By Jaston Binala.
They came, they saw, and they believed. Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania–Africa’s highest mountain–can be scaled on a bike. Fifty cyclists from across the globe have proved this to be true.
The bike riders came the first week of June, 2022 to try climbing the world’s only free standing mountain at the height of 5,895 meters above sea level, on ten-speed bicycles. The adventure seekers would then paddle away to a lake in northern Tanzania that resembles the dead sea in the Judean desert. The story is now being told because all went well.
This adventure was organized by a non-governmental organization in Tanzania called Grumeti Fund. It was organized in collaboration with the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA). Mount Kilimanjaro is one of Tanzania’s several national parks. Grumeti Fund gave a name to this cycling adventure as K2N (Kilimanjaro to Natron).
Noel Kilewo, Grument Fund’s K2N Stage Race Logistics Manager said ‘Kilimanjaro to Natron’ cycling adventure was designed to give cycling enthusiasts a unique opening for cyclists to experience Tanzania’s natural beauty as they paddle between Kilimanjaro and Lake Natron—the red lake described by some adventure writers as Tanzania’s beautiful and deadly lake; the lake which supports no life as it will kill any unsuspecting creature that tampers with its water. The spectacle of the lake is its red color–one of the world’s few red lakes.
K2N was also incepted to promote cycling as a sport in Tanzania, putting the country on the world stage as a mountain biking destination, Kilewo said. Participants pay for this adventure he said. The country earns money through national park fees and village fees. There are villages at the bottom of the mountain.
Grumeti Fund says K2N earnings on the other hand are split in half, where 50% of their earnings are injected into Community development and wildlife conservation in Tanzania.
The June 2022 Kilimanjaro bike ride was a major success organizers said. The scenery and fresh air on the way up the mountain was especially a major point of interest to cyclists. Those who have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in the past describe breath taking scenery on the way up the mountain, with changing vegetation characterized by changing climatic zones as you scale the mountain. The scenery begins with a lush green rain forest teeming with an abundance of wildlife, large and small. One climber said as you walk on paths through this rain forest you will see groups of monkeys making their way through the leaf canopy up in the trees. The climatic zones keep changing as you climb higher.
The rain forest gives way to a breathtaking grassland, followed by an alpine desert-like environment between 4,000 and 5,000 meters above sea level. It gets very cold as you climb higher. The highest peak which stands above 5,000 meters is covered by permanent glaciers frozen at temperatures of – 25oC.
Kilewo said the cyclists paddled only up to Shira plateau which stands at about 4,000 meters above sea level. All riders cherished the experience, he said.
Mount Kilimanjaro has three volcanic cones: Mawenzi, Shira and Kibo. Mawenzi and Shira are extinct volcanoes but Kibo–the highest peak–is a dormant volcano which could erupt again.
The most recent activity was about 200 years ago; the last major eruption was 360,000 years ago, according to volcanologists.
Shira plateau stretches out over 13 kilometres to the west of Kibo, at an elevation of 3,962 metres. Placed on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, Shira Plateau shows the remains of an ancient volcanic crater that expired around half a million years ago.TANAPA has allowed bike riding adventures into the Kilimanjaro National Park on the ground that it promotes tourism and brings revenue into the country, TANAPA Senior Conservation Officer in charge of Tourism, Charles Ng’endo, said. The conservation officer said TANAPA looks forward to another bike riding adventure up the mountain expected to be bigger with more participants. Grumeti Fund is working on it.
This year’s cycling up the mountain was the second event of its kind, Ng’endo said. The first climb attracted only 10 participants. This time the event attracted 50 climbers. “We believe the next event will attract 100 climbers”, he said.
A statement from Kilimanjaro National Park made available to the media has quoted Matty Perry, the Grumeti Fund Manager as thankful to TANAPA for granting permission to conduct these bike rides up the Kilimanjaro.