Adventures Around Mount Kilimanjaro
Explorer in Residence, Dan Grec, ventures off the beaten path in Tanzania.
At 19,341 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro is by far the highest mountain on the African continent, and even boasts a glacier that I clearly see from a very long way off.
Rather than climb the mountain as is common, I decide to explore it from all sides. To that end I drive a lap around the base, allowing me to completely appreciate its enormous size. I find a beautiful secluded place to camp where I enjoy a stunning sunset and sunrise wedged between the mighty mountain and Kenya. I camp less than a hundred yards from Kenya, and I notice my GPS indicates I am less than three degrees from the Equator. At night the plains below are dotted with small cooking fires, bringing forth dreams of delicious spicy food.
A little west of the mountain I find the oddly named Chemka Hot Springs. Though breathtaking in colour and location, the springs are in fact not hot at all. Extremely clear and refreshing water pours from the earth into a huge natural swimming area, complete with trees to jump off and a swing rope. It’s a scorching hot day and so lazing about in the cool fresh water is the perfect way to spend the afternoon.
At the nearby Snake Park and Campsite I team up with other travellers to buy a whole goat for $25USD, which we eagerly roast on the spit. The meat is extremely tender and delicious thanks to our strict basting schedule over more than 10 hours.
Together with a laid-back South African with strike out to loop around the seldom-visited Lake Eyasi. We make our way on isolated and extremely dusty gravel roads, at times gaining a little elevation in scraggy rocks, and at other times right down on what we assume would be the lake bed at high water. In the late afternoon we pull a hundred yards off the road to camp, and it’s not long before locals wander over to investigate. At first they are timid, and unfortunately we don’t share a language so communication is difficult. Over time they slowly warm to us and eventually the children are laughing and playing in their usual carefree manner.
I am speechless later in the evening when a lady asks using hand gestures if she can take one of the burning logs from our campfire. Clearly it is easier for her to take fire from us than to light one of her own.
In the morning the dusty gravel road winds on and on to the southern tip of the lake. Crossing a muddy river wouldn’t be a problem except for the large transport truck stuck near the muddy sloping bank. We have a good look on foot before deciding to commit, and with a little extra speed neither of us has any trouble on the slick muddy bank.
Exploring away from the beaten path and crowds of tourists revealed some gems, and I throughly enjoyed seeking out these seldom-visited gems of Tanzania.
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