Monthly Archives: April 2013

Kilimanjaro

On break from the big ride, I had a chance to climb Kili. It is about a year since I climbed this mountain. Apart from the challenge to climb this volcanic mountain, with all the side stories and observation, is the chance to travel back in time. Herein lies the story of life transformation. Everyone has certain memories. My memories of Kili have certain profoundness, from being such a young boy taking on extreme work, carrying a basket full of produce sometimes twice my weight; counting my footsteps from one minute to five hours; leaking sweat; hoping that I would finally reach the point when I could throw the basket away and run back down to the village to scavenge in the markets.

Here also is where my log time observation of environmental degradation is taking place, I have seen huge changers which make me felt that i’m not another ‘Doomsday Prophet’. Long team unsustainable human activities have impaired  ecosystem leading to loose of natural resource to sustain growing population. More over this have been result of slow shrinking glaciers and rising temperature, there is lot of uncertainty but quiescence of all might be very expensive.

The transition from boyhood to manhood happened here and leaves behind notions of age or numbers; wisdom was learned here.It was a deep lesson of discipline, overcoming intimidation which was still dominating our culture. Together with several other aspects, I had the chance to get to know man of a different color; learning that he wasn’t more or less valuable than me (or at least I convinced myself that thought).

Many changes have taken place between then and now. II still climb mountains occasionally, managing the crew or leading the trek because I still enjoy this adventure, and would like to inspire more to experience this, to add spice to their lives. Today it seemed like time had never passed at all. I’m seeing the same things I had seen ten years ago. Yes, even some porters I worked with back then – they are still here! Now they are senior porters – unfortunately this doesn’t mean anything more for them: no harsh treatment from the guides, maybe, but instead a strong and harsh treatment of younger porters. Unlike my days as a child porter, today the porter loads their own weight. However, as with most cases of new systems, these things require time. This change requires a mental change rather than following a specific improvement, and therefore some porters will bribe corrupted park rangers to allow overweight loads to be taken, with the poor porter also bribed to get this pitiless work. Knowing the consequences of these actions, I still find it hard to understand people who take these positions. If this is human nature, I’m yet to understand it. The amusing part is that this kind of situation will become tenser as the environment intensifies. Arguments come through every task and hash treatment will be the norm until the last night before heading back to town. Apparently, however, these porters are very good friends in normal life!

It is interesting observing the appearance of the hikers and their crews. Porters are strong, except for a few who are still new – their faces speak out very strongly. They know or imagine what is lying beyond those green, tall trees. Their clothes, which have changed in the period of time through a soaking in sweat, are washed in the mud or alkaline water. Their shoes speak of the turbulence of supporting such weight, through the mud, clay, rocks, rains, ice; through loose gravel when they have to move with their rhythm only. Most of their bodies have burned away all the fat, leaving a good proportion of meat and muscles.

Language and culture is a big bridge between a crew and their clients. This is very obvious, as you will see ‘Tourists’ Toilet’ often in good condition compared to the ‘Porters’ Toilet’; occasionally leaning to one side, almost resigned to give service. Tourists are equipped: these guys do special shopping for the occasion, often equipped from top to bottom with gadgets and equipment which make the crew think they will hike the rocks without having to eat! Yet this is not what experience has taught the experienced crew members. Adding more oddity in the scenario, tourists will stretch, test out their gear and hike up and down (often because they feel unsettled) but appear very confident indeed!

After all is sorted out in an endless amount of time, the journey begins. If tourists are lucky, they will be introduced to their crew. ‘Hellos’ will be exchanged with big smiles, then porters will set off with their bundles on their head and their bitten-up backpacks hanging on their backs.

This is the beginning of the journey to the roof of Africa. Most parts of this journey are a personal story but much will be tested here. For me, here is where Mother Nature resides: she reveals herself in many ways. Mountain Kilimanjaro is unique place, composing several distinctive habitats. From the Savannah plane, it gives rise to the green farming belt perched with corrugated iron roofs and broken by villages. The villages will give way to painted forests and rainforests with amazing biodiversity. The vast names of the flora and fauna (especially flora) prove that they are only known to gods so far. The moorland vegetation will give rise to alpine desert before you start to encounter ice and glaciers and find out you’re in weather you would never imagine to find, just three degrees south of the equator.

There is no day which can optimize another, all come with striking natural bounty. From a sea of green rainforest with a single long path, the sounds are repeated before all fall into the rhythm and feel almost like they do not exist. The next day will be you on top of clouds, with expansive vistas which make you breathe deeply, like you’re trying to absorb the whole of it. In the morning, while the mighty sun is trying to creep through those deep clouds, it blends vast colors. Challenge come along this beauty, to allow you to appreciate every single day. By the third, fourth, fifth day, tourists will reveal what is lying down in their hearts while the crew try to swallow more deeply and continue their journey against this irony.

