Kilimanjaro porters.

While we tourists carried about our persons a bare minimum of bare necessities on our weeklong hike up Kili, the rest of the kit was lugged up the mountainside by local porters, who, it turned out, are more than happy with such a state of affairs since the pay isn’t bad.

So while we carried mere waterproofs and photo-video gear, our porters hauled large bags containing tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, food, water, and all sorts of other bits and bats – usually on their heads.

We were told how each porter carries a maximum of 15kg of tourist kit, and that’s on top of his (they were all men) own kit, if any. Our guide explained it so: “15kg is considered not such a massive load for an adult male. And their tending to carry stuff on their heads, that’s just how they’re used to carrying stuff – it’s more convenient for them.”

The guide went on:

“Work as a porter is highly coveted – it’s not the most strenuous of jobs, while the pay’s always good relative to other work in the region. And thanks to the national park’s official policy of encouraging as many workers being employed as porters as possible (hence the 15kg limit per porter), there’s quite a bit of work available (for fit males). A good policy for the locals, a bit more expensive for visiting tourists.” 

We saw the policy in action: our group was assigned around 30 porters! That’s just how things are in and around Kili.

IMG_2726

kilimanjaro-tourists-1

Read on: Our porters lugged up Kili the following…

Conquering Kilimanjaro.

Now for some detail on our expedition to the top of Kilimanjaro: pics, commentary, impressions and debunkings…

Ready, steady, go!…

Day 1: Lemosho Gate – Mti Mkubwa.

  • Altitude: 2400m > 2800m
  • Distance: 4km
  • Average speed: 2km/h

kilimanjaro-gogogo-1

kilimanjaro-gogogo-2

And we’re off. Ahhhh, so nice to be in Africa at Christmastime. With Moscow under a foot of snow and Western Europe wet and cold and miserable, what better place to be? :)

Our first day was suitably equatorial to get us into the African spirit…

Read on: Five days and one night to the top…

Ho, ho, ho: Kilimanjaro!

At Christmastime (“ho, ho, ho”), what better to do than… climb a volcano in Africa? That’s what I asked myself in November of last year… 

…Wind forward six weeks, and there I was, at the summit of Kilimanjaro!

“The first stage of altitude sickness is euphoria: the individual becomes animated, excited, amiable, chatty… almost ecstatic. The second stage is lethargy: the person becomes despondent, sad, bored, subdued and sluggish, with no wish to converse and no appetite.”

Those are the notes I wrote based on the talk our guide in Tanzania, O.R., gave us not long after our arrival in the country. But I think she left the next stage out (she didn’t want to frighten us, after all); so let me add it: The third stage is fatal: a swift worsening of one’s physical and mental state and… hmmm, like O.R., I’d prefer not to go into it. Let me just mention what you’d need if approaching this third stage: oxygen mask, injected medicine, and a call to an SOS medical helicopter service – all ASAP.

kilimanjaro-up-1

Read on: Oh my Google Maps! What an adventure we had…

Top-100 Series: Asia.

What’s interesting and recommendable in my Top-100 in the rest of Asia, apart from China and the Middle East? Here’s what…

62. Taj Mahal, India.

A mighty mausoleum made of white marble – the tomb of the favorite wife of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. If you look closely on Google Maps, here, on the other side of the river opposite the Taj Mahal you can see traces of the preparations for a second Taj-Mahal. Those traces are as far as plans went for a mirror image of the mausoleum – which was to be made out of black marble instead of white. Legend has it that the Mughal Empire simply didn’t have the funds needed to finance such lavish expenditure on an oversized grave, so its padishah (emperor) was deposed by his attendants, which brought his Taj-2 project to an abrupt halt too.

A magical place, especially the contrast between it and its somewhat less regal, rural surroundings. I really recommend taking an individual tour with a personal guide and mini-van so as not to be shaken about violently on a regular tour bus. Details here (pics; text in Russian).

SourceSource

info_ru_20wiki_enmap_ru_20gmapsPhotosgoogleflickr

Read on: mountains, pagodas and volcanoes…

Going bananas.

I always believed bananas fell into one of three categories: ripe, unripe, and, well… fried :) Of course, there are also normal size bananas and mini ones (much tastier).

A visit to Tanzania literally opened my eyes – it turns out that the whole banana theme is far bigger, convoluted and diverse than I imagined.

IMG_6675

This is the view we got of the roadside “fruit and veg” stalls:

Read on: Truly amazing berry!…

New Year on Kili

Hello to everyone in this new year!

I hope the holidays went off well, without too much collateral damage, and that the winter break has proved useful for the mind, body and cultural development. All the usual stuff. But now it’s time to return to my tales, travel notes, reports and photos.

Starting the year as I mean to carry on – quietly… Yeah, right!

You need to start the year with a bang! Like this:

kilimandjaro-intro-1

No matter who I talk to about Kilimanjaro, they’ve either been to the summit (the majority) or intend to go there in the near future (the minority). A few days ago I joined the majority – on 31 December 2015, to be precise, I stood at the highest point of this volcano. And saw in the new year on Kili!

Due to Internet and time constraints here, the details will have to wait. For now, all I can do is have a little moan about the fact that for this kind of expedition you need to prepare well in advance and very thoroughly. It wasn’t easy.

Around the world in 2015.

Everything about New Year is good! And one of the best things is that it’s the perfect time to take a break, take stock, take note, share impressions, and recharge the batteries for next year. I go through this procedure every year (2014, 2013) – I find it useful in all sorts of ways. I recommend you all do the same and give all those around you a burst of pure positivity. So, how did 2015 shape up? Well, let’s see what my notebook says:

  • I shattered my personal record for number of flights – 116 for the year, ~500 hours and ~400,000 km in the air. The most intense month was March – 15 flights.
  • Visited 23 countries, some more than once. I was in China, Germany and the UK most of all.
  • Gave 50+ presentations, did 100+ interviews, got through 20 business conferences, met 6 presidents, prime ministers and ministers.
  • Stayed, lived or simply slept in 41 hotels
  • Discoveries of the year: the Maldives, Guatemala, Gabon, Iceland. I now have 80 countries under my belt.
  • Completed the 9th round-the-world trip. Not much for a year, but it was all fast and action-packed.
  • Caught a connecting flight at SVO for the first time.
  • Turned 50 while “on the road again”.

Kaspersky ЕК 2015_eng

Read on: Geographical discoveries…

New Year Party People!

Ho ho ho!

Once a year, usually around the end of December we suddenly start feeling all festive. And it doesn’t matter if there’s a winter wonderland outside or a miserable ‘Euro-winter’ with heavy rain falling from dark gray skies, and a biting wind whistling around our office and apartment blocks. At least you can hide from the weather in the underground car park! It’s about the only place actually.

The gray northern gloom is the harsh reality of the last few days before New Year. Melancholy and “the aesthetics of decay” (с).

But we’re not the type of people to let the weather get in the way of a good time! Every year we shake off the winter blues, and by sheer force of will, and with a little help from volunteers, professional performers, makeup artists, event organizers, plus lots of rehearsals, we all gather together at a prearranged venue. Yes, this is KL’s annual New Year Party! And the results speak for themselves!

happy-new-you-2016-1

Read on: And we wouldn’t have it any other way!…