Only then did Jason break out the music.
I'm not sure why he waited. Perhaps he was saving batteries? Perhaps he was celebrating our success on the Barranco Wall? Perhaps he was searching for the moment when a little pep was needed?
Whatever the case, it happened. Unexpectedly. He turned on a small bluetooth speaker clipped to his packstrap. The speaker pulled tunes from a phone and projected them with amazing clarity. It bounced as he walked. So did we. And we sang. And it was magic.
Joseph's face was as black as the night
And the pale yellow moon shone in his eyes
His path was marked
By the stars in the Southern Hemisphere
And he walked the length of his days
Under African skies
He had some Rusted Root and some Proclaimers in his playlist, but nothing was as visceral as Paul Simon's Graceland. The reasons are obvious. Simon is just flat-out good travel music.
We pulsed with the paddlewheeler.
Poor boys and pilgrims with families
And we are going to Graceland.
We resonated with the vocal rhythms of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. That odd mix of folk Americana and axing Africana is wondrous anywhere, but especially on Kilimanjaro's back.
We clicked our fingers.
o kodwa you zo-nge li-sa namhlange
(A-wa a-wa) si-bona kwenze ka kanjani
(A-wa a-wa) amanto mbazane ayeza
She's a rich girl
She don't try to hide it
Diamonds on the soles of her shoes.
Simon and Ladysmith eventually gave way to Bob Marley.
We tapped our trekking poles to the steel drum.
Singing' don't worry 'bout a thing
'Cause every little thing gonna be alright
Singing' don't worry (don't worry) 'bout a thing
'Cause every little thing gonna be alright.
At one point we came up on a group of porters schlepping for other team. They were huddled like three cold birds on a rock. But as we passed they got a whiff of Marley and came to life. They jumped to their feet and had a spontaneous dance party on the tiny-top of ten-foot boulder, right there, right now.
We laughed and cheered and clapped, once again struck by the rawness of our Tanzanian experience. It seemed like no matter where we were or what was happening, we were never more than a heartbeat away from an eruption. Tools and packs were traded without hesitation for a song, some food, a laugh, or a drink! The joy was effervescent and contagious!
On the other hand, there were the Germans. A group of four briskly passed our party. A sullen middle-aged man in the front grumped in a voice loud enough for all of us to hear: "They have earphones you know."
A quick-thinker in our crew shot back "they have earplugs too!"
We bounced on, imperviously, to the wailing of Rusted Root.
Send me on my way (on my way)
Send me on my way (on my way).
I love Africa but my regular summer work is in Israel-Palestine. If you are a pastor, church leader, or educator who is interested in leading a trip to the lands of the Bible, let me hear from you. I partner with faith-based groups to craft and deliver academic experiences. Leaders receive the same perks that other agencies offer, at competitive prices, and without the self-serving interests that often derail pilgrim priorities.