a Spurs fan instead J.
As well as being very knowledgeable about the mountain Wilson was also very knowledgeable about politics and discussed Nelson Mandela in detail with us. He talked about how Mandela stayed near Moshi (the local town next to Mt Kilimanjaro) in a safe house for a while when he was in exile and on the run from the South African government.
John was a little quieter as he was trying to improve his English, which he was doing well. I’m not sure how much he learnt from us though as I kept trying to teach him random sayings like “Alright Chief” and “FML”, which I had the feeling of quite regularly! John was a local marathon runner so climbing a 6,000 metre mountain every other week was a walk in the park for him. I imagine he must have got pretty bored as he had to wait for me all the time when I was trekking to the summit in the snow.
Every day we were trekking there was the standard question from us which was “How long have we got to go John?” or “How long left till camp Wilson?”. We were like bored kids in a car asking if we were nearly there yet. Wilson and John sometimes got a little “creative” with their time estimations and decided sometimes not to tell us the real amount of time left to aid our motivation. Sometimes we’d stop for a rest and we didn’t want to start again so they’d say come on lets go or as they learnt from my friend … “Allez ..Lets Go”.
It was great to be able to talk to them though and learn about their culture and what they did in their everyday lives.
There was an interesting hierarchy for the guides and the porters and Wilson and John would have probably started as porters perhaps who carry a ridiculous amount of gear from large backpacks, cooking and kitchen equipment to stacks of garden chairs on their heads or butane gas bottles. We saw one porter with a big backpack on and stuff balanced on his head fly past us on the back way down the slippery rocky terrain wearing a pair of green converse trainers! This was quite embarrassing as I continued down gingerly in my heavy duty walking boots.
I spoke to John and he said that he was saving for a school fund for his son as he didn’t want him to be a guide like him and climb the mountain every two weeks. Whilst it appeared a Kilimanjaro guide was a well-respected job in Tanzania, it is a tough job and one that probably takes it’s toll on the body so I could see where John was coming from.
Getting a good guide is an important if you want to enjoy (as much as possible) your trip up Kilimanjaro. Our guides helped to make the trip for us and I wish them all the best for the future.
We booked with Kilimanjaro Tours as Bejal was great at getting back to us and the service was good and of a high standard.