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Faded glory in the shadow of the mountain

Marangu, Tanzania

sunny 25 °C
View Tanzania 2005 on GregW's travel map.

The Kibo Hotel in Marangu, Tanzania is often described in the guidebooks as having a "faded" glory. The lobby bar and dining hall are decorated with the trappings of romantic Africa - spears and shields hanging beside skulls of dead game animals on a bamboo wall. The place used to be swank, witnessed by the fact that President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter stayed there in 1988 to tackle Kili, as well as the "Aga Khan's personal representative." I have no idea if the Aga Khan spent the night somewhere else, or simply sent someone to climb in his place.

So the Kibo Hotel is where I started my adventure. Or should I say expedition. Sounds much better, a mountaineering expedition.

I had a day to kill, so I wandered the 1 kilometer into Marangu town. I wanted to go and see the Kinukamori falls, about the only attraction in Marangu other than the entrance to Kilimanjaro National Park. The falls are the mythical place where a young woman who was pregnant was going to jump off so as to not bring shame to her family. She changed her mind and turned around to go home, but was frightened by a tiger and fell off anyway. That's karma for ya.

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I tried walking there on my own, but soon was lost. There are no signs directing you anywhere in Tanzania. Poor tourist infrastructure I was thinking when suddenly a man and young boy came up beside me and started talking. Soon they were leading me to the falls, and I realized that Tanzania has a fantastic tourist infrastructure. It's just that you have to have someone to guide you to places. But it is always so easy to find a guide.

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This is so common a practice that one day (after the climb) I was wandering into town with one of the mountain guides with me when an old man (obviously tipsy) came up and started walking beside us. He asked where we were going, and jumped ahead saying he knew the way. Well, so did we. When we got where we were going, the old man asked for money for "guiding us." Obviously my mountain guide friend refused politely. Or at least it sounded polite, it was all in Swahli. But I am sure he wouldn't be mean.

That night I went to sleep to a buzzing. I turned back on the light to find a large fly buzzing around my room. I grabbed the closest thing (the gideon bible) and started chasing the fly. Unfortunately, the faded glory of the Kibo Hotel also includes 15 foot ceilings, so I was no where near being able to hit the bugger. After a 10 minute exhausting chase, I had to give up.

"Alright, Mr. Fly, here's the deal," I said, watching the fly who had settled on the ceiling above my bed, "I am going to sleep, you go to sleep too, and we will continue this in the morning."

Amazingly, it worked. I woke up in the morning, and the fly was still in the same spot as the night before. When he heard me stir, he flew straight for the door and landed on the floor in front of it. I walked over, opened the door, and he flew out.

That, my friends, is the elegence of the Kibo Hotel. Even the flies are gentle creatures.


The next day, I met the rest of the team on the expedition.

Our guiding crew is lead by Happyson (prounounced, Hap-son). He is assisted by guides Paul, Mikeke, Slyvester and Bernard. Our chef, or stomach engineer as he says, is James. Marathon is one of the porters, and our waiter most nights. We will also be accompanied by around 35 - 40 porters.

The paying customers are Tom. Tom is my roommate for the trip. 21 years old, this is the last blast in his 7 month around the world journey. Amazingly, he starts soon at Accenture, my old company, so I gave him what I hope are some decent pointers on how to get ahead in the company. As long as no one tells him I have been stuck as a senior consultant for 5 years, everything should be okay.

Jim from Glasglow is the senior Babu of the group (babu = grandfather, a name given to Jim by the guides). He's from Glasglow, and is on this adventure with his two grown kids, Audrey and Andy, and a friend of his Len.

Rounding out the group is Ann (Virginia, U.S.A.), LeBleu (NYC, USA), Maria and Dorrian (Welsh) and Peter (Ajax, Ontario).

The morning of the 23rd, we loaded up into a bunch of 4WD vehicles and started the 3 hour drive to the gate we were entering by. Half way there our 4WD dropped a shock. The driver got out, and after arguing with the navigator for a few minutes, they waved a passing truck over. They borrowed a wrench from the truck, removed the shock, threw it in the back of the 4WD, and we hopped back in and drove on. This, I would learn, is standard Tanzanian fix it behavior.

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And with that, we were off on the mountain.

Posted by GregW 18:59 Archived in Tanzania

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