Our guides were provided by the Marangu Hotel, located at the foot of Kilimanjaro, in the village of Marangu. The hotel has been guiding since 1932, the owner Desmond was born in Tanzania and first climbed Kilimanjaro at age 14. All staff at the hotel including receptionists have either attempted or climbed the mountain so that all are familiar with what lies ahead, and know exactly what the word “hard” means. The hotel provided intensive information via email and a 2 hour orientation meeting at the hotel dealing with issues ranging from altitude sickness (headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, dehydration, pulmonary and cerebral edema), sun protection, food, high altitude medication (Diamox), Tanzanian etiquette, what to expect on each day, how best to approach the climb physically and mentally, etc. Desmond tells us that on average 30% of the people fail to reach the top but their business has kept a database for years and the hotel has a success rate of 87% to the crater rim and 70% to the summit (the actual highest point on the mountain is a 210 m high bump on the rim of the crater). People most likely to fail are athletes and teenagers, because athletes push themselves too hard, and teenagers lack the discipline. An interesting psychological note is that the hotel only quotes recent successes and makes no mention of failures.
Suzette and Pammie listen to Desmond of Marangu Hotel during the orientation lecture
All of the Bulyanhulu group are concerned about malaria since we notice many mosquitoes (malaria is endemic to our area and a huge problem at the mine), but apparently there is no malaria here. Local knowledge has it that “traveling” is the cause of malaria.
Porters and support staff at Marangu Hotel lined up with our gear
The hotel lends out climbing gear free of charge as required, from sleeping bags, canteens, jackets, clothes, blankets, walking sticks, back packs, etc. Staff inspect your gear and provide extras where necessary.
The team: Jules, Pammie, Dr Hennie, Andrew, Suzette, Dave, Tracy, Luiz, and Brett kneeling. Johann is behind the camera most of the time.
John is the head guide, and has climbed Kilimanjaro over 100 times. He is in his upper 40’s but looks much older, and has the face of a gorilla (a nice gorilla though). Alternate guides are Kamili and Faustino, brothers, around age 60 or so they look, who have climbed the mountain over 350 times. It took me till the third day to realize they were two different people. Last alternate guide is Thomas, in his upper 20’s. There are 21 Tanzanian staff in total, the remainder being porters and cooks (one porter for each climber). The porters carry all our climbing gear, food, cooking utensils, and some water. We only carry small day packs with rain gear, warm clothes, water for the day, cameras, and snacks. Together there are 31 of us on the mountain and we are far and away the best looked after, particularly at meal times.Pammie and Brett during the packing