Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru
MT. KILIMANJARO: is the crown of Tanzania. Rising abruptly from the open plains, capped by snow and frequently fringed by clouds, it is 19,344 feet (5985m), it is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest walk able summit in the world. The diameter of its base is an incredible 40 miles.
Kilimanjaro is a dormant, but not extinct volcano. Ominous rumbles can sometimes be heard and gases emerge from the fume holes in the crater. Although just three degrees south of the Equator, the peaks of both Kibo and Mawenzi have permanent caps of snow and ice.
During their time on the mountain, climbers pass from tropical to artic environment in just a few days. The various trails first pass through lush rainforests before reaching heather and open moorland where giant lobelia and huge, cactus-like groundsel grow. Above this moorland is the almost lunar landscape of an alpine desert, which stretches between the two peaks of Kibo, the flat-topped dome at the center and Mawenzi, a group of jagged point and pinnacles on the eastern side. Inhospitable as this ‘moonscape’ may seem, animals such as herds of elands thrive there.
The highest point on Kibo, and indeed the whole of Kilimanjaro, is Uhuru Peak, with its spectacular hanging glaciers and stupendous views of the African plains some 20,000 feet below. Also on Kibo is the slightly lower peak of Gillman’s point. These are the goals for most trekkers. The peaks of Mawenzi are for mountaineers only.
With the help of porters and a guide, it is possible to walk all the way to the summit without specialized mountaineering equipment – or experience – and Kilimanjaro can be conquered by any reasonably fit person. There are several different routes including Marangu, the easiest climb and therefore the most popular, Machame, Lemosho, Rongai and Umbwe. The total climb normally takes five to six days and involves four or five overnight stays in comfortable mountain huts & camping. Fees, payable in US dollars, include park entrance and accommodation for climbers, guides and porters and other items as agreed in the package between the clients and the local operator.
Kilimanjaro can be climbed at any time of the year but the best time is considered to be from July to October and January to March. It is wet in the rainforest during the rain in April, May, June and November. December through February is the warmest months.
KILIMANJARO WITHOUT A CLIMB: It is not necessary to be a climber to enjoy a visit to the region. Indeed visitors can ascend 12,000 feet to the Shira Plateau of West Kilimanjaro – by four-wheel drive vehicle! Tours can be arranged which pass through beautiful countryside on the way.
The climate at this altitude is conducive to gentle walks through flowering vegetation, past small settlements. Walkers will be entranced by the bird life, with its vivid plumage, which can be seen all around them.
If they head for the rainforest which circles the mountain visitors will find themselves in a world of enchantment and mystery. Monkeys, birds and antelope abound. Elephants, buffalo and black rhinos range through the forest and even leopards can occasionally be seen. In its turn the rainforest ensures the fertility of the lush, lower-lying ‘shamba’ country where the Chagga people cultivate their coffee, maize and bananas. A stroll through the plantations will provide a fascinating insight into the lives of the local population. One can visit local wood carvers and observe the vibrant patterns of the beadwork necklaces and earrings.
Nearby is Lake Challa, an azure crater-lake formed from the waters that drain off Mount Kilimanjaro, close to the road between Moshi and Taveta. Lake Jipe lies on the same road. Sixteen kilometers along by five kilometers wide, it is slightly saline and significantly larger than Challa. On the Tanzania – Kenya border, it is rarely visited, so exudes an atmosphere of tranquility and seclusion.
MOUNT MERU: is an active stratovolcano located 70 kilometres (43 mi) west of Mount Kilimanjaro in the nation of Tanzania. At a height of 4,565 metres (14,977 ft), it is visible from Mt Kilimanjaro on a clear day, and is the ninth or tenth highest mountain in Africa, dependent on definition. Much of its bulk was lost about 8,000 years ago due to an eastward volcanic blast, similar to the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in the U.S. state of Washington. Mount Meru most recently had a minor eruption in 1910. The several small cones and craters seen in the vicinity probably reflect numerous episodes of volcanic activity.
Mount Meru is the topographic centerpiece of Arusha National Park. Its fertile slopes rise above the surrounding savanna and support a forest that hosts diverse wildlife, including nearly 400 species of birds, and also monkeys and leopards.