Mount Kilimanjaro History
Mount Kilimanjaro lies on the border of Tanzania and Kenya, just south of the
Equator. To the west lies the Great African Rift Valley, created by tremendous
tectonic forces which also gave birth to a string of other volcanoes. One of
these, Mount Kenya, was originally much higher than Kilimanjaro.
The three summits of Mount Kilimanjaro, Shira, Kibo and Mawenzi are all of very recent origin. Shira and Mawenzi both have suffered
considerable erosion and only jagged peaks remain. Kibo, the central, youngest
and highest peak has survived as an almost perfect cone.
Although East Africa and nearby Olduvai Gorge is thought to be the cradle of mankind it is unlikely that early man would
have been attracted to the steep and cold slopes of Kilimanjaro at a time when
it was probably very active and
dangerous. A Wachagga legend talks of Mawenzi receiving fire for its pipe
from his younger brother Kibo. The Wachagga who live on the fertile volcanic
soils around the base of the mountain probably only came to the area about 300
years ago thus this legend suggests very recent activity. Another of their
legends talks of demons and evil spirits living on the mountain and guarding
immense treasures. Stories are told of a king who decided to go to the top, few
of his party survived and those who did had damaged arms and legs.
Arab and Chinese traders and historians make mention of a giant mountain lying
inland from Mombasa or Zanzibar but few early traders ventured into the interior of the continent. Slave
traders passed below it and sometimes raided the villages of the Wachagga but
it was not till the middle of the 19th century that a more serious interest was
taken in the mountain and attempts were made to scale it.
In 1848 Johann Rebmann a missionary from Gerlingen in Germany while crossing
the plains of Tsavo saw Mount Kilimanjaro. His guide talked of baridi - cold,
and of tales how a group of porters were sent up the mountain to bring back the
silver or other treasures from the summit.They came back only with water.
Rebmann's report stimulated great interest in Germany and in the following
years several expeditions were organised; first by Baron von Decken then later
by Dr. Hans Meyer who finally stood on the highest point on the 5th of October
Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, now attracts many thousands
of walkers each year. On the 1st of January 2000 over 1000 people reached the
summit to see the sun rise over a new Millennium.
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