Moshi — WHILE admitting that getting to the top of Africa's highest peak was not easy, seven-year old Aaryan Balaji from India has just achieved the feat and lived to tell his story.
He sets the record for being the youngest climber to reach the Uhuru Summit on the world's tallest free standing mountain after braving the chilly weather, pounding rain and fever-inducing heights.
"The paths up the mountain were muddy and slippery, the rains, mist and fog were scary but I was determined and thanks to the experienced guides the mission was successful," said Balaji who already holds a certificate of being the youngest adventurer to scale the Atlas range of mountains peaking at the world's highest point.
Balaji may be holding a number of outdoor expedition records but he admits that scaling Mount Kilimanjaro was not easy and he couldn't believe it when he managed to reach the Uhuru Summit at 5,895 metres above sea level. This hasn't exactly been the year for climbers at Kilimanjaro.
In January a bolt of lightning struck one tourist dead. That same month a team of 100 pilots who scaled the mountain to accomplish the first ever paragliding attempt from the summit were forced to abandon the exercise following harsh weather conditions.
They left the country without a word. Balaji is currently a Grade 2 student of Mahatma Gandhi International School in Port Blair India and in his Kilimanjaro trip went through the Lemosho route in the Siha District of Kilimanjaro region.
His trekking started on Monday, February 18 and returned last weekend. For the Kilimanjaro trip, Balaji was accompanied by his mother, Mrs Riki Balaji who said she is supporting her son as a way of encouraging other mothers worldwide to take their children out for constructive outdoor adventures instead of letting youngsters be spoilt by passive activities such as video games and television.
Few Tanzanians bother to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and most of them are not prepared to have their children risk their limbs, health and lives trying to become heroes on the continent's highest peak. The Arusha School used to send pupils to climb Mount Meru annually but of late there have been reports that authorities at Arusha National Park have slammed restrictions on under-aged climbers.
Balaji has been honoured with the Gandhi Seva Medal, which places him on the same platform with the likes of Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Sonia Gandhi and Lata Mangeshkar. He is also an Ambassador for the Gandhi Global Family becoming the youngest member of the GGF.
The boy's Mount Kilimanjaro expedition was coordinated by "Easy Travels" a tour operating company based in Arusha whose Director Mr Musaddiq Gulamhussein, revealed that they are undertaking the mission in conjunction with the Canada- based G. Adventures.