Classic Car Corner - Mount Kilimanjaro

  • Written by Tom Berg, Windermere Real Estate

Once again, at the behest of my loyal readers I set off to investigate the cars of the world. This time I handed my real estate affairs over to my trusted associates and was off to Tanzania to check out the automotive scene. After over 20 hours in the air I set down at Kilimanjaro Airport in the dark and was whisked off in a Toyota Land Cruiser to a camp in the jungle. Of course the cars they used were Toyota Land Cruisers — sorry Range Rover fans, you come in a distant second to Toyota’s venerable Land Cruiser — something about reliability. After a day in the jungle I was driven down some horrible roads to begin my trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, thus beginning what was to be eight days without seeing a car. Upon thinking about it, I realized that we rarely even go a day or two without at least seeing a car so this would be a real break from everyday life as I know it.

kili  land cruiserDuring day three, my carless interlude was briefly broken when we came upon a rarely used emergency vehicle road on the Shira plateau with a pickup flying down it at high speed (often people need to get rescued due to injury or altitude sickness.)

When the pickup crossed a bridge it flew up in the air, the driver lost some control and the dust and dirt went flying. Fortunately the people in the back of the truck hung on and the driver retained control or the rescue vehicle would have needed a rescue vehicle.

Thanks to great leadership, our entire group made it to the top (over 19,000 feet) after six days, where it was very cold and oxygen was about half that of sea level.

Breathing was difficult so I wondered how cars would be able to run but since there are no roads up there I guess it’s a moot point. It just took a day and a half to descend the 15,000 feet to the exit gate where we got back into our vehicles and headed off on safari. I must note that this day we were in the back of a Range Rover and it didn’t ride as well as the Toyota and there was very little padding on the seat. Two or three hours on those roads with that car felt like eight! Oh, and by the way they drive on the wrong side of the road! There are lots of slow moving trucks so we were always passing someone and after a while I found it was best to just not look at the road or oncoming traffic.
On safari, the Land Cruisers had removable tops so we could stand up and see the wild animals up close since they mostly didn’t care about all the cars around them. We saw a pride of lions next to their recent buffalo kill. Their main concern was taking long naps. One of the males even got up and sat down in the shade next to one of the vehicles. On the way out of Ngorongoro Crater we stopped 30 feet from a grazing elephant and after a bit he sauntered over right next to our vehicle. I was standing up looking him straight in the eye and could have reached out and touched him. Our driver kept whispering for us to be quiet and after a while the elephant just walked around our vehicle. Then the driver told us that if we had made noise the elephant would have tipped over our vehicle!

As we drove on the main roads I noticed very few cars, certainly no vintage ones, but mostly trucks of some sort and motorcycles, many with two or three riders. Many drivers had helmets but few riders did. A lot of the motorcycles would be seen in parking lots (none of which were paved) with their owners lounging around or on them or even working on them. There’s a lot of dirt and dust around but quite a few car wash places (unpaved of course) and the locals seem to like to keep their rides clean.

Even though I found no classic cars this was a great trip that I would recommend to anyone in decent shape.
If you would like more information about it, please call me and we can chat for awhile.

I’m thinking my next global car search might just be Uzbekistan so keep an eye on this column since you never know what I might come up with.

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