Climbing Kilimanjaro Day Three

We wake, I’m still not convinced I slept. I shake John gently and we wish each other a happy anniversary. How amazing to spend our seventh wedding anniversary on Mount Kilimanjaro with Porters, Guides and 25 of our new, best friends.

We get dressed, though this is now a struggle as I dig through my bag to find an item, set it aside and then start digging through my bag for the same item again. It’s frustrating but I’m aware enough to know that this new wrinkle is related to the altitude and my lower oxygen saturations. After much time, I make my way to the dining tent to save a seat for John while John takes our water bladders to the Porters to be filled.

Throughout the day our group makes this day special for us, by well wishes, charades, balloon flowers, special napkins and taking our pictures so many times. I am certain our seventh anniversary will be very difficult to top.

The hike today is steeper. The terrain is grassy but at times its difficult as we scramble over boulders. As we reach our destination, of third cave camp, the vegetation ends. Our elevation is now at 12,700 feet. We spend the day at third camp and I’m content to rest. Later we go on a acclimatization hike. At times during this hike, it is very difficult and I channel strong people in my life to get me through the tough sections.

Dinner tonight is potato soup, very tasty and filling. Soon it’s time for bed and I spend the final minutes digging through my bag for something that I can’t quite remember. The day ends much like it began

I sleep most of the night and awaken in the early morning with nausea, headache, diarrhea and a full bladder




Day Two Kilimanjaro

Altitude is a factor today, hiking a little more difficult. Polepole (Swahili for slowly) makes sense today and is so important it’s said every time we are passed by a Porter . I’m grateful for the slower pace as we trudge up the mountain single file. We can see the mountain daily and still it seems surreal.

The Porters pass us carrying our camp on their heads and backs. Greetings of Jambo! (Swahili for Hello) begin our morning as they dart past us, hurrying to get to our next camp.

Later, I see the Porters in the far distance and try to only look at the ground as they are so far away. Looking up only serves to remind me of how far we need to hike and I grow weary with the knowledge.

We stop for breaks, getting started again is difficult, but the break from the backpack is heaven even for a short time.

We arrive at Campsite two and our camp is already set up by the Porters who rushed ahead. The Porters are at the stream filling containers with water for drinking and washing. Soon popcorn and tea are served and we munch and savour this treat that would scarcely pique our interest at home.

We dine on a lunch of chicken, fries and vegetables. My appetite is huge and I wonder how many extra pounds I will carry up the mountain. I hesitate for a moment, then fill my plate with a second helping.

Later we climb to a higher altitude to acclimatize. Once we arrive at the higher destination , we scramble happily to higher points of land to take photos, check out the view, or simply because we can. We return to camp to await our dinner. We are eating constantly yet I’m hungry again.

Dinner always begins with soup. We are told tonight’s soup is carrot and ginger, so tasty. Meat stew and potatoes round out the meal. It’s simple fare but very appetizing. We sip on tea, instant coffee or Milo after dinner and chat. After dinner we prepare for bed and retire to our respective tents. It’s cold and dark at night, there is no campfire and thus no reason to linger

We crawl into our sleeping bags and try to find comfort. I can hear the Porter and Guides. It always seems as though they are yelling at one another but know it’s just the language. My bladder demands attention due to a side effect of Diamox, which is taken to combat altitude sickness. I’m cold in my bag and I keep adding layers. I awake in pain, and shift to find a more comfortable position and ensure I’m laying on the mat that separates my body from the mountain”s rocky surface. As a result, sleep is disjointed and seemingly in moments, morning arrives and I wonder if I’ve slept at all?




Climbing Kilimanjaro

Such excitement in the parking lot of the Parkview hotel as we wait to begin our journey to the Nalemuru gate and the start of the Rongai route
We take pictures of each other and of the bus as they load the top with our luggage. We wait long past the time of planned departure as Africa time is definitely not the same as Canada time. Finally we are off

We snake through the streets of Moshi staring out the windows of our khaki clad cocoon gawking at such a different way of life in a country half a world away from what is known and comfortable

Our guide, Brighton gives us a pep talk to motivate and is more than successful in allaying our fears. He speaks of the summit as a piece of chocolate and that the pain we would endure is temporary but the success would be with us the rest of our days

We stop to use a washroom and are surprised to see a squat toilet. I use it but cannot help but think that there is not enough hand sanitizer in the world to make it right

A few minutes drive later we arrive at Nalemuru gate and our last chance at a porcelain toilet. I use it twice and relish washing my hands with running water. We are given our first box lunch of chicken, hamburger with egg on a bun, French fries, muffin, and banana–so tasty. It seems as though we are on a newborn schedule of eating every few hours. I wonder if it’s possible to gain weight hiking Kilimanjaro? Something I had not previously considered

Brighton and Michael introduce us to the other guides, such beautiful smiles. We watch the Porters organize our gear. There is a scale but I never see it used

Our group takes pictures of each other, the signage at the start of the trail and we pose for a group shot.

