Great Rift Blog

Colman, an African Mountaineer – Part 1

Posted by in Colman, Kilimanjaro, Mountains | September 01, 2016

My name is Colman Temba and I am the owner of Great Rift Mountains and Safaris based out of Moshi, Tanzania, at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I would like to share my story with you so that you can learn about me and my company. My hope is that one day, maybe you will travel to my beautiful country. I guide on Mt. Kilimanjaro as well as other mountains here in Tanzania. I also provide safaris and many other trips and services in East Africa. We have started a new blog and I plan to make a new post every week so that you can learn more about my country, culture, and company and how we can help make your Afrikan dreams come true. In this first post you will read about how I became a mountain guide. Each week I will post information about our staff, my beautiful country and our services that we can offer if you visit East Africa with us. I look forward to your comments and please share so that others may enjoy them as well.


I was born in Marangu, Tanzania on December 25, 1979.  I grew up in the countryside with 4 sisters and 3 brothers.  My father was a farmer and business man.  He bought and sold cow, goat and sheep skins.  My mother was also a farmer.  On our farm we grew a lot of banana, maize, and coffee.

I started primary school in January 1989 when I was 9 years old.  Primary education takes 7 years and I completed it in 1995.  I completed secondary school in 1999 and advanced secondary school in 2002.

I started climbing Mount Kilimanjaro when I was 14years only.  I did a lot of climbs as a Porter and then eventually as an Assistance Guide.  When I was in secondary school I worked for the Marangu Hotel.  After completing my advanced education in 2002, I started the guide licensing program for Kilimanjaro.  In 2003 I received my Guide License and in I started to lead trips as a mountain Guide in 2004, working for Zara Tours for 10 years

In 2009 I guided a couple on Kilimanjaro.  His name was Chris Kopp and his wife.  We became friends and stayed in touch.  In 2010, Chris came back to climb in Mt. Meru with me.  For me, it was always my dream to start my own guiding company so in 2012, I ask my friend Chris if he could help me because I did not know how to make a website and I worried that people may not trust an African company because my English is not perfect.  Chris agreed to help me and in 2012 I open my own company with my great friend from Canada Chris Kopp.  Our company was under name of KILI-CLIMBING but in 2014 we changed our name after expanding our services to other mountains and safaris in Uganda, Rwanda, DR Congo and Kenya.  Our company name is now GREAT RIFT MOUNTAINS & SAFARIS.  Now I am working not just as a mountain guide, but at the chief organizer in Africa for GREAT RIFT MOUNTAIN & SAFARIS COMPANY.


As I said I was born in the countryside and grew up there, the life there it was real tough.  I grew up in the village called Mmbahe near the Marangu Gate on Kilimanjaro.  The land there is real small.  Each family they have less than 0.5 hector.  Our family had about 3.5 hectors.  Our land was not in one place though and the distance between one farm to another it was about 0.5 km.  So at the age of 5 years with my brothers and sisters we were used to helping our parents on the farms.  Our duties were to carry manure from our home to other farms.  It is a real hard job.  Some days in the evening we would go to the forest to collect the firewood.  Everything in the countryside we carry it on the head.  Normally I would be a watchman because my parents they used to go to the farm in the morning and they come back in the afternoon.  My brothers and sisters would go school in the morning and they come back at 4 pm, so almost all the day I was lonely.  Every Saturday and Sunday it was great days to us because there was no work and no school so I get enough time to spend with my sisters and brothers.  They use to teach me how to count and how to read.  They do that because I was not able to go to kindergarten school because I had to stay home.  This is all about my child hood age between 5-9 years old.  It was not fun at all.

At the age of 9 years old in January 1989, I started primary school.  It was a big day in my life.  It was the day I got the chance to be with other kids for a half a day.  On that day I was looking smart in my uniform: khaki short pants, white shirt and red free flops on my feet.  That is the day I start my new life in that school.  The first two years I was happy.  I never missed a school day.  I was used to school in the morning and we go home at 12:00 pm so I would eat lunch at home.  I started to feel bitter when I started standard (grade) three.  I then go to school early in the morning and we go back home at 4 pm.  At school there was only one meal.  We would have porridge in the afternoon, and the other meal we get it in home at 4 pm.  I did not like that style so after 3 months I started to escape class.  3 months was enough to make me hate school because it was not fun anymore.  Some days I escape class for hours and we would go to Marangu Gate on Kilimanjaro to beg wazungu (white man) to give us sweets, chocolate, and sometimes they give us pens.  Sometime we would escape class and go to the river which was near our school to swim.  As the times goes by and when I was in standard (grade) five I was so famous at Marangu Gate everybody knows me, especially the Guides.  One day, it was Monday I remember at Marangu Gate, I met one Guide.  His name was Onesimo.  He told me to help him with his rucksack up to Mandara from Marangu Gate.  He promised to pay me some money.  I went with him not because he will pay me, but I know I will get chance to beg wazungu for sweets, chocolates and pens.  But after arriving at Mandara, he insist I stay there and then the next day to go with them to Horombo.  They promise it will at Horombo and I will get lots of sweets, chocolates and biscuits.  After arriving I was really tired and had a headache.  They give medicine (asprin, panodoi) and then I get to sleep.  In the middle of night they bring dinner for me, and then I sleep till in the morning when they gave some breakfast.  I asked them if I could stay with them for their rest day at Horombo and they agree.  It was a good day and I got lots of sweets and chocolate from the clients.  I did not even eat the lunch because I was full from sweets.  The next day I asked them to go with to Kibo Hut.  They agreed.  This is how I started to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.  On the way down, the clients they gave a really good tip plus a lot of sweets and Onesimo gave me the full salary of a Porter.  I was really happy.

