Thank You From Tongaa, Mtoto, Manca & Leloo!

Our Porters made our trip to Kilimanjaro! I use the term Porter at-large, but we had our Head Guide Prosper, our Assistant Guide Simon, our Cook Pascal, our Waiter John, our Assistant Waiter Godfrey, our Campsite Manager Thomas, and our Medical Man Focus, just to name a few – plus dozens who helped carry all of our equipment, tents, food, supplies, and personal duffel bags.

No team works harder for your success than these porters. They make sure to get to the next campsite before you do – to set up the mess tent, start cooking the evening meal, even setting up your tent and inflating your Thermarest, so when you arrive you can relax! They are always smiling, singing and playful – always looking out for you to make sure you don’t leave anything behind like walking sticks or music or cell phones!

Our team decided to take on Swahili names as the Porters take on Western names to make it easy for us to talk to them. Swahili names are based on the order you are born into the family. Being the first born, I became Tongaa, my friends became Mtoto, Manca, and Leloo. By the end of the expedition the Porters forgot our real names and when it came time to sign our summit certificates – they realized they did not know our real names!

We spent time with the porters, sharing our experiences and learning about theirs, sharing some of our candy for them to taste, and asking lots of questions about the local environment. We were together for about a week and had a lovely time. Everyone was fun and very motivating when times got tough – especially on summit day, when they reminded us polepole - to walk slowly, slowly and hydrate! They constantly reminded us that we could do it and that we were close.

Never be afraid to extend a smile, a piece of candy or a high five. When you summit, you summit as a team because everyone has worked hard to make it happen. A smile goes a long way even to the carrying porters who don’t often get to interact with the tourists – often because their English is not so good. But give it a go – it’s amazing how much communication can be done with just a look.

Thomson’s Porters Rule! Not only are they the difference between success and failure to the summit, they are the difference between a boring hike and an adventure of a lifetime!

– Vanessa O'Brien

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A high-altitude celebration at dawn.

Vanessa tries a porter’s bag on for size.

Porters and trekkers in the Barranco Valley.