Yohani Kinyala Lauwo

Born 1872

Dies 1996

Mzee Lauwo

Name ID 2213

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Extract Author: Nichole Smaglick (?)
Extract Date: 2000 June

The Old Man of Mt. Kilimanjaro

The Honeyguide Newsletter

The words 'Mt. Kilimanjaro' conjure up romantic images of personal growth, challenge, defeat, and success. We have seen pictures and heard stories. The climbers of the first Mt. Kilimanjaro climb in 1889 had only their courage, passion and naivet" pushing them on. When asked, 'Who was the first to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro?', the most common reply is Hans Meyer of Germany. Hans Meyer is credited with the vision behind the expedition, but who was his guide?

Yohani Kinyala Lauwo was only eighteen years old when he led Hans Meyer and Ludwig Purtscheller to the highest point of Africa on October 5th, 1889. His selection by the Mangi (Chagga chief) to be Hans Meyer's guide was accidental, but it forever changed his life. Kinyala (as he was called) was born and lived his entire life in the village of Marangu, nestled on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Before Europeans came to East Africa, many of the Lauwo clan of the Chagga tribe hunted the forest elephants for ivory and sold it to the Swahili traders from the coast. The forest also supplied them with honey, timber, medicine and Colobus monkey hides. By the time Hans Meyer arrived in Chaggaland, Kinyala Lauwo was a tall teenager who knew the forest like the back of his hand. By then, colonialism had started in Kinyala's homeland and young men were being forced to construct roads. Kinyala tried to dodge the 'draft', but was caught. As a result, he was summoned for trial at Mangi Marealli's palace. Coincidentally, Hans Meyer had just arrived at the palace asking for permission to climb the mountain and guides and porters. The Mangi's wachili (advisors) spotted Kinyala, knew that he was of the Lauwo clan, and asked him to guide the expedition.

The event led Kinyala (later called Mzee Lauwo) to guide Mt. Kilimanjaro climbs for more than seventy years! For his first climb, he was only wrapped in blankets. Over the years, he obtained appropriate clothing and hiking gear. When Mzee Lauwo turned one-hundred years old, the Tanzania National Parks gave him a beautiful, modern style house painted in light purple and pink pastels. Here he lived with his two wives until his death on May 10th, 1996, after a grand life of a one-hundred twenty-five years!

Extract ID: 5405

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nTZ Feedback
Extract Author: Dr Bernard Leeman
Page Number: 2008 11 08

My father, William 'Tim' Leeman was an Ulster soldier who served from 1916 -1919 in the 4th KAR from Lake Victoria Nyzanza down through Tabora and Dodoma to Northern Mozambique. He then worked at Temi estates Arusha before going to live in Songea until his death. In the Second World War he was in Military Intelligence at Mikindani. He had a 1032 acre farm which is now Ugano Coffee Research station. I have many photos taken in the early 1920's of the Moshi-Arsuha area.

I moved to Kilimanjaro in 1968 and have a home at Ashira, Marangu. I was Chairman of the Kilimanjaro Regional branch of the Historical Association of Tanzania. One of my in-laws was Kinyala Johannes Lauwo (1871-1996 -sic), the first man known to have climbed Kilimanjaro. He was the guide for Hans Meyer in 1889 and Meyer named Johannes' Notch after him. In 1989 the West German government built Kinyala a house to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the climb.

Extract ID: 5868

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nTZ Feedback
Extract Author: Dr Bernard Leeman
Page Number: 2008 06 25
Extract Date: 1993

Johannes Kinyala Lauwo

Kinyala Lauwo (1871-1996) was my inlaw and I interviewed him on video in 1993.

He said he climbed Kilimanjaro many times before he guided Hans Meyer. He said he had ascended nine times before he realised there was an inner crater. He also found the dead leopard but when I told him of Hemingway's book about it, he said he'd never heard of it.

The West German government built the house in 1989 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Meyer's ascent.

[2008 08 16]

Here is Kinyala Lauwo's family tree:



Aisere (brother was Kimemia)



Rawia (brother was Mkawo)


Kimemia's descendants were



Rawia's descendants were



Many children including Yakobo, my wife's father.

I haven't yet found the name of any of Kinyala's siblings. Most Lauwos are descended from Paulo's children. I have a more detailed family tree somewhere but haven't managed to find it.

Extract ID: 5793