Bicycles on Kilimanjaro!
The park authorities of Kilimanjaro, KINAPA, are hoping to promote cycling on Kilimanjaro. The news came to light in an interview I did with the boss of KINAPA, Betty Lobooiki, for the next edition of our guide book.
Cycling on Kilimanjaro is not without precedent. The occasional cyclist has, in the past, secured permission to pedal up to the peak. Most notable, perhaps, was the TV presenter Nicholas Crane and his cousin Richard who took their bikes to Uhuru in the early 1980s. (They are believed to be the first to do so.)
But since the millennium, as the mountain became ever busier, KINPA prohibited the use of bikes on Kili.
Until now. In a surprising change of heart, the authorities have decided to allow cyclists back on the slopes. In fact, they have even opened up a whole new route and devised a unique itinerary just for them.
Cycling up Kilimanjaro: How much will it cost? And who can organise this?
At the moment KINAPA are asking for just an extra US$50 per person per day. This daily fee is in addition to the regular park fees paid by those pedestrians who merely want to walk up to the summit.
At the moment we aren’t sure which companies will be organising cycle trips up Kilimanjaro. But it’s a fair guess that those companies with a history of organising cycle tours around Kilimanjaro will also be arranging cycling trips up Kilimanjaro. Companies such as Summit Expeditions and Nomadic Expeditions (SENE) or Ahsante Tours.
This new route takes advantage of the 4WD track. The route starts from the tiny settlement of Kilema and ends near the Last Water Point on the Marangu Route. It’s a track that was previously 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. KINAPA have established a simple campsite on the route.
The following two nights are spent at Horombo. Cyclists use the third day to acclimatise by cycling up to Mawenzi Huts and back. On the fourth day cyclists retrace this path, via the unusual Zebra Rocks. They then continue on to Kibo Huts for another two nights. On the fifth day of the adventure, cyclists carry one’s bicycle up to Hans Meyer Cave. Here cyclists store their bikes, before walking back down to Kibo Huts.
Reaching the summit
Unlike the majority of trekkers, cyclists actually tackle the summit in the daytime. That final push begins on the morning of day 6. It 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, is too narrow. So it is only on the final push from Stella to Uhuru that cyclists get back on the saddle.
After the summit, cyclists return down to Kibo Huts. From there they indulge in one of the longest downhill rides anywhere. It’s 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. Again this makes use of the 4WD track used by emergency vehicles. The route on this side starts at Londorossi Gate. It then travels via Morum Barrier, the Cathedral and the nearby helipad before returning back down the slopes.
While trekkers have to pay for 6-8 days’ worth of park fees on the nearby Lemosho and Shira routes, cyclists on this route are obliged to pay for just four days. However, they still have to pay the US$50 per day extra for the bike.