Kilimanjaro mornings

Kilimanjaro mornings

Tanzania offers many rewards to those who rise early. On my morning walk today, I watched a brilliant pink and orange sunrise slowly warm the ice-blue cap of Mount Kilimanjaro. Kili herself stood stark and completely unobstructed against the pale blue perfection of Moshi’s sky.

Several days of sunless cloud have finally broken in an achingly beautiful vision of nature – the mountain appears in indescribable layers and shades of blue, reaching wide and low, and sloping gently in (what appears to be) a tender embrace of Moshi town below.

Each step of my morning exercise was as visual and sensual as it was physical. The mountain is omnipresent, and depending on which road you turn or how the land rises or falls, the same mountain appears partially swallowed by miles of green foliage and brown earth, or it rises suddenly in unbelievable size and grandeur above the horizon.

At all times though, you feel the presence of the mountain, like electricity or a kinetic energy that vibrates just beyond the threshold of sensation. And somehow, whenever you turn your eyes toward Kili, there is always this sudden feeling of recognition… as if you have just turned to look at something that has been watching you.

Although I have not been here long, I have already learned that Tanzania’s beauty is a double-edged sword… In order to truly open yourself to her natural wonder, you must open yourself wide to equal measures of joy and despair. You must not turn away from the reality of life here that is difficult and unfamiliar – take the time to understand why there are street children living in the dusty roads behind the fancy tourist lodges.

I am learning, essentially, that the truly conscious traveler recognizes Tanzania must not be reduced to the “tourist equation” — parks, landscape, mountain and wildlife laid out for “consumption”. Rather, these aspects should be earned, and they first require an appreciation of life as it is lived here. That is a respect I am determined to learn and to give in the year ahead.

And somehow I already know that my morning walks with Kilimanjaro at my side will forge a relationship that will prove endlessly more rewarding for me personally than any singular trek up her breathtaking heights.

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[This is an excerpt from a journal I kept while working in Tanzania years ago. I lived and worked in a small town at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro called Moshi. This specific journal entry was written on September 21, 2005.]

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