The park authorities of Kilimanjaro, KINAPA, are hoping to promote cycling trips up Kilimanjaro. The news came to light in an interview I did with the boss of KINAPA, Betty Lobooiki, for the next edition of our guidebook.
Pedalling to the top of Africa’s Highest Mountain is not without precedent. There has, in the past, been the occasional cyclist who had been granted permission to pedal up to the peak, most notably the TV presenter Nicholas Crane and his cousin Richard who took their bikes to Uhuru in the early 1980s (and are believed to have been the first to do so). But since the millennium, as the mountain became ever busier, so cycling has largely been forbidden.
Until now. In a surprising change of heart, the authorities have decided not only to allow cyclists back on the slopes, but have even opened up a whole new route and devised a unique itinerary just for them. And all they ask from cyclists in return is an extra US$50 per person per day, in addition to the park fees paid by those journeymen who merely want to walk up to the summit.
This new route takes advantage of the 4WD track that starts from the tiny settlement of Kilema and ends near the Last Water Point on the Marangu Route; a track that has previously been the sole preserve of emergency vehicles ferrying the sick off the mountain. The itinerary they have devised assumes that cyclists will take two days to reach the end of this 4WD track, stopping overnight at a campsite en route that is currently under construction. The following two nights, are spent at Horombo, with cyclists using the third day to acclimatise by cycling up to Mawenzi Huts and back. The fourth day retraces this path, that takes you via the unusual Zebra Rocks, before riders continue to Kibo Huts for another two nights, with the intervening fifth day of the ride spent carrying one’s bicycle up to Hans Meyer Cave, where it is stored, before returning back down to Kibo Huts.
Unlike the majority of trekkers, cyclists actually tackle the summit in the daytime. That final push, which begins on the morning of day 6, involves a return to Hans Meyer Caves to fetch the bikes and carry them up to Gillman’s Point. Even from Gillman’s there’s very little actual cycling to be had, the path, for the most part, being too narrow, and it is only on the final push from Stella to Uhuru Peak that cyclists can actually jump back on the saddle.
After the summit, cyclists return down to Kibo Huts and from there indulge in one of the longest downhill rides anywhere, a 30km plummet from Kibo Hurs to Kilema, interrupted only by one last night at Horombo.
To prepare for this marathon, KINAPA have also opened up a four-day cycling circuit on the other, western side of the mountain which again makes use of the 4WD track used by emergency vehicles. The route on this side starts at Londorossi Gate and travels via Morum Barrier, the Cathedral and the nearby helipad before returning back down the slopes. Unlike trekkers, who have to pay for a minimum of six days worth of park fees on the nearby Lemosho and Shira routes, cyclists on this route are obliged to pay for just four days – though still have to pay the US$50 per day extra for the bike.