An African sojourn
Ain’t no mountain high if you are ready to face your fear: Dr. Anindita Bhateja’s journey to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro “To escape fear, you have to go through it, and not around it.” Riche Norton’s words resonate in my head as Dr. Anindita Bhateja shares her journey of overcoming fear.
Replete with mountains, lakes and forests with loads of safaris, Tanzania seemed to beckon me. Once registered, I was all set to take off on my trek to Uhuru (peak of Kilimanjaro) with a small group that included local guides. This not only challenged me physically but also gave me the much needed break, surrounded by the lush green forests of Africa.
The adventure kickstarted at Marangu Gate after a drive from Arusha town. From there it was off to Rongai, which was a one-hour drive. Our adventure commenced at 1,996 metres above sea level and gradually saw us climb, climb and climb.
The trek took us towards Nalemoru Gate, which started from the Kenyan side of the mountain. Soon we were passing through potato fields and tiny villages, where we got a glimpse of the rural life. As we walked, we were met by little, curious children, who ran up to us seeking money or goodies. After an hour on foot, we turned left which took us into the Montane forests.
By now, we had climbed quite a bit. We stopped and looked down and were treated with the sight of tiny twinkling lights of the Kenyan villages that lay far below. Amidst the lush greenery, we spotted the Colobus monkey and mongoose accompanied by the chirping of beautiful birds. This short trek was completed within three hours and we reached our first camp, Simba Camp. After a good meal and a night’s rest, we were raring to climb more. We took off to the Kikelewa Camp, which took us over rocks and little streams dotted with beautiful flowers along the way. The scenery was simply picture perfect. After a steady climb of four to five hours, we reached a clearing and were served piping hot lunch as well as given a 45-minute break. Then, it was a climb that took us to a campsite with a 30-feet deep cave. By now, we had climbed high enough and were above the clouds.
On the third day, we headed off towards Mawenzi Tarn, which was a steeper climb and the habitat gradually changed into moorlands. We reached a campsite with a tiny natural pond right at its centre — a perfect place to hit the sack.
On the fourth day, we continued to climb to the top of the ridge and the habitat changed to Alpine desert. From the ridge, we meandered in the saddle, where we saw a wreckage of a small plane that had crashed many moons ago. This cold steady climb took us to the School Hut, where we rested for the night.
Then we were off to Uhuru peak. This long day made the climb hard and challenging, which was rewarded with hot ginger tea at Hans Mayer Cave. The climb continued. This time it was steeper with rocky patches that almost left most of us breathless. After what seemed like eternity, we reached Gillman’s Point at 5,685 metres above sea level! Though the climb from here was less steep, it was a climb nonetheless to Uhuru at 5,895 metres. This was the roof of Africa and it gave us an adrenaline rush. Now it was time to head back. Whoever thought the climb down would be mundane was wrong. We were in for a visual treat with every step we took towards Horombo (3,705 metres), which still kept us above the clouds. The downhill journey continued to Marangu at 1,860 metres. After a steady downward trek, we reached the Montane forests, where we were again greeted by its natural inhabitants.
Once we reached Marangu Gate, it officially ended our trek. We were given a farewell with a lovely Kili song and a certificate, etching the journey in our minds forever.
How to get there
*We flew by Qatar Airways. The round trip flight cost for one from Bengaluru to Kilimanjaro via Doha is approximately Rs 70,000.
Where to stay
*We stayed at Tellamande Hotel in Arusha that cost Rs 2,600 per night for one person (inclusive of breakfast).