When I stepped out of the TRA building, holding my new driver’s license, I found both Afya and Jabali waiting for me, standing next to a brand-new Toyota FJ Cruiser vehicle. “Congratulations, your parents organised for the purchase of this as your first car” Afya announced to me and handed over the keys. “It is great to drive, I collected it from the Arusha dealership this morning” Jabari added.
The three-hour long journey home was very nerve wrecking, having to drive a brand-new car for such a long distance, but we arrived home safely, and Keto was there to open the garage door, to allow me to drive in, but I stopped just before that. “I think I will let you drive it in Jabari” I commented, as I turned off the motor, and put the handbrake on.
As I climbed out of my vehicle, I noticed that the old family car was still parked there. “Did Dad or Mum say anything about the old car?” I asked to no one in particular, “Yes, she gave it to me and my family, for us to use. They wanted to buy us a new car, but we said we are happy with the old one” Afya replied.
“Ok, well I am heading indoors, looks like we may be getting a storm later” I commented, as I headed to the house, which had several guests in the downstairs area playing pool and table tennis, and ignoring them I headed upstairs. “What a jerk” I heard one of the young guests say as I climbed the stairs, and I stopped where I was, as I considered what to do, but I was beaten by Afya, who must have heard the comment, and she was holding her big stick in her hand.
“You not say anything bad to anyone, especially to young Simba, or you end up on your skinny arse out the door” Afya said sternly, “And what are you going to do about it, old lady” the young man stated, in a rather upper-class British accent and I turned and walked back down the stairs.
“I will tell you what will happen, you have exactly ten minutes to retrieve your luggage and get out of here, you and any other guests who speak that way to Afya or any staff on this property are not welcome here” I said angrily, as I approached the young man and his two friends.
“You have no authority to kick me out, so go to hell, you uneducated weakly” the young man said, and by now Jabari and Kebo were standing next to Afya. “Oh yes he does, so I suggest you close your loud mouth, and do as Mr Blackwood tells you, and get packed” Kebo responded.
“Mr Blackwood is it, well what authority does he have to tell me to leave, you are too young to be of any importance” the second man with an upper-class accent stated, joining in the dispute, “I may be young Mr, but it is my family that have owned this property for two decades, and you may be a lot older than me, but I am pretty certain that you have not achieved in your life time, what I have done in the past 6 years,” I growled to the first man.
“We have, so what about it?” one of the rude guests responded, “I suggest you go back to it, and have a much closer look at it, on your way to getting packed” I said, and I turned and headed back to the stairs, and continued up to the top level.
Five minutes later, as I sat in my private lounge, there was a knock on the door, and Afya entered. “The rude men have seen the news article of you reaching the summit, and they realise now that you are the famous teenage mountaineer, they wish to apologise and ask for forgiveness, and plead to allow them to stay, so they can climb the mountain tomorrow, as all other accommodation is booked out” Afya said to me in Swahili, so the guests didn’t understand.
After a bit of thought, I smiled, “Do they have their camping gear with them? If so, they can set up their tents on the back lawn, near the back veranda, and let them know that their return booking is cancelled, maybe that will teach them a good lesson on manners” I replied, and Afya laughed before she returned downstairs, to let the three rude guests know what has been decided.
I had decided to remain in my suite, so that evening, Jabari delivered my dinner to me, which I ate on the front patio, as the sun was setting. The next day, after all of the guests had left for their climb to the summit, I helped with the cleaning up of all the guest accommodation, which took us most of the day to complete, with the three bungalows, and the four rooms, in the house, that needed all the sheets washed and dried, plus all rooms and bungalows had to be thoroughly cleaned to Afya’s standards, which are very high.
With most climbs to the summit taking 7 to 8 days, we had a booking system that fitted in with two of the climbing companies that do guided tours up to the summit from the Marangu side. One tour group leave on the Tuesday and Friday mornings, returning on the following Monday and Thursday afternoons,while the other tour group leaves on the Wednesday and Saturday mornings, and return the following Tuesday and Friday afternoons,
This means that we have guests on Monday and Thursday nights from one tour group and staying on Tuesday and Friday nights with the second tour group. Although we don’t have guests on Wednesdays, Saturday’s and Sundays, we still must keep the house, bungalows and all the surrounding jungle garden, in good order, with Sunday Mornings spent attending church, and we take a half day off work, on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
By the end of my second week at Marangu, I was really enjoying my time here, even with all the house work that I was doing, to help Afya, even when she was constantly telling me that I don’t need to help, but I did it anyway, and eventually she gave up telling me what I cannot do.
