The Kilimanjaro Series: Mwanzo (The Beginning)

In order to be a traveler, not a tourist, “Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” 

― Andrew Zimmern


We’re just six weeks from­­ jetting off to Tanzania. Much like we did for our Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal, we’ll take this opportunity to highlight the people, the places, and the nuances that define Tanzanian – and more acutely, the mountain culture on and around Kilimanjaro. 


Whether you’re joining in person on this trek or will be following along digitally, we’ll begin this journey with a few fascinating facts. 


1.    Tanzania is home to over 120 ethnic tribes. There are over three million people in the Sukuma tribe and over one million in the Chagga tribe, the Haya tribe, and the Nyamwezi tribe.

2.    The predominant religionsin Tanzania are Christianity and Islam.

3.    Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Its summit is called Uhuru Point, meaning “freedom” in Swahili.

4.    There are seven well-traveled trekking routesto Uhuru Point: Marangu, Mweka, Umbwe, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai, and finally the route our Yellow Wood group will be trekking, Machame. 

5.    At one point in time, Kilimanjaro had three volcanic cones: Mawenzi, a now-extinct volcano; Shira, which collapsed hundreds of thousands of years ago, creating a plateau on the western face; and Kibo, the main crater. Its last activity was 200,000 years ago and its last eruption came 360,000 years ago. 

6.    89-year-old American mountaineer Anne Lorimerscaled Kilimanjaro in July 2019, reclaiming her title as the oldest person to reach the mountain’s 19,341-foot summit. Lorimer had previously held that title as an 85-year-old, but was topped by Angela Vorobeva, who at 86-years-old, summited Africa’s highest peak. 

7.    The journey to the top passes through five ecological zones:

a.    Zone 1, known as the cultivation zone, located from about 2,600 ft – 6,000ft. Much of the landscape here is farmland used to cultivate coffee, bananas, avocado, and mango. 

b.    Zone 2, the rainforest zone, located from about 6,000 ft to about 9,000 ft. This region receives about 80 inches of rain annually and is home to elusive monkeys, babboons, leopards, mongooses, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and buffaloes. 

c.    Zone 3, the Heather and Moorland zone, ranging from 9,000ft to about 13,000ft. Temperatures in this grassy region are volatile, ranging from 100F in the day to 32F at night. Above the cloud line, hikers can enjoy gorgeous views of the rainforest below. 

d.    Zone 4, the Highland Desert zone, starts around 13,000ft and ends at about 16,000ft. With little to no rainfall and similarly erratic temperatures, plant life is sparse. Volcanic rock comprises much of this region.

e.    And finally, Zone 5, the Arctic zone. Beginning around 16,000ft and continuing to Uhuru Peak at 19,341ft, this area offers trekkers a path of loose gravel and ice patches. 

8.    Scientists estimate that 85% of Kilimanjaro’s glaciershave disappeared in the last 100 years. They anticipate that 100% of glacial ice will be gone in another 50 years.  


Stay tuned here for more in our Kilimanjaro series! We look forward to sharing photos, stories, and observations with you along the way. 

sarah pollack