Edition 43: Summer 2008
Stacey Wittig of Flagstaff, Arizona, writes to tell us of when she first laid eyes on mighty Mount Kilimanjaro.
The pounding on the metal door of my small sleeping trailer at the Lyamungo Retreat Centre yanks me into consciousness. Where am I? Oh yeah, this is Tanzania and I’m here on a mission to help build an orphanage. The light of dawn is pushing itself through the torn screen of the only window in the simple room.
“Kili! It’s Kili! You can see the mountain!” It was Henry’s excited voice. We’d been in northern Tanzania for two full weeks and Kilimanjaro had not yet revealed herself to us. The rainy season was supposed to have stopped weeks ago, but we’d seen no end to it or the associated view-blocking clouds. That was until now.
I ran out of the trailer barefoot and in my pyjamas, my hair all a-kilter. With camera in hand I made my way to the roof of ‘The Big House’ – the best place to view the mountain according to Pastor Urassa. The retreat was a privately-owned coffee plantation before socialisation in 1967 and the estate was beautifully designed by a Greek farmer. His love of Mediterranean architecture could be seen in the white stucco arches of the verandah. The fresh morning air was tinged with the aroma from the rose bushes that are snatching at my pyjamas hems.
“Magnificent! Absolutely incredible!” stuttered Henry from above. My hands quickly propelled me up the cold iron rungs of the exterior circular staircase and I was soon able swing my leg over the solar water heater at the edge of the roof. The heavy black tar paper crackled under my feet as I approached Henry and Dorane. Sure enough, we could see over the tops of the banana, avocado and lemon trees, giving us a beautiful shot of Kilimanjaro, crested with white glaciers and framed with wispy clouds. At over 19,000 feet she is a cold, blue giant peering over our colourful tropical paradise.
With raggedy hair and crossed arms (I was now aware that my bra was left behind in the rush) I posed for a few posterity photos. “Stacey at one of her finer moments,” teased Henry.
We watched the mountain for almost an hour, until she rolled up her white fleecy blanket, and covered her face once again. Henry was right, I thought: this was one of my finer moments.