I had been calling Mum and Dad twice a week, and Uncle Nat once a week, to let them know how things are going in Tanzania, and that I was really enjoying my time here as well as doing plenty of exercise to keep fit, and get my body use to the added contraption to my leg,
Even with the peak of the wet season, we were still getting a lot of bookings for accommodation, and I asked Jabari, to notify the accommodation booking agency to slot one week, where we have no guests, so we could have a short holiday before the start of the dry season, and this was set for late April, straight after Easter.
“What are you planning to during this one week off?” Afya asked me at dinner time, on one of the rare days that we have the house to ourselves, and we all eat together. “Why climb to the summit of course, it is time that I put this new foot to a real test” I replied.
“Are you sure about this Simba, you could get hurt again” Afya said sounding concerned, “That is why I will have my brother and his friend with me, a trio expedition to the top of Kilimanjaro” I replied smiling, and Jabari just laughed, “No use complaining Mama, he has his mind decided, and we will take good care of him” Jabari said to his mother.
We decided to leave on the Thursday morning, which is a day that tour groups don’t take visitors to the summit, and we planned to do the trip in 8 days, with two days spent on the summit, which meant that we were sure to meet up with climbers from the Marangu route, plus climbers from the many other routes as well after we reach the summit.
On the day that we left home to do the climb, it was a wet and miserable day, but we decided to push on, no matter what the weather is like. During the wet season, there is only a small amount of snow on the peak, so it would not be too cold up there, when we reach the peak. I had under estimated how unfit I had become since being injured in Tasmania, and on the first night, I suggested to the lads that we take it a little easier.
When we reached the next hut on day two, having climbed over 1,900metres, and I decided that I would need a day of rest, so we would stay at this hut for two nights, which will let me get acclimatised to the heights again. On the morning of day 4, I was feeling a lot better, and we continued to the next hut, which was now a steeper climb to 4,700 metres.
When we arrived in the late afternoon, there was a number of other climbers staying in the hut, so we elected to camp outside, which I really didn’t mind doing, since we would be reaching the summit tomorrow, and I had suggested to the lads that we camp near the summit tomorrow night, so as to avoid all the crowds.
Most climbers when on a tour, will leave in the very early hours of the morning, to reach the summit, just before dawn, but we elected to wait until an hour before dawn, to leave, so we would get to the summit when the other tour groups are heading back down again.
Most of the climbing tour groups had already left by the time we had arrived at the peak, and view was just as wonderful as it was, last time I was here, and we sat down and admired the views as we talked softly, with just the sounds of nature coming from all around below us.
It was late afternoon, when a crashing sound was coming from some of the shrubs around us, and suddenly a full-grown elephant came charging out, heading straight to us, and we stayed very still, as it continued to approach, but stopped suddenly, when it realised that we were not going to move.
Suddenly a baby elephant appeared from behind the adult, and it approached us and used its trunk to carefully smell our strange unknown smells, with its mother carefully watching from close by. Jabari, who was the furthest away, had managed to retrieve his camera, and to start taking photos of what was taking place, as the baby elephant stepped closer and wrapped its small trunk over my shoulder, and smelt my chest, face and head.
The mother elephant also took a few steps forward andblew out a large amount of air from her trunk, as a kind of warning to me. “Stay calm Simba” I heard Kebo say to me softly, and I gently nodded my understanding. Soon the adult elephant was also smelling me all over, while the baby elephant was rubbing its back against me, and I slowly held out my hand, which the adult elephant smelt, and she let me run her hand along her trunk, as I talked softly to her in Swahili.
Eventually, she turned away, giving a small sound to let her offspring know that it was time to go, and they disappeared into the shrublands, while I just sat where I was stunned at what had just happened. “Simba, I got all of that on camera, that was incredible, I have never seen a wild adult elephant approach a human like that before, and even let her little one play with you too” Jabari said to me.
“Yes, it was pretty amazing eh” I commented calmly, smiling broadly as I remember the experience over and over in my mind, and we sat there in silence watching the sun get lower in the western horizon, signalling the end of yet another wonderful day on Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
Copyright January 2019 Preston Wigglesworth All Rights are Reserved