Edition 47: Summer 2009
Having personally felt the strains on my body and mind each time I have climbed above 4000m in altitude, and having witnessed others, many of whom were in great shape, give up on their lofty goals and turn back due to increasing symptoms of acute mountain sickness, I was incredibly impressed with the success of the recent Comic Relief climb of Kilimanjaro. Not only did all nine of the celebrity climbers make it to the 5892m summit, but so did all 25 of the support staff and media.
When we first heard that the plan for this high-profile climb had been hatched, we knew it would inspire many of you to make the climb, whether primarily for personal achievement or charity. Aware that planning and preparation are major keys to success on the mountain, we asked Jeremy Gane, the man responsible for leading the Comic Relief team, to produce a guide for you that would cover all aspects of the climb: pre-trip preparations and packing; tips to ensure you choose an ethical operator; and advice on how to stay healthy during your trek. Armed with this knowledge, we’re sure you’ll be able to make the most of your Kilimanjaro adventures.
For those of you more interested in stretching your horizons than your legs, we sent Emma Gregg to explore the little-known island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe (Atlantic aspirations, page 34). While she discovers that the islands are not lacking in paradisiacal properties, such as palm-fringed beaches, crystal clear waters and lush tropical forests, it’s the fascinating cultural history that still underlies most aspects of society there today, which truly captures her attention. Make room on your travel wish list – I certainly have.
With São Tomé and Príncipe’s fledgling tourism industry undoubtedly benefiting from its close proximity to Gabon’s much more publicised natural wonders, it would be remiss not to mention the recent death of Gabon’s president, Omar Bongo Ondimba. In power since 1967, he was the longest serving non-monarch ruler in the world. Considering the fact that he maintained power by winning six national elections, and avoided triggering the violent coup d’états that were rife in the neighbouring countries throughout his tenure, the stability he brought to his nation shouldn’t be underestimated. Furthermore, knowing that his nation’s oil wealth wouldn’t be everlasting, his foresight led him to declare 10 per cent of Gabon’s land as national parks in 2002 – this decision was key in putting his country’s wildlife on the world map, and eco-tourism may just be the industry that helps to drive development forward in the future. He wasn’t perfect – at the time of his death he was being investigated in France for the accumulation of preposterous wealth during his time as president. Mind you, as we’ve recently discovered in Britain, few politicians are. Although he was only 4 feet 11 inches tall, his influence and reputation will loom large over the central African nation for many years to come.