After the climb I came back home.  At home I got harsh punishment from my father because he was really angry at me after people told him I was on the mountain.  My mom she was worried too.  They forbid me to go there again.  But when I was standard (grade) seven I climbed two more times.  In 1995 I complete standard seven.

January 1996 standard seven exam result came out and I did not perform very well, so I did not get a government sponsor.  But some of my friend they got it, and some of friend who come from wealthier families, they went to private school.  I was really disappointed because all of my friends were going to secondary school.  I tried to explain to my father that I want to go private but in that moment, my father was not good in term of finances because one of my brothers was at private school, one of my sisters was at private school, one sister was at nursing school, and one of brother he was at carpenter school.  So financially he was not good.  He told me to wait at home for until next year.  I agreed with him to wait but later I came up with an idea to climb for some trips to get the fees for six months, and the other six month I will climb again on the big holiday of June-July to finish the fees for whole year.  I explain it to my father and he agrees but not by 100% because he did not like me climbing as a Porter.  I managed to work on my plan and I succeeded to get the fees for the first six month.  I did the same in June-July.  So I was paid for the first year. The other year my father managed to pay by himself.  I climbed only to get money for pocket money and buy books, pens, and exercise books.  By that time I was mature enough, I knew the importance of studying very hard and the money I paid for the fees on the first year by myself, it made me study very hard.  Always I did very well on my exams.

In 1999 I completed my secondary education and in 2000 I got sponsored from government to go study Advanced education.  For two years, the place I had to go to study advanced education was far away from my home.  It was about 24 hours by bus from my home.  At that place things were different from my home town.  They had lots mosquitoes and the food water was different.  The water was not good for drinking (not safe to drink).  Every month I had to go to the hospital three to four times.  If it was not malaria, it was typhoid.  For the first year it was really hard.  In the second year, there was a big change as I was used to everything now; the water, food.  Now I have to go hospital only one time after 3 months.  In 2002 I completed my advanced education, and in 2003 my advanced secondary education exam results were out and I did not perform well enough to get government sponsor.  This time I had to go university or college and it was really expensive.  Its almost $2000 per year and my family would not be able to sponsor me.  I cannot even sponsor myself, so I decide to go back to work on the mountain.  In June 2003, I applied for Mountain Guide licence and got it in December 2003.

In January 2004, I started to climb as a Mountain Guide with ZARA Tours company.  At the beginning it was really tough to go on the mountain three time per month (high season) and one or two times in the low season.  Later after one year I started to get used to it. I used to lead a lot of Germany groups and a few American groups.  Normally there are lots of Americas in December.  Later in 2009 I started to lead Korean groups.  My biggest group to lead was 35 clients.  It was a Korean clients.  30 of them made it to the summit Uhuru Peak.  @ made it to Gillman’s Points and 3 of them they made it to Kibo Hut.  I worked with Zara for almost 10 years.

