Travel

The lumpy flat-top

The flat-top of Kilimanjaro is not really so flat.

No, I didn’t shoot this image of Kilimanjaro and the giraffes. It is quite lovely. It came from here:    https://www.marieclaire.co.uk/life/travel/mount-kilimanjaro-africa-612741

No, I didn’t shoot this image of Kilimanjaro and the giraffes. It is quite lovely. It came from here: https://www.marieclaire.co.uk/life/travel/mount-kilimanjaro-africa-612741

We summited Kilimanjaro at sunrise and lingered longer. None of us suffered significantly from the altitude and as the sun climbed higher and higher it almost felt warm. Ok, maybe it wasn’t really warm, but compared to the cold dark of the night, it warmed the heart.

We took photographs of the shadow cast by the mountain, the surrounding clouds, and the lumpy flat-top. The whole thing had a lunar feel.

Kibo caldera 1.jpg

The picture above was taken from the eroded rim. In the center of the picture is a gentle rise where a deep pit can be found. We didn’t get close. From above, the Reusch Ash Pit looks like a series of telescoping circles that hint at Kibo’s true identity. Fumes still roil up from it (or so I’m told).

In my mind, mountains have a profile that looks like this:

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In my mind, Kilimanjaro has a profile that looks like this:

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No. That looks more like Batman. Let me try again.

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That’s better. Now you can see the 30-degree slope that leads up to the the caldera, or the “cooking pot,” that occupies Kibo’s center. The caldera was formed when the magma chamber beneath this volcano emptied itself and the top of the mountain collapsed into its own throat (try to imagine how that went down!). Contemplate too, how much taller this mountain would have been before its collapse! Today the summit, known as Uhuru Peak, is actually located on the caldera rim.

The red flag marking Uhuru Peak in my drawing is a nice touch, don’t you think?

Here is our group (Bryan, Slaa, Karen, and myself) on the rim of the caldera, near Uhuru Peak.

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For a short and cool presentation (better than my drawings!) to help visualize the creation and collapse of a volcano, check out this clip from our friends with the US Geological Survey.

Now, just to put a different spin on the end of things, recognize that the caldera that constitutes Kilimanjaro’s lumpy flat-top measures about a mile and a half across. The park we call Yellowstone is located on the top of four overlapping calderas. It measures between 30 and 40 miles in diameter! While not as high as Kilimanjaro, Yellowstone is truly a “supervolcano.”


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Don’t be fooled. While it seemed a little warmer once the sun came out, our unprotected water bottles froze solid on Kibo’s summit. Check out Bryan’s Nalgene.

If you are a pastor, church leader, or educator, let me hear from you. I partner with faith-based groups to craft and deliver outdoor academic experiences in the lands of the Bible. Leaders receive the same perks that other agencies offer, at competitive prices, and without the self-serving interests that often derail pilgrim priorities. See our list of future trips here.

Notes from Karanga Camp, Kilimanjaro

Notes from Karanga Camp, Kilimanjaro

The following observations and reflections were made on the afternoon of July 22, 2019. On that day I reached Karanga Camp (elevation 12,992 feet) by foot. The camp rests directly under the peak of the Kilimanjaro.

Ants in your pants

Ants in your pants

Look out for the Siafu! This species of carnivorous ant swarms in massive numbers, eats animal protein, and has dedicated soldiers with serious pincer-style mandibles. An unfortunate encounter with the siafu in an East African rainforest made us all a little jumpy.

Rookie mistakes

Rookie mistakes

Two lessons here. The first is this: don’t brush your teeth. The second is akin to the first: don’t ever think you are faster than a black mamba. Follow these two rules in order to get the most from your foreign travel experience.

Required reading for explorers (part 3)

Required reading for explorers (part 3)

Rachel Levin’s first book, Look Big and Other Tips for Surviving Animal Encounters of All Kinds (New York: Ten Speed Press, 2018), offers an interesting take on our North American friends from the wild side.

Naturally I lost my bearings

Naturally I lost my bearings

Gordon lifted the oversized compass to his face. The transparent plastic flexed in his hands, making his nose appear to wiggle. His voice was less animated. His words came out deliberately.

“Turn the bezel until the arrow is in the box.” He turned the disk on his plastic demonstration model. His nose wiggled again.

Wisemen Wafers

Wisemen Wafers

We are busy here at the Bible Land Explorers’ headquarters chewing the magoi. So far we’ve noted how Jesus was born in a Cold War (see here) and how the magoi were savvy politicians with a reputation for king-making and king-breaking (see here). As Christmas morning approaches, however, we lean toward something more festive: wisemen wafers!

Enter the idea of the eulogia.

He blowd his brains out his ears

He blowd his brains out his ears

The descent into Spain is rugged. The bright pastures of the sommets des pyrénées slip downslope, gradually at first, then furiously, precipitously, until they tumble into dense beech forests. Bob and I do the same. Spattered by mud, decorated with leaves, and swathed in shadow, we appreciate the epic Song of Roland.

A chain of whispered stories

A chain of whispered stories

The Pyrénées do not look imposing on a map. But don’t be fooled. This mountain chain between France and Spain is ancient, steep, and full of whispered stories.

A cup

A cup

This is the Spain you never heard about. It is old and earthy and green and has the feeling of something Irish, or maybe something out of a Tolkien universe. On cue, the sound of a bagpipe and penny whistle drifts through the door.

First touch

First touch

The Tower of Saint James in Paris, France, is impressive. Its architecture is pure gothic in style, with all the ribs and nubbins favored by pigeons. It rises 203 feet from the base to the noggin of Saint James who teeters on top. This tower was our first touch with the Camino de Santiago.

The grape farmer's story

The grape farmer's story

The grape farmer asked if we were pilgrims bound for Nájera. We affirmed the obvious.

"Do you know the story of the Camino?" His English was stained but it was clear enough.

Bob and I had notions, but we welcomed his company. We also welcomed the conversation that his question set in motion.

“No. Tell us.”

He found the body

He found the body

The bishop and his men cleared away the dense vegetation and discovered something amazing, something that no eye had seen for centuries: a tomb of stone containing three bodies.