Every year, thousands of people descend upon the Kilimanjaro region to enjoy the mountain and to perhaps climb it. The problem is, Kilimanjaro is becoming more and more expensive to climb, with prices continuing to climb every year. After this January 1, the prices will increase once again. Average backpackers and independent travelers can’t spend $1000 to climb the mountain – and still have a budget left to explore the rest of East Africa. It’s just too expensive to climb the mountain for some.
There is another option, a trick, and a way to enjoy the mountain for free. This requires a little skill, much patience, the ability to adapt, and the ability to not worry about where you plan to sleep. You see, the national park on Kilimanjaro doesn’t really begin until around 6,500 ft, right where all of the villages end. Between Moshi, which is where most travelers hang out, and the park borders, there are hundreds of miles of the Kilimanjaro foothills.
Here is the best part: The Kilimanjaro foothills have huge enormous gorges, big waterfalls, rivers, valleys, little villages, and lush green forests and farms. There are almost no tourists who visit these areas. It’s a hidden gem with lots of tourism potential, but relatively few people promoting it.
When you hike through these foothills, you are climbing and exploring much of the forests and the farmland of Kilimanjaro. Personally I like this footshill the best. Generally you are in area untouched with tourism, maybe a few tourists or NGO people per year. The people are very friendly, curious, and the children will follow you for miles, saying “Mzungu.” There are gorgeous women walking around with bananna stalks on their heads. You will meet some people who speak English and show you into their homes, farms and schools. You will walk by churches, people will be signing and local men will be in the bars drinking the famous mbege beer.
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The scenary, especially in some key areas, is amazing. You can look down on the valley floor and see for miles. There are endless amounts of foothills to explore on Kilimanjaro, some are very easy to find, others are very difficult and more rewarding.
The trick to find these footshills is the hardest, or perhaps the easiest part. That will be in Part 2.