A month is a long time... the sum of 30 days lived to the fullest.
From landing in the chaotic Kilimanjaro airport, my friend Judy and I started our trek on the stunningly beautiful Kilimanjaro mountain. I had no expectations, no agenda. Will I make it to the top? This was not even a question I asked myself, as I was striving for something else, something less tangible to take me away from a highly pressured, regulated life, a life that at times feels does not belong to me.
Why Kilimanjaro? I do love mountains and find an inner peace and a sense of belonging to something greater while in the mountains. Kilimanjaro is an extraordinary mountain where in the course of ascending to its summit, you experience every climate, from rain forests alive with birds, monkeys, flowers, scents, to heather landscapes, dry rocky ground, and finally glaciers and snow.
The experience of walking for hours on unfriendly terrain, trekking poles in hand or hugging the sheer face rocks while climbing a frighteningly huge cliff and the grueling last 11 hours that will take you, one step and one breath at the time to the top of this magical mountain.
The magic comes from within as the top itself is pretty grey and dreary. The magic is the experience, the incredible power of one's mind to push, control the body, refuse to despair, accepting what is handed to you at that moment... aches, fatigue, feeling sick and dizzy, the conflicting tears of both brutal pain and joy.
The magic of meeting the most generous and kind people who have nothing, not even the right shoes, no socks but will give you their unconditional support, help, smiles, will dance and sing with you.
This is pure magic! Alone with my thoughts at night, tucked in my sleeping bag, I felt an inner peace, a quiet I had never experienced. I thanked God for every day offered to me. I will never take any sunrise or sunset for granted, this is the incredible gift of life.
And yes, I did make it to the top...
Day 1: entering the forest via the Lemocho route. Lemocho is the longuest and the most difficult routedue to challenging steeper terrain,but ideal for anyone confident on their ability to deal with steep long 5 to 8 hours hikes a day. It is considered scenically the most beautiful route due to the variations of the landscape and nature and also the most isolated route as hardly anyone approaches Kilimanjaro via this route. Judy and I felt the mountains was ours as, until the very lasts days, no other trekkers crossed our path. The ultimate way to take in this remarkable mountain.
Columbus monkey, noisy, curious, beautiful...
Day 2: Landscape changes dramatically from rainforest the giant heathers
Day 3: Up with the sunrise, on the magnificent Shira Plateau
Day 4: Our first partial view of the summit
Entering the magical land of the giant Lobelias
Day 5: The daunting Barranco wall face. Rock face climbing with no ropes!!
Famous words: Hug the rock. Great cure for anyone who, like me, may have terrible fear of heights
Day 7: On summit day, hardly slept from stress, up before sunrise, could not eat, could not drink...but in awe of the beautiful sunrise above the clouds at 17,000 feet
Ready to go! average timing 11 hours, made it in 7 hours up, then 3 more hours on a grueling descent. was totally sick, dizzy from dehydration and altitude, felt my head was literally going to explode.
Our guide had to help rescue one poor soul (about half my age..) that was just sitting on the path, unable to move. Needless to say, that gave me the last booster i needed, I was going to make it up and down on my own 2 legs...
Day 8: On our last descent day, we had a very emotional parting with our porters. saying goodbye was a teary moment as we hugged and kissed everyone (keeping in mind no one had properly washed in 8 days...). Judy and I gave everything away, our clothes, rain gear, socks, shoes, gloves, medical supplies. We asked everyone for what they needed most and left with a very long list of shoe sizes, clothes sizes, backpacks needed. We left with a promise that we will make a tiny improvement in their life (other than the tips handed down during our goodbyes).
We ended our trek with a well deserved bottle of champagne, said goodbye to Joseph and Hussein, our guides and enjoyed the most blissful shower back at our lodge.
Could not wait for Luke to join me and embark on our Safari.