Friday, December 24, 2010

Go For Broke! #2 Klimbing Kilimanjaro

By Lani

I travel quite a lot, and I love reading about other people’s travelling experiences. So it was with excitement that I sat down to read this zine about a trip to a place I’d never been to before, Africa!

Our story begins several months before the trip when Lani discovers that her dad has cancer. Not willing to spend his remaining days wasting away (physically or mentally) he’s decided to do as many of the things he’s always wanted to as he can. First stop is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world: Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The whole family decides to go along with him, and they spend several months preparing for the trip before heading off and participating in a type of travel I’ve never experienced before: namely using guides and having porters carry all your stuff for you.

The trip itself is interesting, and while I had meant to read only half of this zine (it’s quite a lot of text) I decided I had to know what happened and read it all in one sitting. It’s pretty crazy to read about the massive differences in temperature, climate, and land type that can happen in just a couple of days of walking. While the health problems, such as difficulty breathing due to low oxygen levels, that some people encountered just from going up high are pretty frightening at times.

This does however lead me to a few questions: Why on earth would you want to climb this thing? (Yes, yes, “because it’s there”.) What must it be like to have your job be to help rich foreigners climb a mountain? Does the guy whose job it is to carry a toilet up the mountain hate the people who hire him? Why can’t they just pee outside? How much does this sort of trip cost?

Lani’s account of her trip is told mostly through diary entries, a form that both has its benefits and its drawbacks. The benefits are that we see, learn, and experience things at (almost) the same speed that Lani does, creating an immediacy in the story that other styles don’t allow. We feel her pain as she climbs the mountain, we struggle for breath as she gains the upper reaches, we worry about the other people on the trip, and so forth. Another benefit of this writing style is that we don’t know what’s going to happen next because Lani doesn’t know either. Do they make it to the top of the mountain? Does everyone but Lani die? You have to read the full zine to find out! Even the introduction (whose style showed the effort put into writing it, and which I enjoyed) was written before the rest of the zine and doesn’t supply any hints as to the outcome.

The downside of this style is that the text can be prone to errors, both grammatical and factual. While Lani’s writing style is generally pretty good, it is, as are most journals/diaries, a first draft and falls to the problem of not supplying us with enough information about certain things the author takes for granted. Generally this isn’t that big a deal, but the occasional reference or Japanese character included in the text just left me utterly mystified. Thankfully there is a brief Swahili/English dictionary in the back, so at least I can figure out those words.

There’re a few problems with layout/design, such as the blank pages at the end that I wish had been used to reproduce larger photos of the trip, but they’re by no means a deal breaker, and I do love the full colour cover (and inside cover), which look really nice. Despite these small problems Lani’s trip is definitely worth reading about, and I hope she does some more travel zines in the future. Especially if they’re about places I haven’t been to yet.

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