William Murphy wrote the following letter to Tusker Trail’s owner Eddie Frank after climbing Kilimanjaro in December 2014 with Kombe Happyfrais as his guide.
I recently had the pleasure of summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro with Tusker Trail and I would like to bring your attention to the absolutely remarkable professionalism, competence, dedication, caring and concern displayed by every member of the staff. While everything about the trip in terms of planning, accommodations, transportation, equipment, meals, guidance and support was perfect, it was the magnificent character and commitment of our forty-three support personnel that immeasurably added to the enjoyment of our experience. Every individual, from Simon our head guide, Kombe and Pastori our assistant guides, Wence, our guide in training, our chef Tosha and his staff, and Elias who anticipated and met my every need, were all completely and absolutely attentive and dedicated to our comfort, safety and success.
It quickly became evident to me that every member of our team was intrinsically motivated to do those things that were necessary to ensure our goal of reaching Uhuru Peak safely. My indelible observation is that these men were not motivated simply because it was their job, but were committed on a much deeper and personal level to do the right thing for each and every one of us. Their actions during our trek is testament to their character, training and loyalty to Tusker and its clients.
As remarkable as what I have related is, I must bring your attention to the absolutely extraordinary commitment shown to me by our assistant guide Kombe. As I have already said, every member of our team went above and beyond their duties and responsibilities each and every day. However, on our night in the crater Kombe went beyond even that superlative standard in his efforts to ensure my safety and comfort. It was a situation where an already great individual rose to an even higher level of commitment and dedication and for this I am recognizing his efforts on my behalf.
I did not experience any physical complaints or discomfort during our trek until our night in the crater. During the night I became increasingly uncomfortable due to the low level of oxygen at that high altitude. At no time did I ever feel in danger or threatened by this but by about 2 AM my son, with whom I was sharing a tent, became concerned about my discomfort and called for assistance. I do not know how it is decided who will respond but Kombe was in my tent within moments. He quickly examined me and found that my heart rate was at about 150/bpm and my oxygen level had fallen to 60%. He quickly administered oxygen, monitored my situation throughout the night, provided medication, brought me tea with honey (I was coughing badly) and even emptied my pee bottle so I would not have to leave the tent.
Kombe stayed with me the entire night and never slept as he remained nearby. After I managed some sleep Kombe informed me that he and I would be walking out of camp at first light since it was important for my safety that I descend to a more manageable altitude. Kombe and I spent a very enjoyable day together descending to Mweka Camp.
As we were descending Kombe was as always attentive and aware of my situation and, as I had read prior to the trip, once we had descended just a short distance I felt perfectly fine. As we continued down the mountain, and in one of the most touching moments of my life, as I was making a rather pathetic explanation for not handling the altitude better, Kombe replied, “Papa, I’ve watched you and you are a very strong man with the heart of a lion.” I will never forget that and it will be a moment I will always cherish. Kombe not only displayed his obvious competence, intelligence and dedication that night but he also did so with such grace, modesty and humanity that it truly touched me. These few words cannot adequately describe how grateful I am to Kombe for his efforts and the high regard in which I will always hold him.
This was a remarkable experience, shared with remarkable people, and I will be forever grateful to all of our support staff who made our dreams come true but particularly to Kombe for being a person of such honest, deep and respectful character. You have much to be proud of and I hope that you will convey my thoughts and well wishes to every individual who shared this remarkable experience of a lifetime and especially to Kombe to whom I will remain forever grateful.
My experience with Tusker on Kilimanjaro made a definite and positive impact on me. Although quickly approaching late middle age (but still young at heart), I definitely have been bitten by the desire to experience similar adventures in the future and would not consider anyone but Tusker for my future travel. I hope to do Mt. Everest Base Camp and Patagonia with my sons and I have no doubt that these treks will be just as perfect as my Kili experience.
William F. Murphy
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