Preparing for Kilimanjaro

At some point in late August 2013, I was sitting in a hotel room, tired as can be, contemplating my next vacation. I was on a work trip and it was exhausting. As I sat on the bed, for the life of me, I could not decide what I wanted to do. I really did not want another beach vacation of just another random city.

Ok, I know that sounds incredibly spoiled but I just needed to do something else. Something different. Well…I wanted to start getting fit again and I am incredibly lazy, so why not incorporate that into a holiday?

Right there and then, I decided, “Ok, I’m going to climb the tallest peak in Africa!”

With a month to prepare, I had to get off my butt!

I live in Abu Dhabi, which means no hills, which means I needed something else that would build muscle and stamina. Something else that would stress my body in preparation for the 19,341 foot climb. Well, I certainly found it!

A tennis stadium in the middle of summer, which means 45-50 C heat, was the answer. For an hour a day, six days a week, myself and my fiancé walked up and down the stadium stairs.

We started off ‘gung ho’ on the very first day and made it to 20 minutes. Up and down we went, almost vomiting sometimes and being dangerously close to heatstroke. I never stopped; I never gave up. I kept telling myself this is what it was going to be like on the Summit night–you are going to be tired but you can’t ever give up.

I was sure from the moment that I made the decision to climb Kilimanjaro that I was getting to the top, even if I had to crawl there on my hands and knees. Yes I am that stubborn!

Many people that do these sorts of treks say it was life changing because they did something they did not think was possible. I, on the other ahnd, knew I was goign to get there, for no other reason than the fact that I absolutely hated those stairs in the stadium and I absolutely refused to not get to the top after a month of torture.

I could go on and on about the beauty of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It is absolutely stunning. We, of course, chose the most difficult route to walk, but it promised to be the most scenic. So, we figured, why not?

The trek was long and two days, in particular, were very difficult due to the altitude. Walking quietly behind our guide, Alison, slowly, slowly…one foot in front of the other, we made it to the top. These people, our guides and our porters, were an amazing bunch of people.

Some of the porters and their loads.
Some of the porters and their loads.

Getting to the top was not emotional for me. Seeing these people, wearing nothing but jeans and sometimes Converse sneakers, climb in minus temperatures was emotional for me.  While all the tourists are wrapped up in their North Face winter gear, these incredible people wear maybe two layers of clothing. They carry these amazing amounts of luggage on their heads, all the things you need to make your stay on the camp as comfortable as possible.

When you see a porter, resting and tired, you know he must just be exhausted. I saw on eo fthese young men almost unconscious at one of the camps. I can only guess that he ascended too quickly and his body could not deal with it. It was heartbreaking to watch his friends gather around him and bring him back to consciousness.

You would think with all the exhaustion, no one would want to speak to each other but all over the mountain, you can hear greetings of “Mambo” and “Jambo.” They all say it to you when they pass you on the trail.

Kilimanjaro was definitely a place where you can reflect on your life. We both better appreciated how incredibly blessed we are. How, when we complain about being tired, it probably just means we have not gotten 8 hours of sleep. How, because of random births, our lives are filled with opportunity. That being without a phone or Facebook was actually refreshing, since seeing selfies of the same person constantly can get quite tedious. It really was a breath of fresh air!

My favorite memory was on Summit night. We started walking at 11pm. We were tired. Ok, no, that’s an understatement. We were very, very tired and very, very cold. As the sun rose, the most beautiful shades of pinks and oranges started to peep through. The moon was still up and it was so clear, due to the elevation, that when I stopped for a while to bring my heart rate down, I looked back and thought, “This is so worth it.” All the effort, all the training was worth seeing the most beautiful sunrise of my life. I am not a big sunrise person, as I’m usually asleep–again, cause I’m lazy and love my bed–but I will never ever forget just thinking, “Wow, this Earth is awesome!”

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