There are lots of things I remember during the time I was working with Zara Tours, but there are two things which I cannot forget in my whole life.  The first thing happened when I was with group of five clients.  Two of them from Germany, two from Spain and one from Belgium.  We climb via Marangu route.  The first day from Marangu Gate to Mandara Hut was ok.  The problem started on the second day when we went to Horombo.  The Belgian guy started to complain about the water bottle which he forgot in the hut.  We were already half way and he wanted us to go back to pick it up.  We told him it was far away but he did not understand and it took us almost 2 hours to explain to him.  He finally agreed to go to Horombo.  After we arrived at Horombo we got the rooms in the hut but the Belgian guy he refuse to stay on the cabin.  Also he refused to eat dinner.  We watched him until 11:00 pm, and then he fell asleep in the dining hall.  So we had to watch him until in the morning.  In the morning we reported him to Park Ranger. The Ranger spoke to him and suggest for him to go down because he was not mentally ok.  But he refused to go down.  The other four guys, they refused to walk with him on the trail, so we had to separate the group.  I stayed with the Belgian guy from Horombo to Kibo Hut.  We did not talk. I tried to speak with him, but he did not respond.  At Kibo Hut we gave him a hot lunch that he only at half of.  He did not eat dinner.  We started to go to the summit at 11:00 pm.  Still I was with the Belgian guy.  The other guys were with my Assistant Guide.  We summited (Uhuru Peak) at 6:30 am.  There were lots of client who are in the line waiting to take a photo and the others are celebrating.  I was going to the toilet and drinking water and eating something.  Later I tried to look for the Belgian guy, but I did not see him.  I start to run down to looks for him.  I go up to Stella Point and then to Gillman’s Point, but I did not see him.  I decided to climb again to Uhuru Peak.  I did not see him.  I met the other group of 4 clients and spoke with their Guide.  I took two guides to help me find the guy.  We separated into three groups; one to go down to Barafu Camp, one to stay at the summit to look in the rocks and the other to go down to Kibo Hut.  I went down to Barafu Hut.  When I arrived at the Barafu Hut, I looked in every camp and I spoke with the Rangers at the station, but I did not find him.  So I have to go again to the summit.  On the way up I look behind every rock but I did not find him up to Stella Point.  At Stella, I met the Guide who we left at the summit to look for him.  The only place which we did not look it was at Crater Camp.  We walked down into the crater and started to look in the rocks.  We finally found the guy on the rocks in the crater.  He was really tired.  No strength.  He was not mentally fit or able to make decisions.  We gave him water but only managed two sips.  We carried him on our hands up to Stella Point.  We managed it, and then we called rescue from Barafu Camp.  They start to climb up and we carry him down.  After 2 hours we meet the rescue team and now it was almost 11:00 pm.  They helped us carry him and we walked to Barafu Camp.  We then put him in the stretcher and we got more rescuers.  We started to go down to Mweka gate and arrived there at 10:00 am.  We got an ambulance and we arrived at the hospital at 12 noon.  The guy was admitted there.  This was my hardest day in my life of climbing.  45 hours with no rest, no sleep.  That was a really hard day.

The other thing that happen I will never forget was with group of 25 clients from South Korea.  We climbed via Marangu Route.  The Tour Leader was Mr. Kim.  Normally in every group of Korean there is one person who speaks English.  We call them the tour leader.  In the group there was a man 77 years old.  He was a professor of environment, climbing with his daughter.  It was a 6 day trip.  We did very well up to Kibo Hut.  At the Kibo Hut we started to go to the summit at 11:00 pm.  6 clients stayed at Kibo Hut.  We started to go to the summit with nineteen clients.  Fifteen clients managed to make it to Gillman’s Point.  Four of them they gave up on the way.  At Gillman’s Point we gave them hot tea.  Five of the remaining 15 decided to go down to Kibo Hut and then proceeded to Uhuru Peak.  We arrived at the summit at 6:30 am.  The clients took photos and were drinking tea.  It took us twenty minutes and then we started to go back down.  On the way down, the older man was not feeling well.  He complained about headache and weakness so we gave him glucose, water, and a pain killer.  Then we arrived at Gillman’s Point.  We took a rest for five minutes.  The man was laying down on the rocks.  We woke him to go down but he did not wake up.  We carried him with our hand and we tried to go down.  But after ten minutes we found the old man had died.  We carried his body in our hands to Kibo Hut, and then we got a stretcher to carry him to Marangu Gate.  We took him to the hospital and then we went to the police station.  It was almost 6:00 pm.  This was another hardest day and bad day in my life of climbing with someone who died in my hands.

There are lots of things I remember but these are the ones that stand out in my mind and I will never forget in my whole life of leading on Kilimanjaro as a Mountain Guide.

In January 2011, I started to work on my dream to have my own tour company.  Nine years of leading as a Guide was enough for me.  I wanted to do more, do it different and better.  It was hard to start it myself as I needed someone from abroad to help.  So what I did was write emails to my friends from abroad.  I told them about my idea.  Some of them they reply to my email saying it was a nice idea but they do not have time to work with me as a partner.  Later in 2012 I got an email from Chris Kopp.  He agreed to work with me as a partner.  Chris was a successful businessman in North America and was a mountaineer also and he agreed to help me.  So in 2012 Chris came back to Tanzania and we started our company called KILI-CLIMBING.  I was still leading trips on Kilimanjaro as a Mountain Guide but I got more responsibilities to lead on safari and became the chief organizer for our company.  I run all operations in Africa.  I did very well with some mistakes since I was new with the responsibilities.  Later in 2014 we come up with the new idea to expand our services to other mountains in East Africa and not only on Kilimanjaro.  So we changed our name to GREAT RIFT MOUNTAINS & SAFARIS.  I am still leading as mountain and safari Guide, and chief organizer for all African operations for Great Rift Mountains & Safaris.  It is my dream I will lead anyone who is reading this short story of my life.  Thanks very much.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *