Of a passionate mountain guide on Africa’s highest summit
He talks and jokes with porters and guides passing by but other than that, he remains rather quiet while he walks in front of you. And you wonder why, because you have heard the chatting and laughter coming from the team’s tent at the end of the day. But maybe it is just because the two of you are uncharacteristically quiet yourselves during the walks (and maybe prefer it that way) and he is just good at reading people.
Jackson has been working as the leading guide for Afromaxx since 2005, climbing up Mt. Kilimanjaro up to four times in a month – along routes that he has known and walked on even long before that. “My father died when I was really young and I had to find a way to pay my school fees”, he tells you. “So I decided to climb the mountain as a porter.” When he finished school and had no chance to go to university, Jackson decided to attend the Kilimanjaro Giude Training College. With pride he talks to you about all the parts of his training. “We learned many things – about the flora and fauna at Mt. Kilimanjaro. We also learned how to take care of the groups, like First Aid courses. And it is always important to know when your guest is struggling and you have to use your knowledge and training.”
And that is exactly what he does during the walks – making sure you are ok. If it is just by outright asking you, by encouraging you to keep walking, or by cracking jokes. He likes to make you think that lunch and camp are still far away, when you are close to reaching them – and you seem to always fall for it.
You soon realize that the team you are walking with is not just a group of strangers thrown together to get some tourists to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Amani, George, Emmanuel and the others are a group of friends. Jackson has picked them himself, because he trusts them. “Some from my team, I know from my own time when I was a porter. I knew Albert for example would be a good porter because I climbed with him.” As a guide, he is responsible for the team and climbers. But for him, it is not only about a job well done, he also wants to make sure that the people he knows can profit from the work. “They are from my village. I know the problems they are facing. So I chose them to make sure that the money they receive will heal the village and the people.”
When you visit him at Marangu village, you can see the impact of his decision. “I make sure that the money we receive from Afromaxx will help everyone.” That is why he established a rotation system. The tips they receive after a tour will be added up and given to a different team member every time. “That’s why you see when we are walking around that most of my porters have a house. Through the system, they get enough money to buy bricks to build their houses. Pay school fees for theirs kids. Not just a little sum to go out drinking.”
Once you arrive, his wife welcomes you warmly and introduces you to their kids, who are shy at first but sill follow you around for the day. Jackson guides you through his village and shows you his house, pig farm and cabbage plantation. He tells you all about his plans on how to expand his home. It is not long before you meet up with Amani. With his small son in his arms, he proudly shows you the projects he is working on himself. Shortly after, you meet George and you all have a beer together, like on the day you came back from the climb.
Back at Jackson’s house, you all eat lunch together – homemade plantain and meat stew – and you finally get to know him as the person who likes to chat and laugh. “I want to make sure that my kids are educated. I want them to become teachers or lawyers. And I want my porters to have a good life. And this is what I want for my future, why I climb Kilimanjaro.”