I spent seven days hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro when I traveled across Tanzania. I summited on the sixth day, and made it all the way to the bottom of the mountain on the seventh day. Getting to the end of the trail head was an adrenalin rush and there was so much to celebrate. Luckily, the group I climbed with had our porters to help us celebrate.
I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with a group of (about) 20 people, which means we had (about) 20 porters who carried our bags up the mountain (it is law to hire porters when you hike Mt. Kilimanjaro), plus a few other guides who led our daily hikes. There is no way I would have made it made it to the top of the mountain without those porters or guides. For one, the porters carried my bag (which included all my clothes, a sleeping bag and pad, lots and lots of extra socks and whole bunch of other gear) so I all I had to worry about carrying was a small day pack that weighed less than 10 pounds. The porters also pitched our tents everyday, so all I had to worry about was resting for the next day’s hike by the time we made it to camp. Oh, and did I mention they also cooked all of our (delicious) meals the entire trip? These guys were incredible The guides were also my biggest cheerleader. They paced me to ensure I would make it to the top. They helped me kick altitude sickness in the butt. They told me I could do it when I doubted myself, carried extra water to make sure I stayed hydrated, and kept me laughing the entire hike. They got me to the top of that mountain.
The first thing we did when we arrived to the bottom of Mt. Kilimanjaro was sign our name in a book to “document” our summit hike. Who knows how official that really was? Then, we all bought Coca-Colas to cheers. Then it was time to say our million thank yous to the porters and guides. We couldn’t say it enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you! As we exchanged hugs and our appreciation, the porters lined up and gave us their own thank you back by singing a song they called “The Kilimanjaro Song.” It was a really special moment for everyone involved. I am so thankful I had my video camera handy so I can still remember it clearly today.
I felt so many things when they were singing “The Kilimanjaro Song”. For one, my knees were killing me. The hike down Mt. Kilimanjaro was definitely hard on them. I was so relieved to have the opportunity to rest. I was mentally and physically exhausted. As I’ve written before, hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro was the toughest mental and physical thing I’ve ever accomplished. I was also a little disappointed the experience had come to an end. I prepared for the trip for nearly a year. I counted down the days, planned and trained for months. But I was also so thankful for the experience. It exceeded every expectation I had, and much of that had to do with the kindness and thoughtful guidance from the men who showed us the way to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I am especially thankful for my hiking guide, Simba (that is not his real name but rather our nickname for him which means “lion” in Swahili). He told me at the beginning of the hike that there was no way I would make it to the top if I didn’t find something to laugh about every day while on the mountain. He said the happier and more positive you are, the more likely you will be to make it to the top. I’m sure there is no science behind this thought, but it definitely kept me putting one foot in front of the other and for that I will always be grateful. //TT