And if that isn’t enough, while at the end of the day the average trekker spends his or her time at camp moaning about the hardships they are suffering – in between cramming down mouthfuls of popcorn while clasping a steaming hot cup of tea – these hardy individuals are putting up the tents, helping with the preparation of the food, fetching more water and generally making sure every trekker’s whim is, within reason, catered for.
Yet in spite of appearances to the contrary, porters are not indestructible. Though they rarely climb to the summit themselves, a few still expire each year on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. The most common cause of death, perhaps unsurprisingly given the ragged clothes many wear, is exposure. For this reason, if you see a porter dozing on the wayside and it’s getting a bit late, put aside your concerns about depriving him of some much needed shut-eye and wake him up: many are the tales of porters who have perished on Kilimanjaro because they took forty winks and then couldn’t find their way back to camp in the dark.
It’s this kind of horror story that has caused so much concern over recent years and led to the formation of organizations such as the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project.
How many porters do you need on Kilimanjaro?
The first question regarding porters on Kilimanjaro is: how many do you actually need? This issue won’t actually concern many people, for agencies typically work this out for you. Those looking to save every last shilling, however, often ask the agency to cut down on the number of porters.
But this is neither easy nor – given that the cost of a porter’s wages is usually less than the food bill – a particularly brilliant idea. Remember that even if you do carry your own rucksack, there is still all the food, cooking equipment, camping gear and so forth to lug up the mountainside. Then there is the guide’s rucksack too, for which he will expect you to hire a porter. What’s more, you’re also tempting the agency to overload each porter in order to reduce their total number – which is, of course, illegal.
So, in general, accept the agency’s recommendations as to the number of porters and make sure that they’re not overloaded.As a general rule, the larger the number of trekkers, the less porters per person required and, if you take the Marangu Route (where no tent is required), you can probably get away with about two per trekker, and often less if the group is large. On other routes, where tents are necessary, two to three porters per person is the norm. (Just for the record, and just in case taking porters up a mountain makes you feel a little less virile, you may like to know that the great Count Teleki (who attempted to climb the mountain in the nineteenth century) took no less than 65 of them up the mountain with him!)
How much should you pay porters on Kilimanjaro?