Kilimanjaro Porters are an incredible breed of men (and the ones who work on Kilimanjaro are nearly always male), and ones who never fail to draw admiration from the trekkers who hire them. Ranging in age from about 18 (the minimum legal age, though some look a good deal younger) to 40 (though occasionally way beyond this), porters are amongst the hardest workers on the mountain. To see them trekking up the mountain, water in one hand, cooker in another, rucksack on the back, and picnic table on the head, is staggering to behold and look at. And though they are supposed to carry no more than 15kg, many, desperate for work in what is an over-supplied market, carry much, much more.
Porters don't have their sleeping bags or tents. If they were rich enough to afford something like that they wouldn't be portering.
They spend six days on the mountain, climbing in ragged clothes and shoes with 25 kg on their head and back.After you set out in the morning, they pack up your tent and all the other equipment, then race past you to set everything up again at the next camp (sometimes for lunch also). They help the cook, do the dishes, serve your dinner, carry all the water from the nearest stream and boil it so you can have a hot wash.
The working condition of this most important system of your climbing chain is the bottom as they are the most negligible ones. Most of the porters are not permanent appointed employees of the trekking companies except few established trekking operators.
Being a porter is one of few job options available to many young Tanzanians who lack higher education or specialized training. But there are thousands of would-be porters and relatively few jobs, which makes it easy for companies to take advantage of the workers on the lowest rung.
The gratuity system on Kilimanjaro follows the Americanstyle: that is to say, a tip is not so much a bonus to reward particularly attentive service or honest toil, as a mandatory payment to subsidize the poor wages the porter and guides receive. In other words, tipping is obligatory.
Most of the Kilimanjaro porters are freelancers and they don’t even get paid by the trek operators when a trekker chooses a budgetpackage. Hence, their sole living depends upon your tip. So, tipping is quite appreciated.
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