Marathon-running, horse-riding and getting married on Kilimanjaro:
There are plenty of other things you can do with Kilimanjaro apart from climbing it. How about entering the Kilimanjaro Marathon, for example? Taking place in late February or early March, the race is run over the standard 26 miles/42.2km and starts by heading out along the road to Dar before returning to Moshi via a climb to Mweka. As such, it doesn’t actually enter into the national park at all – though given the levels of exhaustion suffered by your average marathon participant, it’s probably just as well that they don’t have to climb a mountain too. A half-marathon, a 10km disabled wheelchair and handcycle race and a fun run is also held at the same time, and with prizes of Ts4 million each to the winners of the men’s and women’s full marathon (Ts2 million for the half-marathon, plus prizes for the various disabled categories) this is turning into one of the biggest events in Northern Tanzania’s social calendar.
For those for whom a marathon is not testing enough, there is always the Kiliman Challenge. This particular brand of masochism begins with a six-day saunter up the Machame Route to Uhuru Peak, followed by a two-day circumnavigation of the base of Kilimanjaro by mountain bike (around 190km in total), before rounding it all off with participation in the marathon described above. The organizers are at pains to point out that only the last two events are competitive; with the climb, of course, it’s too dangerous to race up. If it all sounds too much, you can opt to take part in just one or two of the activities.
Still not exhausted? Then sign up the annual Kilimanjaro Trail Run, an eight-day, 260km (approximately 160 miles) slog around the mountain. Led by Simon Mtuy – record holder for a speed ascent on Kili (see p000), founder of the highly regarded SENE trekking agency (see p000) and all-round good egg – the trail runs along dirt tracks and footpaths, taking you past lush rainforest and waterfalls. The scenery is breathtaking, of course – which is a bit unfortunate when you’re spending most of your time running – and your encounters with the locals living on the northern slopes of Kili, where few tourists venture, are usually memorable. Simon is at pains to point out that this is a run, not a race, so the competitive aspect of the trip is reduced to a minimum, allowing a strong esprit de corps to develop amongst the participants instead. It’s not cheap but for a true adventure you’ll be hard-pushed to find a better one.
Another option is horseriding. Makoa Farm near Machame Gate organizes horseback safaris in the West Kilimanjaro Wildlife Management Area, where you stay in permanent luxury camps, mobile camps, farmhouse accommodation next to Kilimanjaro Forest Reserve or at the guesthouse on Makoa Farm. They also run horseback safaris in Arusha National Park and ride from the slopes of Mount Meru to the slopes of Kili.Various options include a ride in Arusha National Park,three to six days on the Wilderness Trail in the West Kilimanjaro region and an 8-day trek around Kilimanjaro. It’s certainly a unique experience and being on horseback allows you to go where four-wheel drives and mountain bikes never could. Some experience is necessary for most of these rides.
Finally, if all of the above sounds just too, well, energetic, then there are a couple of more sedentary options. A few years ago the previous boss of KINAPA, Mr Lufungulo, revealed that he had plans to build a couple of luxury lodges on Kilimanjaro, for those who want to be on the mountain without actually doing anything so exhausting as trekking. To be honest we’ve yet to see much in the way of progress in this field but should this plan ever come to fruition, the TANAPA website will probably be the best place to look for details. They have also started to allow people to marry at the summit of Kilimanjaro – though we know of one couple had to arrange to have the local bishop carried to the top to conduct the ceremony as he was too unfit to walk himself; and those involved should be prepared to get hitched lower down the slopes should any of the participants be unable to make it to Uhuru Peak.