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The Guides and the Porters

The Guides and the Porters
 
 

ALTHOUGH we had our briefing for the climb last night, none of our guides or porters had been present. We were due to meet them this morning.

I re-joined our group at breakfast following a very good night's sleep. The sky was again too hazy and cloudy to see the mountain, and I was beginning to think that perhaps it is always surrounded by cloud, as many mountains are. After all most mountains are cloud magnets.

We wait for the guides and porters
We wait for the guides and porters

After breakfast, I finished packing and brought my main backpack to the courtyard outside reception. A row of backpacks already lay along one of the walls, and one of the porters (I assumed he was one of our porters) told me to put my backpack there as well.

I returned to my room to pick up my valuables. This included my netbook computer, guessing I won’t have any time to write up the mountain. There was also the bag containing the telephoto lens. From experience I never take zoom shots when I am up mountains, plus there wasn’t much chance of seeing wildlife, so there was no point in me lugging such a heavy lens. There was room in that bag for me to put other valuables that I didn’t need up the mountain. I took these to reception and Sarah took them and placed them in a white money bag. Fortunately everything fitted into the one bag.

On my way back to my room I stopped at the shop and bought some headache tablets and a couple of chocolate energy bars. There is surely nothing more I would need now.

Again I returned to my room this time to pick up my daypack, which had my water and other essentials, my camera bag, and also the sack full of stuff that I won’t be taking up the mountain. I walked across the courtyard to the storage room where the lady who inspected my gear yesterday was standing hunched over and guarding the door. She took my sack and placed it on a shelf. I returned to the courtyard to where the others were waiting.

Vicky was showing off her new high tech clothing she had bought especially for the climb. It was all too flash and brand new for my liking – just like my boots. No doubt they will be trashed by the time we return.

Ashley was having problems extending her walking poles. She had bought them before the trip, but to date she had never tried them. I attempted to extend them, but they were fast stuck. I didn’t want to risk breaking them, so she took them to a few other people to try, and finally Desmond was successful in getting them extended. Perhaps he has done this many times before.

Desmond and the guides and porters
Desmond and the guides and porters

I had a discussion with the rest of the group about how the porters were going to carry our bags, as most of us had ergonomic backpacks. A couple of us stored stuff in sacks, so that would give the porter no choice but to use our packs. Others in the group decided that because most of the locals don’t seem to wear deodorant, they didn’t want their bags to smell too much, so they put their bags into storage and let the porters carry the sacks instead. I really didn’t care. I was happy for my porter to wear my backpack, so long as everything got to each of the huts during the trip. I would rather my porter carried my ergonomic and weather proof backpack than to arrive to a soggy sack full of my gear each evening.

Unlike the rest of us, Jono decided he was macho and insisted on carrying his own backpack. The bag appeared quite small, but would have had a fair bit of weight in it, perhaps fifteen kilogrammes. His personal porter will have an easy job up the mountain, with nothing to carry until Jono decides to give it up (or is perhaps convinced to give it up). Not only was he completely confident about reaching the summit, he was adamant on taking all his gear up to the base camp at Kibo Hut. We thought his cockiness was borderline insane, but that was his decision. He started talking about the people who only make it up to Gillman’s Point, and how they are so crazy to not go onto the summit after getting so close. The thought was hilarious to him.

Deep down I realised if anyone in our group wasn’t going to make it to the summit, it was going to be him. Young and cocky is a lethal mix when scaling a major mountain.

The porters
The porters

Amongst the group of porters was a man who appeared much older than the rest of them. He was rather overweight though reasonably well built. Despite this he clearly seemed to be the one in command in amongst the porters. He was wearing a woollen hat. He led us to a table with plastic lunch boxes each containing food. We each took one lunch box and packed into the tops of our day packs.

Finally the porters were ready, having packed all the food. Desmond arrived calling everyone together to do some introductions (finally).

Firstly he introduced us to the overweight man with the woollen hat. Jaseri was a 67 year old local who was one of the most experienced guides on the mountain. He has been guiding on the mountain since he was a teenager over forty years ago, before I was born. We had already observed he was the bossy one ordering everyone else around. He was our chief guide responsible for getting us to the top and back again. Assisting Jaseri were two assistant guides Azaan and Imira, a cook Hekima, and seventeen porters.

We were then introduced to our porters. My porter was Hasani. He appeared incredibly fit, even more so than the other porters. He was quite young, and would easily be able to handle carrying my backpack containing all my bedding, warm clothes, and my tripod. I had guessed he would have been allocated my bag as it appeared to be the heaviest and he appeared to be the fittest. Perhaps it was my camera tripod mounted to the side that had scared everyone else.

I realised I wouldn’t be seeing much of Hasani during the trip. That was a little sad as I knew he would always be there for me supporting me by carrying all my gear up and down this enormous mountain.

Others in my group were equally appreciative off their porters. This was all except Jono who spent the time with his porter insisting he carry his own fifteen kilogramme backpack up the mountain. This meant his porter didn’t need to carry anything at all, but I imagined this meant he would have to carry some of the food and cooking equipment up the mountain. I’m sure Hasani would have envied this porter.

Packing up the utes
Packing up the utes

A small white minivan arrived, and we started to pile into it. There were also two utilities with low caged backs. One was white and the other bright blue. Our porters sat in the tray of each ute in amongst the rabble of our packs. This was going to be their transport to the start of the track.

Once we were all inside our van, Jaseri climbed into the front seat beside the driver and we took off out of the hotel. Once on the main road we followed the direction I had taken with Gary and Dawn for the first part of the waterfall walk yesterday. We continued following the road, passing several small villages. The road became narrower and the terrain became more difficult as we quickly gained altitude on our approach towards the start of the track.

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14 August 2011

 

Mount Kilimanjaro

Tanzania

 

3°17'48"S
37°31'28"E
1100m ASL

 

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