The services vary up here at the expense of money and man-power: you’re likely to have different meal every day, more or less beyond your expectation.

The summit day is long, as it has been long awaited.It is tough when you have to let others drop the ball whilst a majority takes on the final challenge.

The way down is a conflict of the mental and physical: you have an argument in your mind to go down fast to a lower elevation, but battle the legs, which have been climbing for most of five days.  It becomes tricky.

The last night is supposed to be restful night, yet the crew will be up from five in the morning – they are ready to get it over with, and are full of eagerness about how much they will make. This is different to the tourists, who are still endowed with feelings of achievement. Tips are such an important element for the crew, since they might be more than their wages. Some tourists, out of need, sympathy, pity or kindness will give away their expensive gear and other sort of gifts.

I have seen this journey change lot of people’s life perspective in different ways. Likewise for the crew, this will bring opportunities; add value and quality to their life and their extended lives.

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Catching up

It have been little while since my last entry here. There has been a lot that’s taken place in the Chile to Kili realm, and even for me myself behind this initiative. For this post, I’d like to talk about some of the people I’ve been meeting back home. One of the tasks during this preparation break is to meet students who could be potentially offered Chile to Kili scholarships. This is not an easy task since there are so many passionate and determined youth for these few opportunities, which seem to be like just a drop of water in the driest desert.

 

For Chile to Kili initiative goals of conservation education, we try to focus to deliver these opportunities to those who come from the boundaries of natural reserves and those who need the help the most. I started traveling in the coast and other remote part of north-eastern Tanzania which also foster lots of natural reserves. The challenge for most of these young people is a lack of clear direction – most Tanzanians don’t have career goals, or know what they want to do beyond “just getting a job”; this is a consequence of a rote-learning colonial-style educational system that is good at producing clerks. Others in the remote areas – like those who come from pastoralist communities, but who play a huge role in conservation – are the least educated, and may even require short course of language before the naturalist or ecology training.

 

I was lucky enough to have grown up in a place where I could fall in love with the natural world and wildlife of Tanzania. It’s a disappointment to me now that I’m back that I find that so many of the young people here who even get opportunities to study conservation or work in wildlife areas don’t appreciate the chance and prefer to live in the city, and don’t understand the importance of the wild world that tourists come to see here.

 

I met Lilian Mremi through other Conservation Resource Centre members. Lilian has a deep passion in wildlife and environmental conservation – . She was born 22 years ago in Kilimanjaro region in Tanzania. She grew up and there and was educated in public schools both primary and secondary level. She recently completed her Technician Certificate in Wildlife Management at the College of African Wildlife Management (Mweka) and holding a one year certificate.

 

Due to great desire of environmental and wildlife habitats conservation, also community development through educating them on sustainable utilization of environment and its resources, she decided to study wildlife management at Mweka college of African wildlife management. However due to financial difficulties, she opted to work as a teacher at Mwika secondary school after completing A-level studies at Majengo Secondary in 2010. She engaged in teaching Biology and Chemistry subjects for a year and managed to save some of college fees to MWEKA and the rest of it was donated by family friends and relatives.

 

As connecting with her career goal “to live in healthy and sustainable environment and see a responsible community in environment and wildlife conservation”.  Lilian is asking for a scholarship through Chile To Kili to help her pursue a diploma course in wildlife management at Mweka.

 

This scholarship will help her fulfill her career dream; the education that she will obtain at Mweka College of African wildlife management will improve her understanding and widen her knowledge on wildlife, their ecology and environment in general. Her future career would be a focus on working with community – especially youth – on formation of small groups in every village that will be voluntary working together to protect and restore environment, wildlife habitats and their ecology.  The skills obtained by the youths from these small groups will build and enhance their leadership abilities and change community perception and attitudes towards conservation.

 

Two other possible candidates are two Maasai youths – Songali Kicheche and Loio Mandati.

 

Songali and Loio are from the Ngorongoro Crater area,their village  is situated in the second crater, Empakai (Empakai village). Neither of them were able to go beyond primary school. They have managed to overcome many challenges. Growing up in the pastoral community and now have to pursue their life and career in the modern economy is one of their main challange.  Songai and Loilo have been living in Arusha city for a while not because they like to abandon their life in the natural pristine home land, they need to be here in order to find work,  they are now Kilimanjaro porters. This is very difficult job even for those who are more accustomed to manual labour. I admire the determination of these young fellas, I visited their homeland. There are good chances for these youth to realize their potential of their dreams of becoming naturalist and guides in their respective area which attract hundred of tourists as well as students and researchers.

 

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