Mount Kilimanjaro

We were picked up from Kaliwa Lodge at 9am for the short drive to Machame Gate. The day started out misty; the 60 degree weather was a welcome break from the heat wave we had left in Bozeman. While we waited at the Machame Gate for the guides to complete filling out necessary paperwork and organize the support personnel, someone in another party exclaimed “Look at the monkeys!” Being experienced in these matters, we immediately checked to make sure we had left nothing laying around for monkeys to steal. People in other parties reacted by grabbing their cameras. Sure enough, one person had a bag of medications stolen and another lost their packed lunch. The medications were retrieved by a guide, but the lunch was history.

We learned there would be a total of 22 support personnel for the three of us. We had booked a better than average private tour and, based on the usual ratio of porters to hikers, we had expected a total of 17 personnel. However, the trip was originally booked for 4 hikers; one had dropped out and no adjustment to the staff had been made. There were two guides (Renatus and Nicholas), a cook, a waiter (Bima), a toilet porter and 17 porters.

The park has a number of regulations regarding the number of support personnel required for a climbing party; this is a significant source of revenue for the area. Locals queue up outside the gate hoping to get a job and we heard that some companies take advantage of this by paying them low (or even no) wages; these “pick-up” porters are rumored to pester climbers for tips and pilfer gear. The porters for our group were Kilele Afrika regulars and therefore well paid and trustworthy.

The porter's loads are weighed and adjusted to be 25kg (approximately 55 pounds). They carry our allotment of 15kg of personal gear each (mostly clothing, sleeping gear and medications) plus tents, food, cooking gear, fuel, and their own personal gear. For each camp they collect and carry significant amounts of water for washing, cooking and drinking.