PALM TREE PRODUCTIONS
In 150 AD, the geographer Ptolemy produced an early map of Africa on which a group of mountains near the equator were identified as Lunae Montes, or Mountains of the Moon. The fabled, mist-covered mountains were first explored and photographed by the Duke of Abbruzzi in 1906. Later, H. Harrer wrote: Nothing surprises in the Ruwenzoris. The creator must have lost – for a moment – his nerves. Obviously he tired of creating order, separating darkness form light, developing functional beings, and lifting land out of the water. After seven days of hard work and a good rest he allowed himself a joke and put it into the 100 Kilometer-long mountain range, one degree north of the Equator…Here a short story about scaling Ruwenzori's ice caps on the border shared by Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Mountains of the Moon are 5199 Meter high - third highest point in Africa.
Dinner in the Ruwenzori Mountains
Forget about Kilimanjaro, we say. The real action takes place at Ol Doinyo Lengai, the most active volcano in the Rift Valley south of Lake Natron, in Tanzania. With 2890 Meter not nearly as high as Mt. Meru, Mt. Kenya or Kilimanjaro, it is nevertheless impressive because of its steepness, the absence of established trails, and its remoteness. The smell, noise and sights at its summit crater beats any other mountain. Conditions change by the year - for the latest, check out Global Volcanism Program. Excellent is also Decade Volcano, including videos. For more insights into the causes of volcanic activity, we recommend to read Bill Bryson: A short history of nearly everything.
View into Lengai Crater, in Northern Tanzania
Leave the Gorillas alone in the mist. Instead, stretch your leg and hike up Karisimbi (4507 Meter), Muhavura, or any other of the Virunga volcanoes straddling the border of Rwanda and Uganda. And you might actually ending up seeing your cousins anyway. The Virunga story is from 1981, but I went 27 years later again to the volcanoes, this time to climb Bisoke (3711 Meter), the third highest of the Rwanda volcanoes.
On top of Muhavura Volcanoe, Rwanda, with giant Lobelias and a little crater lake
Mount Elgon was once perhaps the biggest of all Rift-Valley volcanoes, with more than 80 Kilometers in diameter at the base. It is now very much weathered down, but with 4321 Meter still one of the giants in East Africa. If you don't mind sharing the trail with the occasional smuggler, it is a worthwhile hike to the summit. Here, I am hiking up Wagagai, starting from Mbale in Uganda.
Fog on Mount Elgon, Uganda
Malawi is the second most densely populated country in Africa, but also its warm heart. There are plenty of day-hikes, but also more serious challenges, not at least at Mt. Mulanje. Mt Mulanje is "only" 3002 Meter tall, but rises 2000 Meter above its surrounding plains - and offers the longest rock climb in Africa.
And after those hikes, there is always the lake.
A climb of Mt. Meru is much more than a warm-up exercise for Kilimanjaro. After all, with 4566 Meter, Mt. Meru is the highest East African Mountain right after the three African snowcaps (Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya and the Ruwenzoris). In fact, Mt. Meru's summit is arguably more striking and memorable, and the hike much more scenic, spectacular and enjoyable than that of Kilimanjaro!
On the crater rim of Mount Meru, Tanzania
Kenya has many more mountains, which can fill a mountaineer's life. Here are just some of them: Mount Kenya, Satima (little known, but interesting nevertheless!), Longonot, Chyulu hills...
Ok,ok,ok we also include Kilimanjaro. Though we veered off to have a go at Mawenzi, too.