Tanzania

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:

Untitled 17.001.jpg

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.

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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.

A good park for beginners

A good park for beginners

The sign at the entrance read “Home of Tree Climbing Lions.”

I thought it best to keep one eye skyward at all times. Having 400 pounds of tooth and claw fall on your head would be terrible surprise. It also would make an end to a lovely safari that Vicki and I and Mr Nixon had planned in the East African country of Tanzania.

Stork swarm

Stork swarm

Swarms of giant storks were suddenly everywhere. They were beyond counting. In the hundreds? For sure. Thousands? Maybe. Some circled slowly overhead, great wings outstretched. Many more rested, nested, and clattered their bills from poo-spangled trees. 

Noah's ark (sortof)

Noah's ark (sortof)

In the story of Noah's Ark, a portion of the living world finds sanctuary in a pinch. I thought about that as our rig bounced down the steep track into Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania.

Tarangire

Tarangire

Zebras and wildebeests drank the muddy water, flicked their tails, rolled in the dust, and fussed with each other. It may have just been in my head, but somewhere I could hear the soundtrack of "The Lion King" playing.

Taking a safari

Taking a safari

We pitched our duffels and then ourselves into Saidi's knobby-wheeled truck. Saidi found the gear and we lurched forward. Our aim was to encounter the wildness of East Africa, God-willing, in a bloodless way.

Fingerprints on a frosty pane

Fingerprints on a frosty pane

Great sheets of ice flanked our walk on Kibo's rim. Aside from the fact that we were tripping along a corridor that was 19,000 feet in the sky, it could have been someone's gravel driveway. Or one of Jupiter's moons.

Then I let myself believe it

Then I let myself believe it

I caught her in my headlamp. She might have pretty in another place but she was beyond defeat here, maybe even beyond consciousness. She was draped between the wings of two laboring guides. Her head was lolling. Her toes were dragging. That little Piper had stalled.

The big push

The big push

Three other members of the team had walked out of camp an hour earlier. We assumed they were already pressing the envelope on the ridge above us. It was now our turn.

The most interesting man in the world

The most interesting man in the world

Ernest Hemingway dangled a riddle of death at the front end of his short story, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." But what kind of epigraph is this? A freeze-dried window decoration? A chewy historical tidbit? The most interesting man in the world may have solved the riddle.

It has an odd ring

It has an odd ring

The old king climbed into the icy womb of Kilimanjaro. On his finger was the ring of Solomon. His porters carried a vast treasure. None of it has ever been found, of course.

15K+

15K+

It was one of those nice mattresses with a heat-reflective layer that is supposed to keep you snuggly warm even if you choose to bed down on an iceberg or glacier or such. It also shared many qualities with a Wham-O Slip-'n-slide.

Starry night

Starry night

The icy peak was silhouetted against the night sky. But the longer I looked, the more I saw. And the more I saw, the less I noticed the mountain of our obsession. It was stars--sweet Jesus!--the stars that dominated this glorious night. They were everywhere, from horizon to horizon.

Mush balls

Mush balls

West African fufu has a an unusual odor and taste. And that's just the upper end of the experience. This is why I shuddered when they brought in the East African ugali.

Come and see, the moon is dancing

Come and see, the moon is dancing

Jason turned on a small speaker clipped to his packstrap. The speaker pulled tunes from a phone. It  bounced as he walked. So did we. And we sang. And it was magic.