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.