Attacked not by buffaloes but by mob of rangers

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Trip Report
Tanzania, Africa
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Jan 18, 2011
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Attacked not by buffaloes but by mob of rangers
Created On: Feb 20, 2011
Last Edited On: Feb 22, 2011

Narrow-minded park rules and their enforcement

  • You are physically very fit and already acclimatized and wanna climb Mt Meru in two days (or even single push)? Forget it.
  • You are an ambitious photographer and wanna start hiking early each day to catch be best early morning sunlight? No way.
  • You are an individual(ist) and would like to take advantage of the flexibility having a ranger of your own, for which you actually paid? Won't work.
  • Clouds are threatening to move in and you'd prefer to do a quick stroll beyond the hut before taking the time to register there? Better do not.

Beware that climbing this mountain is pretty much over-regulated by an inflexible and greedy park management. They require you to pay for at least three days (and two nights, where the US$ 20 for staying in the huts is the only part actually of good value), which sums up to currently US$ 207.50 per head, based on the fees for a group of two. Credit cards gladly accepted. There are even plans to charge for four days even if your climb actually takes only three. Between Mormella Gate and Saddle Hut, you are obliged to walk with a ranger who is supposed to protect you from wild animals - where apparently the only potential real danger may be a lonely and aggressive buffalo or elephant, which is pretty rare. To make things worse, since July 2010 the management has the unfair habit of combining tourist groups to share a single ranger. In this way they save personnel, but as a side-effect kill any remaining flexibility of the climbing schedule and thus cause tensions within the combined group. This bad practice is widely criticized not only by the tourists, but also by the rangers who must execute it.

One might succeed in bypassing all of these regulations by secretly starting to climb in the night and avoiding any contact with local people. The highest risk you'd take in this way would not be so much to be actually hurt by a wild animal (which are typically more scared by mankind rather than the other way round), but to be attacked by a mob of diligent rangers and porters determined to enforce the park rules. I tried this more individual approach to some extent, with (in the end) mostly positive results, except that I was kept as a kind of premature prisoner for a couple of hours.

I - was well as many others to whom I shared my experience - have the strong impression that the concerns of the staff of the Arusha national park, to which Mt Meru belongs, are not primarily the protection of the climbers from wild animals, but the income of the Tanzanian state obtained from the tourists. They appear to be particularly keen on avoiding incidents with animals since this might give this heavily touristic area quite some negative press with bad effect on the economy.

Apart from all these hassles, Meru is a spectacular and highly rewarding mountain. The rangers working there will certainly be very nice to you, as long as you follow those (res)strict(ive) park rules.

For further detail of my trip including photos, see here.


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edouet - Jul 13, 2011 2:13 am - Hasn't voted

Unexpected account of your Meru trip

Hi David.
I just read your interesting pages ( including your great trip summary ).

Not that I want to start a fight with you, but I somewhat disagree with your perception of the Meru climb; I had a "personal" ranger as I was hiking by myself, who just responded to any of my requests, whether I wanted to accelerate the pace, or to start early...before the slower and noisy hikers took possession of the trails.
But perhaps situation has changed since my stay in Tanzania in early 2005. Anyway, my Meru experience seems to have been better than yours.

As for the Kili, well, I think it was no surprise for you to climb "Disneyland Mountain", as it was no surprise to me to find out that Yosemite Valley around the 4th of July looks more like a giant barbecue party than a true mountaineering experience.
Famous mountains just became the target of: - many record-breakers who wish they could add an another line to their summits book; - many unaware hikers who just think Mount Whitney switchbacks just require stamina because the books describe a class-1 route...until they reach Consultation Lake and discover that the switchbacks are buried in a deep layer of hard snow that requires crampons and ice-axe, and not snickers; - proud French hikers who heard Mont Blanc was basically a walk-up and come unprepared to high altitude; - 99% of worldwide hikers who wouldn't experience the friendship of local people.
I've hiked in France/Spain/Italy/USA/Mexico/Equador/Kenya/Tanzania/Malaysia and yes, most of the famous summits are hiker-parkways, with the noise, the pollution, the fees ( with the exception of the Mexican volcanoes, at least 10 years ago ). Secondary summits and valleys remain though much wilder, and it's the privilege of the ones who want to cross-country or push their limits to enjoy pristine lakes, or a remote village where the tourist becomes the attraction.
I hiked through Ngorongoro in 2005, and ended up climbing the Lengay. The vision of Maasai traditional way of life made it a huge contrast with what I witnessed on the slopes of Kili, and this is also why you and I appreciate the crowded/popular mountains. Because the next time we'll enjoy the secluded valleys even more.

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Attacked not by buffaloes but by mob of rangers

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