Will Lyman’s narration begins and ends this video with the sobering solemnity that a journey to the summit of Kilimanjaro deserves. The journey’s kaleidoscopic biodiversity and its roller coaster emotional flow are around every bend.
“Navigating seldom used routes, Tusker Trail guides are able to reveal the hidden mountain – far from the crowds, which as Kilimanjaro becomes ever more popular becomes an increasing obstacle,” Lyman begins against a screen filled with climbers in a volcanic moonscape offset by piercing blue skies.
WATCH: Kilimanjaro – The Journey
Eddie stands at Kili basecamp staring off into African landscapes he has crossed for four decades. The wheels churn in his head, but he is probably focusing on what it will take to get his group of 11 climbers to the summit the next morning. Around camp he stands before his seated climbers all in brightly colored parkas. “What you are going to do tomorrow is no different than what you have been doing the last six or seven days.” He makes it sound almost easy building their confidence for the final push. “It’s only higher up there, there is nothing technical about tomorrow, and it’s just one foot in front of the other.”
But there is nothing easy staging this journey, Eddie acknowledges speaking before the camera from a solitary outcropping. “Leading a climb up Kilimanjaro is not an easy feat. We have a ton of gear with tents, food and equipment to supply everything we need. What we do at Tusker is to fulfill a dream most people have in their lives and that is to climb Kilimanjaro. It’s one thing to climb Kilimanjaro, but another to do it with your limited abilities.”
And that’s what the Tusker Kilimanjaro journey is about, taking people to the top of Kilimanjaro who wouldn’t normally get near it. It’s to satisfy that life long quest. Francois Langlois stands in the rainforest and says, ”When you’re a kid you see pictures of Africa and Kilimanjaro is what you see. Kilimanjaro is big.” A shot of ant-like humans distinguished only by their red jackets scale a jagged volcanic fin emphasizing Francois’ wonderment about the mountain’s size. To climb Kilimanjaro breeds confidence, but it’s also very humbling. This is unsaid, but the visuals infer it. Francois is wrapped in a blue scarf his eyes behind dark sunglasses he is headed for the top, “The summit or nothing,” he says confidently ready to reach the dream.
Eddie sits in a tent with his handpicked guiding team. “These guides were just guys from the local village when I found them. We have built a team that can guide anywhere in the world,” Eddie offers. Shots of guides and crew singing and dancing are quickly juxtaposed with a serious moment. Guide Urio Senyaeli reviews the clients assuring Eddie that they are on track for the final ascent. “They are doing what we tell them and that is why we are having no problems. So to me this group is very good. We are proud of them.”
And the camera follows them climbing to the summit of Kilimanjaro, a blinding snow and glaciated world where Will Lyman will summarize what they have seen on their journey.
“In a trek that lasts from seven to ten days you encounter five distinct climate and vegetative zones, all within the snapshot of a single moment. The warm dry savannah typical of the African plain, a steamy Amazon-like rainforest of flowering Macaranga and Podocarpus trees, orchids and impatiens, to a heath and moorland similar to the United Kingdom, on to an alpine desert resembling Siberia. And as you approach the summit, a glacial plateau that could be Antarctica.”
A journey to the top of Kilimanjaro is a microcosm of what is still biologically rich and right in the world.