Finally we are off. The Guides tell us Pole Pole (slowly ) as we begin our ascent up this great mountain. We go slow to allow a chance to acclimatize. The first 20 minutes is difficult as we climb up with little flat land. We take many breaks as we become accustomed. Soon we find our pace and it becomes easy. The Porters whiz by at break neck speed carrying our bags, tents, toilets, fresh eggs, bread, their own packs and any number of items we would need on the mountain. The majority they carry on their head. I’m envious of their perfect posture and instinctively I straighten.
We are in awe as we carry only a daypack with some water and a few personal items

We hike through potato fields and gradually enter a jungle type environment complete with very large monkeys with tails like skunks. After four hours we arrive at our first camp, Simba camp. We register find our belongings, claim a tent and settle in while we await tea, popcorn and water for washing. Very dignified and I think I could easily get used to this type of camping

Soon it’s time for dinner. We have voracious appetites quickly eating all the food offered. Tired, we prepare for bed and crawl into our bags for sleep that comes easyIMG_0433.JPG




Traveling to Africa

Hurry up and wait.
We boarded yesterday at midnight and after a day of traveling, time changes we wait in Ethiopia airport for a plane
Time here seems to be a fluid concept. The typical TV sets letting folks know which terminal, gate, flight number and whether it is on time or delayed seems off and doesn’t have all flights listed. There is no urgency here so we acquiesce and sit and wait and then wait some more
Ethiopian airlines was a pleasant surprise. Attentive to our needs, both real and perceived–blankets, pillows, headsets and more food and drinks then on any recent flight. It was like air travel used to be–nice!
Many beautiful dresses and head covers. One Man praying on his mat and a large number of people wearing hiking boots round out the mix of folks at the Ethiopia airport
Then the delay is over, the plane has arrived and we all herd to board en masse.
We arrive and are treated to more lines as we are deemed healthy enough to enter. We are fingerprinted and then collect our bags, walk through customs and outside. It’s hot but we have water waiting for us. Our luggage is loaded on the roof of the bus and we amble off to our final destination today, The Parkview Hotel
I sit here poolside and look into the distance where I see Mount Kilimanjaro. The mountain is gorgeous, looks just like its pictures; however it does look larger in real life. Tomorrow we will begin our ascent. I am so very excited and lucky to have this opportunity. To the top!

Packing and Preparation

Packing a suitcase usually done last minute– this trip has had us packing and preparing for one year.  Last night we finished after a final 4 hour marathon to make it all fit, to remove what seemed to be oh so very necessary, to add things that likely are really necessary and still…I wonder what I’ve forgotten.  Packing for all the seasons, packing light, thinking about layering, adding items that likely can’t be purchased are just some of the many considerations.

Glitches will occur, but how we respond to each will make or break the moment. I’m aiming for allowing mishaps and misadventures to roll off my back and adopting the serenity prayer for the majority of the trip.  Last night my camera decided to break.  Today we will buy a new one, lucky that we can, fortunate that it broke last night, and finally its one of three cameras that will be making the journey–so it never would have been a large problem.  We could not check in on Air Canada, but we are not alone in that concern, we will check in at the airport and deal with it that time.

The neighbors are taking care of our home and cats and we are so very fortunate to have a subdivision of neighbors that we call friends.  Our puppies are off to have their vacation at their kennel.  I’ve paid our bills, organized our bills for the next few weeks, suspended services and done all that is needed to leave the country.  We have downloaded movies, books, and games to keep us occupied.  We have figured out when to take our malaria pills and have read through one more time the signs and symptoms of altitude sickness.

While we are gone, the world will keep on.  Our second grandchild will be born sometime on this trip.  We pray for health and wellness of our family’s newest addition, and fervently hope that one day our children and grandchildren will continue to have opportunities for adventure in their lives.

The last few weeks we have received so many messages of good will via email, text, phone call or in person.  We will take each of you with us as we journey to the roof of Africa, adventure on Safari and rest on the beaches of Zanzibar. It will certainly be an incredible journey.  To the top!

Climbing Kilimanjaro

Destination Kilimanjaro.  It was a year ago that I read that email.

