13 April 2013

The Dark Side of Kilimanjaro

As you climb Kilimanjaro spare a thought for the humble porter. His life is one of extreme difficulty of the hike along the mountain carrying supplies. Often, the doorman is ill-equipped and underpaid.

Many blogs on the internet fond memories of adventures climbing Kilimanjaro and the doorman who helped. There are requests for the lyrics to the song 'Kilimanjaro ". Singing carriers are required to sing for tourists. This song is evocative, triggering memories of hard slog to the summit, the highest point in Africa.

There is another side to this adventure. Holders who sing this song has its own story. The following is a version of the same keeper adventure. Here Marco song. Marco was a porter back in the late 90s - things have improved for holders over the years. Yet even today in 2012, certain holders things have not changed.

What follows are the experiences of Mark.

I started working as a porter on Kilimanjaro a very young age to pay my tuition. My family says that my education was on my 16th birthday. I do not want to die here Kilimanjaro and I asked to be allowed to continue my studies. My mother agreed, but said I had to pay myself, I did by making supplies up the mountain for tourists. In the early days, we had to carry up to 40 kg - imagine that! It made me very tired and sometimes sick.

To work as a carrier group, I have to pay a commission to the Mountain Guide. If I do not pay, I would not be allowed to work. Holders are poor and life is hard. I hope this payment to pay my stuff - if I had a point this time!

I always pray I have a tip for tourists. However, all the tourist inevitably paid mountain guide asking him to share advice to the entire team - which always meant that carriers would not be given a share of the points. Thus, the little that I have received salary was cut in half because I had to pay the Mountain Guide fee for giving me the opportunity to work.

Do not be fooled by the tourism fair - fair tourism may have good intentions, but they are usually far in comfortable offices and are unfortunately unaware of how holders are treated.

Us, carriers are generally kept away from the tourist. We are not encouraged to talk or interact in any way with the guests. I was once beaten for speaking to a customer. Imagine, beaten for talking to a tourist whose bag I carried up Kilimanjaro. It just was not allowed. They [the] Guides fear that we would tip. After being beaten, I do not find another job for a long, long time. The guide told everyone that I was a troublemaker. So no one would give me a job, and I could not pay my school for almost a year.

The food we eat is very basic and often undercooked. Kerosene is used for cooking and is a valuable commodity on the mountain and is used primarily for guests. The food we eat is corn flour cooked in a thick [and is called ugali] it might be hot but it is not cooked. Sometimes, flour is not yet well mixed with water. A portion of the disk ugali is put directly into our hands. There is no bowel or plates holders. From time to time we may have a little spinach with ugali.

Most carriers are badly dressed and badly fed, we're prone to illness and disease in particular altitude. If you become ill during the climb, we will not be paid and that we will not be rehired. So, when we are sick, we must continue. I remember a long time ago my friend, Amani, he died, he was sick before we started to climb, but he needed money, it is the family. He was at the hill called the breakfast, it was here, in this place where he died. Tourists did not say I do not think anyone even noticed that he lacked. I returned his body to his family. I have not been paid for this ascension was not the widow of Amani receive a payment to the funeral.

Many times, when I returned after a climb that I could be sick for a week. Sometimes coughing up blood. My brother begged me to stop Kilimanjaro when I'm sick, but I knew it was my only hope, my only means of escape. If you have the misfortune of being born in Marangu village you climb Kilimanjaro or you can starve slowly and the coffee culture.

Once I remember a goalkeeper has lost his shoe. There was ice on the ground and the foot of the porter was numb. He did not know he had lost his shoes until a tourist saw the blood and stopped the trek and put a bandage on the foot and gave him a pair of boots. This tourist was very angry against the fence. We were all happy that the Guide was in trouble. But of course, we were punished for upsetting the tourists - we were all punished.

When the climb is completed, we are very tired, exhausted even, but we are forced to stand in a line to sing the song 'Kilimanjaro'. We hit the air and happy tourists, so the guides can take our advice. When we sing the guides will walk behind us saying, "sing louder, louder sing and say they look happy."

All guides are told what to pay for advice and pay the entire mountain guide. Why! Why do they say that? Tourists do not care for carriers? I'm sure there's a very good reason to pay all tips for guides but I'm still waiting for someone to tell me what the reason is. Us, carriers, has never won a lot of advice in general, in most cases, we have not received any money at all, except of course for our wages, less the costs we pay to the mountain- guide.

Holders have no voice, they have no right. They die for a few dollars. I ask you to tourists from Europe and America, China and Australia have a thought for the porter. When you book through an operator of fair trade, make sure they are really doing what they say they do. And I would ask you if you tip the doorman please give this tip directly to the doorman. I live in Aruhsa and life is not so bad as it was in Marangu. I help my family and do not allow my parents to be a carrier.

Kilimanjaro is beautiful I said, but for me, when I look at this mountain, it is difficult to see the beauty of everything. Of course, we say, yes we pretend to tourists that we appreciate the majesty of this mountain shinning - but to be honest, it is very difficult for me to see something other than death, cruelty and poverty.