Romanian woman’s solo expedition in Tanzania

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Zsoltne Kantor stops to take a pic as she ascends to the peak of Kilimanjaro. PHOTO | FILE

Life is nothing but a series of memories one creates and hopefully gets to sit around a bonfire and narrate to the grandkids, hence the need to live it to the fullest, and that is how Zsoltne Kantor chooses to live hers.

She was born in a small Hungarian-speaking village of Újszékely (Secuieni) in Romania.

“There is also a lot of natural beauty there; the beautiful landscapes of the Carpathians burn into one’s heart. The people living there are just as hospitable and kind as my Tanzanian friends whom I met on this expedition,” she recalls.

Ms Zsoltne moved to Hungary when she turned 23 years old, and that is where she met and married her husband, with whom they have been happily married for 33 years and blessed with two children.

Sixteen years ago, she became attracted to sports and nature. Having to work in healthcare, she needed enough strength to keep up with the demands of her job.

“I needed to train to strengthen myself to meet the daily challenges; I needed something to help me recharge,” she said.

In 2016, she made a bucket list, which included climbing the Grosswenediger glacier in Austria, Grossglockner, Mont Blanc, and finally Kilimanjaro.

The experience of summiting the highest mountain in Africa invokes indescribable emotion. Ms Zsoltne says every hill has its charm, and while Kilimanjaro is usually windy and cold at a high altitude, it’s a great feeling when you reach the finish line after hard work. “Anyone who goes to the mountain must step out of their everyday comfort zone; they can meet new challenges, interesting situations, and interesting and valuable people,” she said.

Ms Zsoltne’s Kilimanjaro expedition had been planned for a year; she had to prepare herself and be ready physically and mentally. Travelling solo in Tanzania, she spent 24 days in the country.

She first arrived in Zanzibar and flew to Moshi after four days, where she met her tour guide. After the gruesome but fulfilling Kilimanjaro expedition, she went on a four-day safari in Tarangire, Serengeti National Park, and Ngorongoro Crater.

She later spends three days in Marangu learning about Chaga traditions and culture.

After her summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Ms Zsoltne posted a photo on Facebook where she thanked the porters who helped her carry her luggage up the mountain, showing gratitude to a group of men who are rarely thanked for their arduous work. Every member of her team was very important because they all helped and supported her to make her climb a success.

“Everyone has their task on the road, and everyone did their job with heart and soul! I am very grateful to everyone who was there with me,” she graciously said.

After thorough research for a tour company, she chose a small local tour agency over the more established tour operators because she believes a small local tour agency is more suitable for a solo expedition because it is easy to develop a personal relationship and trust the person during such a challenge.

It also helps by directly putting money in the pockets of the locals in the communities. Besides tipping for every service she receives, she believes that by hiring a local, the income goes to a better place in the communities, “because in this way they can build a more livable life, educate the young, and support the elderly,” she explained.

“I think the problem is that the bigger companies collect the tips, take most of the income, and give a very small part to the porters, even though they worked for it,” she added.

Indeed, Ms Zsoltne found out that her tour guide supported the elderly in Marangu with a part of the income he received from her; it was a very generous gift that we gave together. I had very touching moments for her, and she felt a little bit at home there.

She is a strong advocate for the young people operating in the tour business, insisting they are worth supporting. She adds, “This is constructive in the long run for both the community and the country.”

After weeks of adventure alone, Ms Zsoltne’s husband joined her in Zanzibar for a relaxing time away from the hustle and bustle of the wildlife and the slopes of mountains that she endured on the mainland.

Ms Zsoltne is a repeat visitor to Zanzibar; she vacationed on the island two years in a row, amassing rich and wonderful experiences. They fell in love with the ocean, the beach, and the people. She loves to know the people, their lives, and their culture whenever they travel to understand fellow human beings. In their short time in Zanzibar, they explored the island and made friends—a short but uplifting feeling—and they are hoping to go back again.

An avid hiker and a lover of outdoor activities, Ms Zsoltne loves nature; she says it’s like experiencing a miracle over and over again. From the smell of water to the chirping of birds, the rain, and the mountains, she loves it all. It was like being in a fairy tale, she says.

When she got home, impulses came so fast that she thought of what a wonderful experience she had in Zanzibar, the ocean coast, Kilimanjaro, National Parks, and Marangu; they all evoked countless experiences and beautiful memories in her. “The love of people left the deepest mark on me. Simply wonderful,” she reminisced.

She says the kind of love she experienced in Tanzania is rare in Europe; “unfortunately, this kind of love is dying out in Europe,” she realised. She hopes everyone knows they still have it; they just need a little help to dare to show it.

Back home in Hungary, she was asked a lot of questions about Tanzania, from the people she met to the landscape and the animals. Everyone wanted to know her experience.

She has now become a role model for many people based on her courage in travelling alone and daring to climb Kilimanjaro on her solo expedition, amazed at her endurance and ability to adapt to the environment.

Ms Zsoltne is active on social media and has shown a lot of what happened to me while she was in Tanzania. “I love to tell stories about it, and I can tell stories from morning to night because it was a real fairy tale, every moment of which I imagined, wrote, and lived. I always think fondly of those days, people, and friends, and I hope to return to my third home soon,” she concluded.