The Ascent Posted on January 25th, 2010 by

I have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.  I did it.  Well, I didn’t climb to the top, but I’ve climbed a little.  The college at Mweka is just a few kilometers downhill from the park gate.  We’ve walked up to the gate a few times just for the fun of it.

Setting off under marshmallow clouds, we turn left onto the paved road which turns to gravel meters past the college.  The village of Mweka lies just uphill from the college and consists of a few shops and a scattering of houses.  The shops are all small, but packed with items.  As you walk along Main Street, you can see a pharmacy, tailors at antique Singer sewing machines, and the butcher shop (a small white tiled building with carcasses hanging from hooks in the ceiling). The areas between houses are filled with banana plants and maize. 

We follow the rocky volcanic road as it winds up the mountain, past two primary schools and through a second village.  This village has many restaurant/bars filled with more white plastic chairs than the village probably has people.  These ‘bars’ that line either side of the road, are short, open structures with a barred counter in the back.  White and red plastic chairs crowd around wobbly plastic tables on the packed dirt floor. As you pass through the town, old men offer a local brew from large, brightly coloured plastic cups. 

As we continue on the road inclines sharply but we are rewarded at the top of the rise with spectacular views of golden plains and blue mountains under pillow clouds.  Up here, the view puts into perspective how far up the mountain we actually are.  As we reach the gate, banana trees give way to forest and tree ferns. 

All along the way, children run out to greet us with “Jambo!” or “Good morning” (even when it is the afternoon).  Some are quieter and shadow us a few paces back.  Often, they ask for money or chocolate, which of course, everyone carries when they go on a walk, right?  Older folk are amused by our limited knowledge of Swahili greetings.  They enthusiastically greet us and laugh good naturedly when we get the response wrong. 


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