January 24, 2011

Towards the summit of Kilimanjaro

Chapter 5 – A step toward Kilimanjaro

Thomas Kieller

Photos – Copyright United Athletes Magazine

The road leading to Simba Farm.

After the 60 km walk, I was looking for a little bit of rest and I found it at Simba Farm where the owners Yoka and Sjouke Bruinsma have 2,200 hectares of land. There, they cultivate various vegetables and do animal husbandry.

At my arrival in the afternoon, the Dutch Wim van Leara, who is Yoka's brother, welcomed me and offered me his hospitality because the owners were not there that day. When Wim saw me a little bit tired by the effort that I gave during the country hike, he invited me to have a good beer in the main garden while watching the sunset and Mount Meru far away. Under these conditions, there is no need to rush, and so, I simply enjoyed the scenery.

Then, around a table, we shared a meal made of products which came from the farm. We know that freshness of the ingredients makes all the difference. It brings out the taste of the dishes even more. During this supper, I exchanged numerous colourful stories with Wim who is a great strapping man of two meters and who supervises the production of the vegetables. He has also worked in many other huge farms in Europe, Africa and Asia. Combined with his studies in this field, he knows his job quite well! For many years, he lives and works at the Simba Farm which is at the footsteps of Kilimanjaro. He explained to me the activities which have to be done for the production of the vegetables while telling me his experiences in Tanzania. This way, I had the point of view of an European on the local situation...

The next day, we visited the fields where many workers were busy doing there daily tasks. My host mentioned to me that at every great wheat harvesting, which is used amongst other things to make the famous local beer called Kilimanjaro, there are 400 Tanzanians who are in the fields. Whatever the season, it is obvious that there is no lack of work on this farm where the arms of men and women support greatly the agricultural machinery. We can understand that to earn his living in Tanzania, one must work hard. Since my arrival in this country, I saw the huge contrast between their lifestyle and mine.

The sojourn at Simba Farm allowed me to regain some energy. Now, I was going to continue my adventures with seven days of climbing and two days of going down.

But before starting the ascent, I met Simon Mtuy with whom I will climb Mount Kilimanjaro. This Tanzanian guide, who has many years of experience behind him, has done more than 400 expeditions on this volcano. He is an excellent long distance runner, and besides, he is also the record holder of the fastest ascent and descent of Kilimanjaro and ex-record holder with assistance. He told me that in August 2010, he trained and helped in his preparation a Spanish runner, Kilian Jornet. This Spaniard broke the record of the fastest ascent and descent of Kilimanjaro with assistance in 7 hours 13 minutes 50 seconds. An impressive performance! Simon is really proud to have contributed to its achievement. Colourful and determined, he is also the owner of the Summit Expeditions and Nomadic Experience1 which organize expeditions on Kilimanjaro. So, I was happy to do the ascent with him.

Besides, I saw for the first time all the members of the team: the guide Simon, the assistant-guide Jacksoni, the cook Kiplet, the waiter Ernest, the 14 porters and a Canadian couple who were also taking part of the ascent.

My two main objectives during this ascent were to reach the summit of the mountain and to do there an interview with Simon.

On a sunny morning of October, the team started its nine day walk by passing through the Londorossi Gate which is at 2,100 meters of altitude on the west side of the mountain, and then, we took the Lemosho route. At the bottom of the mountain, we saw hundreds of Tanzanians who were working in a forestry site. Some experts say that this human activity has a certain impact on the melting of the ancient glaciers in the crater.

Walking in the forest of Kilimanjaro.

It is among the coniferous trees that we began our way up than we continued to follow the path in a forest of broad-leaved trees. Concerning the decor, I have always liked passing through a forest because the atmosphere relaxes me and the scenery is simply incredible. Besides, the African vegetation has a lot of surprises to offer to the foreigner. Now, I was feeling the frenzy. I was in an environment which was quite different from my country.

1. Thomas asked the services of the Summit Expeditions and Nomadic ExperienceThis link will open in a new window. (main office in Moshi) in order to take charge of the logistics regarding the ascent of Kilimanjaro.