Kilimanjaro 5895 metres (19,341ft) Africa’s highest mountain generates a lot of interest on Rohantime. You may remember Tim’s Jaspers post Kili Time and his Kilimanjaro Kitlist last year.
Many readers commented on how helpful they found the Kili kit lists.
We thought it would be great to add to our Kilimanjaro knowledge on Rohantime so we caught up with the Henry Stedman, author of the comprehensive quide Kilimanjaro The Trekking Guide and jumped at the chance to pick his brains. Henry’s guide contains almost everything you could possibly want to know about Africa highest mountain, its ascent and its surroundings. Below are some questions we ask Henry.
In addition we are offrering one lucky reader the chance to win their own signed copy of Kilimanjaro The Trekking Guide which also includes Mount Meru (a popular pre-Kilimanjaro trek) and guides to Arusha, Moshi, Marangu, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Please see below
Q.What came first your obvious love of travel or your guide books?
A.Definitely the love of travelling. Writing guidebooks was just a way of getting paid for doing what I love!
Q.What other guides have you written?
A. Rough Guide to Indonesia and Rough Guide to South-East Asia; Coast to Coast and Hadrian’s Wall Path (both Trailblazer); Trekking in the Dolomites (Trailblazer); Bradt Guide to Palestine (Bradt).
Q. Kilimanjaro holds a place in your affections what’s so special about it?
A. I wrote the first edition of Kilimanjaro after finishing work on the Rough Guide to Indonesia. It was so refreshing to go from an enormous country with 17,000 islands, hundreds of different tribes, cultures and languages, to just one single mountain. It meant that I could really delve deep into my research and try to learn as much as I could about the mountain – rather than take just a cursory look at it, which I had to when I was covering the different islands of Indonesia. Thus when writing the first edition I spent months in the British library with my nose deep in these beautiful old leather-bound tomes written by the first explorers of the region back in the mid-nineteenth century. There’s a real romance to their stories, and the privations they suffered along the way to further our knowledge of the region.
Since writing that first edition my love for both the mountain and the cities and towns that surround it has only grown, to the point where I now consider it my second home and one that I visit every year, often for months at a time.
Q. What is the best time of year to climb Kilimanjaro?
A. As long as you avoid the rainy seasons of April-May and November-mid December then it should be fine to climb Kilimanjaro. February and October see fewer tourists, and boast lovely, vivid blue skies – so they’re my favourite months.
Q. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) commonly known as altitude sickness is the biggest killer on Kilimanjaro. Why is it such a problem?
A. Simply because the tradition has always been to climb Kilimanjaro relatively quickly, sometimes in as little as five days – whereas the experts say you should be spending nine days or more on the mountain in order to acclimatise safely and avoid AMS. The Comic Relief climb hasn’t helped in this respect, for seeing certain overweight DJs reaching the summit encouraged a lot of people to attempt the climb themselves, ignorant the fact that AMS is a real danger – because Kilimanjaro is a very high mountain!
Q. Is Kilimanjaro suffering from the same plight as Everest, are there concerns about the dumping of rubbish on the mountain?
A. With 40,000+ people climbing the mountain every year – not to mention three times as many porters! – there are bound to be problems. And it’s true that on occasions the amount of rubbish on certain trails can be quite depressing. But the park authorities try really hard to minimise this problem – weighing luggage to check that nothing has been thrown away, and employing cleaning crews to roam the paths – so most of the time, and on most of the routes, it’s not too bad.
Q. Has the local population seen an increase in the living standards and does it benefit directly from the trekkers and mountain tourism?
A. The situation is improving. A few years ago the amount of money pouring into the region tended to disappear either into the coffers of the Parks authority (and, indeed, still does!) or into the pockets of a few wealthy individuals. But thanks to the hard work of charities such as the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project some of that money is now filtering down to the porters, many of whom are from Machame, Marangu and the other villages around the base of the mountain.
Q. On your wish list what are the other guide books you would like to write?
A. Bhutan. I love Nepal, and the idea that there is this neighbouring (and thus presumably fairly similar) country that only allows a limited number of tourists in a year, that didn’t have television until a few years ago, and that prefers to measure its progress in terms of Gross National Happiness rather than any economic indicator, sounds wonderful. Given the limited number of tourists it probably wouldn’t be a big seller, however, so I doubt I’ll get anyone to publish it.
Q. With all your experience of travel over the years is there a destination that you think is underrated?
A. I am sure I am not the first of your interviewees to say this but I think the UK is actually vastly underrated. It must have something to do with our natural reluctance to show off – but Britain really is a beautiful country, and it’s history and culture have few peers. But then, I suppose I’m biased.