Tuesday 13 April 2021
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At Kilimanjaro’s Summit: A Dream Fulfilled

At Kilimanjaro’s Summit: A Dream Fulfilled


Part of my early years were spent at Warren Park 4 Primary School, a decent school situated about 20 km from Harare’s central business district.

An array of teachers joined hands to panel beat me and fuel an unquenchable desire to incessantly drink from the fountain of knowledge for they said it would make me a better individual who would contribute to the developmental cause of my continent.

“You are good enough to be president of this country,” Mrs Nyaruwanga, my fourth grade teacher would always tell me and I hope those words will one day translate into reality.

However, my seventh grade teacher, one Mrs Tawodzera, a fiercely short tempered woman who was quick to exercise physical punishment whenever she felt it necessary to knock sense into our ignorant heads was my favourite.

I was particularly impressed by her unbelievably rich oratory skills which made her paint stunning pictures with words that always left us jaw dropped.

Her descriptions were always heavily pregnant with colourful words that made us not only visualize what she was saying but almost touch it.

If she described how good her lunch was your stomach would rumble like a regiment of drummers with longing thinking she had lunch in one French hotel yet she would probably have had a worse meal than yours. That is how good she was.

Her artistry and wizardry with words reached an unassailable level when she took us on an imaginary tour of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world rising in breathtaking isolation from the surrounding coastal scrubland – elevation around 900 metres – to an imperious 5,895 metres (19,336 feet).

Her description of its height left our young minds bewildered. She said the gigantic mount is one of the world’s most accessible high summits, a shining beacon for visitors from around the globe.

Most climbers are said to reach the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, proper clothing and determination. And those who reach Uhuru Point, the actual summit, or Gillman’s Point on the lip of the crater, will have earned their climbing certificates and their inerasable memories.

By the time she had finished her description we were standing proud but seriously drained atop of Mount Kilimanjaro.

My recent escapade at the mount located inside the Kilimanjaro National Park outside of Moshi town was heavily influenced by that lesson more than 15 years ago.

Having chosen the Lemosho route one of the seven routes to the apex, we were provided joined by armed rangers who are paid to ensure our safe passage to the summit.

Before the trek was set in motion, I was privileged to lay my eyes on Africa’s tallest tree which is just at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The indigenous Entandrophragma excelsum which imposingly stands at 81.5m, it is the 6th tallest tree in the world and is estimated to be between 500 to 600 years.

Armed with a walking stick, proper trekking clothing, drinking water and undiluted determination I was eager to fulfil the dream that was birthed by my primary school teacher.

The beauty of the flora and fauna on the way up was stunningly unbelievable. One could see huge tree ferns, sycamore trees, junipers, as well as moss also known as “old man’s beard” as well as a multitude of plants, some of which are endemic like the “impatiens kilimanjari.”

Birds ranging from tropical Boubous, Hartlaub Turacos, Green Wood Hoopoes, Silvery cheeked Hornbills could be seen in the lower-lying areas such as the forest zone.

Somewhere atop the trees, sounds of primates such as blue monkeys, colobus monkeys and olive baboons could be heard.

The guide however dampened my spirits and strangled the excitement of seeing an array of animals that had built within me when he said animals are more numerous down in the forest zone than anywhere else on the mountain; unfortunately, so is the cover provided by trees and bushes, so sightings is rare.

This was only for a short while as the environment continued to satisfy my insatiable hunger for nature satisfaction.

The weather changes were remarkable with temperatures reaching over 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and sinking to below zero at night.

Some threw in the towel and asked to descend. About 35,000 people begin the climb each year. How many reach the summit is an elusive statistic but I was determined not to be part of the statistics.

Trekking past the Shira ridge, the oldest and smallest summit on Kilimanjaro lying on the western edge of the mountain, Mawenzi which is the second highest peak on Kilimanjaro and looks less like a crater than a single lump of jagged, craggy rock emerging from the Saddle an finally to the Kibo summit.

This is the best preserved crater on the mountain; its southern lip is slightly higher than the rest of the rim, and the highest point on this southern lip is known as Uhuru Peak; highest point in Africa and the goal of just about every Kilimanjaro trekker.

True to my vow, I was at the summit after five days of a thoroughly breathtaking and painful exercise and most importantly, my 15 year old dream finally became a reality.