Professor (of Geography) Meyer at Leipzig University and Professor Purtscheller from Austria were the first Europeans to climb Kilimanjaro. They reached the top on October 6 1889. The Committee which was set up to organise the centenary celebrations last year has pointed out however, that these two gentlemen were not alone on their ascent. And they decided to award certificates, posthumously, or in person, to the African porter-guides who accompanied them. The Committee studied old photographs and historic documents in its attempts to identify the persons concerned. Four of the original guides were found to be dead but one very old man was found to be still alive. He is Mr. Yohani Kinyala Lauwo now living at Marangu near Moshi and he is believed to have accompanied these first early explorers. He does not remember when he was born and is perplexed by the sudden interest in something he had long forgotten. Lauwo claims to have scaled the mountain three times by World War One (1914). The Committee assumes that he was then in his teens and thus that he would now be some 118 years old. Mzee Lauwo said that he was seeking employment at the time and met a European and some others in Moshi with their luggage. The European was looking for a certain Dutch doctor who was residing at Kibo. On arrival there he met another man (Jonathan Mtui who has since died) who told him that the European was looking for people to escort him to the top of the mountain. Recalling this first climb Lauwo said that the mountain was veiled in a very thick forest and they had to use pangas and sticks to cut their way through. The trip was ‘horrifying’ because of the wild animals including elephants, leopards and wild dogs. The trip took eight days and he received three and a half rupees pay. They used to wear only a shirt, a blanket and no shoes he said.
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