LEMOSHO OR SHIRA PLATEAU – WHICH ONE’S BEST?
Though the two routes are similar after the first couple of days, there is no doubt in my mind that the Lemosho Route is superior. It is the first day or so, when you are walking through the forests on Kilimanjaro’s western slopes, that is the main reason why this trail has overtaken the old Shira Plateau Route as the main path attacking Kilimanjaro from the west. With the latter you usually take a car all the way up to the plateau, thereby missing out not only on some fine forest, which you experience only through a car window, but also on some useful acclimatisation.
And although the walk up to the plateau on the Lemosho Route is an exhausting one, the benefits of trekking rather than driving up may manifest themselves later on as you saunter up Kibo with scarcely a headache, while littering the trail around you are the weeping, retching bodies of the AMS-sufferers who took the car up to the Shira Plateau.
What’s more, because Lemosho is a more southerly route, so it allows side trips to the minor peaks of Kilimanjaro’s third summit, the Shira Ridge. In particular, the Shira Cathedral, on the southern side of the plateau, has become a very popular excursion on the third day of the trek. Again, such a side trip is useful for acclimatization purposes and no extra days need to be taken to do this either.
That said, there is one major company that still advertises treks on this route (though even then they diverge significantly from the standard Shira trail) – and maintain that it has many advantages over the standard Lemosho Route. But my advice nevertheless remains the same: if you have the choice, always choose Lemosho over the Shira Plateau Route.
WHICH ROUTE AM I ON?
The first thing to know about these two routes is that it is not uncommon for the Lemosho Route to be referred to as the Shira Plateau Route, particularly by foreign agencies keen to promote the fact that you’ll be walking across the Shira Plateau. This, of course, is confusing so you should ask your agency to indicate exactly which of the two paths you’ll be taking.
Another way to check is to see where your first night’s accommodation will be. If it’s the Big Tree Campsite – or Mti Mkubwa in the local language – where you’ll be staying, then it’s actually the Lemosho Route that you’ll be following, regardless of what your trekking agency calls it.