I’ve spent months thinking about this trip, planning for summit night, making sure I’m as prepared as I can be. But somewhere along the way I forgot to think about what Tanzania itself might be like.
Touching down at Kilimanjaro International Airport I was grateful for the sun and the heat. This perpetual winter has got me down and the warmth of the African sun felt incredible on my face. We boarded our bus and despite sleep threatening to take me I stayed awake mesmerised by the passing people and houses. So colourful. Walking along the roadside beautiful women in their Sunday best. The heat of the plains tempered by the breeze through the open bus window. Every so often a glimpse of the mountain teasing us through the haze. Soon we began to ascend into the lush green of the rainforest that covers the foot of the mountain.
A local guide meets us at our hotel. We walk through banana plantations and the tallest avocado trees down a valley to a waterfall. The walk back to a coffee plantation is steep but our guide picks us fragrant herbs from the side of the path, providing a welcome relief from our walk. Peppermint, eucalyptus.
We visit a Chagga cave, a hole in the ground like the mineshafts of home, hidden under a straw hut. Caves provided the Chagga safety from the Masai. It’s cramped and dark and difficult to imagine how people could have lived in these places.
We walk past empty market stalls, people wave at us as we pass until we reach our hotel. It’s clear that many of the people here live in poverty. Houses have no electricity or water. But I’m taken by surprise by the beauty and vibrancy of this place. I never imagined that Tanzania would be so lush and green and full of colour.