Preparing for this great adventure has been a lesson in delaying gratification.  The entire year has been devoted to working, training and planning for a trip that will commence in just three short days.  I had been looking for something to challenge me, to take me out of the comfortable cocoon that had become my life–I knew at first read that this was the opportunity.  The search was over!

I remember the first time I decided on a minus 30 degree day to climb the stairs in my home.  I did this without hiking boots and pack, just in socks.  I went up and down the stairs for 20 minutes.  I was crippled for days after this challenge.  Who knew that months later I would climb 1600 stairs in 30 minutes on my lunch break and that some weeks I would do this 3 times in a week without any pain during or after.

I recall hiking in the winter and how sore I was after just a few short hours.  I was so pleased  with the level of fitness attained since, when just a few weeks ago I hiked for nearly 9 hours and was disappointed that we had to finish the hike as it was getting dark.

I had many illnesses and injuries, but I do know that I did all that I could to achieve this great goal.  I worked hard and at times three different jobs were juggled to make it all fit to pay for this trip.  I worked hard at our home, staining and painting the house, maintaining the garden, doing yard work, dealing with the dogs, cats, house and all that is required for Summertime at the acreage.

I cycled, biked, hiked, ran, stair climbed, hill climbed and mountain climbed. I woke up at 0300 and drove to hike in Nordegg, then drove home to care for the dogs.  I hiked with lung infections, sore knees, sore hips, sore feet and when exhausted to prepare for Kilimanjaro tough.  I read books about this great mountain, visualized the route, practiced breathing,  meditated and did yoga.  I prayed that we will finish the climb together, that our group will all make the journey to the top,  and asked anyone I met to pray for us.  I kept a journal, a calendar to keep track of my training and another to keep track of my jobs.  Preparing to climb Kilimanjaro was a priority for my life this past year.  When I could not make group workouts, I did more at home to make up for the fact that I did not attend. When walking was difficult due to one of the many injuries, I did core exercises twice per day to strengthen–it worked.  I went to my doctor more than I have in any recent year.   To determine the nature of my pain, I had a bone scan, x-ray and consult with a Sports physician. Convinced I was likely too fat for my body,  I lost over 30 pounds and many inches and that is what made all the difference.  I’ve met many great new friends and learned some of the stories of their lives as we hiked together.  I hope that we will remain friends after we have shared this amazing experience together

I know that the mountain will change me. I am hoping to leave some of my less admiral traits on the roof of Africa.  I will take people with me in spirit–my grandparents, parents, patients that have passed and patients that I currently care and have the honor of being a part of their lives at present.  I will think of my daughters, my grandson and new grandchild and hope that their lives will always be full of adventure, that they will never allow their live to be limited and that they will always aim high.

I will use this as a launch to the next chapter of my life.

I have no idea what the future brings–how many more years that I have left to live, but I do know that I will continue to live every day with intent and purpose.  I will continue to challenge myself physically, mentally and spiritually.  I will not sleep walk through life, nor take the days for granted.  I will continue to learn, grow and develop to become the best that I can be in this life.

I do know that I have done all that I can to achieve this great feat and I’m ready.  To the Top!

Remembering Robin Williams

What is Right in the World Today is that Robin Williams lived. 

I was so sad to hear of the ending of Robin Williams’ life.  Then I smiled as I remembered his smile, his laugh, both contagious, both full of mischief.  He would have wanted us to remember the good.

Like the vast majority of people mourning his passing, I knew him on stage, in film and the voice of many Disney films. I loved his humor, his quick wit and his acting.  I did know that he struggled with mental illness and addiction.  I did not know him, but I wish that I did.

I thought of the movie, Aladdin and how I once heard an interview where Disney had a script that was nothing like the end result.  Robin Williams started to read the script, and then he began to improvise.  Disney tried to rein him in; alas they could not–they let him continue.  The result was rapid fire genius.

I watched him in more serious movies and admired his versatility and talent.  He poured into each a piece of himself and the results were real and raw.  I wonder if he could ever fathom how many people he touched in his life.  Interviews that I saw were always of a humble man.  I wonder if he knows how many people laughed, how many cried and the legacy that he would leave behind.

He continues to reach out to us, sharing an intimate portrait of his struggle, putting a face to mental illness and allowing it into the light.  The stigma is lifting, but it still exists.  Perhaps because of this tragedy someone struggling today will reach out for help, saying, “Me too.”

Unfortunately we lost him too soon, but a quote from him reaches from beyond and offers hope. “You will have bad times, but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”

Rest easy Mr Williams.