It took over six months since booking our flights from London to Moshi, of planning, buying all the things we would need for six days of trekking. Every other day I would remember something and make another Amazon order online. From little things to brown bags (plastic bags are not allowed on the mountain), to knee support for downhill climbs.
For the last day, walking 8 hours downhill, knee support and walking poles should be used. I not-so-cleverly packed my knee braces in my bigger backpack, which was carried by the porters so I’ve come back to our hotel in Moshi with a very painful left knee, deflated feeling of not being able to make it up to the summit of 5685m from Kibo Hut (base camp of 4720m), after sleeping in freezing temperatures in tents and walking an average of 4-6 hours a day in high altitude, with no shower and using a shared portable toilet inside a tent. Basically, feeling rough and tired and not fully accomplished. The immediate thought is one of not being rewarded for all the effort and inconvenience I’ve been through.
There were several good things about the journey up the mountain. Most days involved walking above the clouds, which is absolutely beautiful. Also the chef ‘Steve’ arranged by the tour company made us very carb-heavy, homemade hot food two to three times a day for the energy we needed to walk every day. Waking up every morning to clouds and beautiful sunrises and just the absolute basics amongst nature (and some very large ravens that look like a cross between an inflated crow and an eagle).
back to basics
We got hot water in a plastic bowl every morning and evening, to brush our teeth and wash our faces. We started to appreciate that one bowl of hot water so much more than we ever would have, especially after freezing our faces off at night in the tent. Especially when we think of how much water we use (and waste) back home, when using taps, having a shower or bath and when we last appreciated how luxurious that is. Don’t get me started on swimming pools.
what did i wear?
The highest number of layers I have worn was four base layers and my down jacket, trekking pants, gloves, balaclava inside my sleeping bag at the base camp. Ps. a hot water bottle and a sip of vodka really helped deal with sleeping at night easier (although maybe not wise for those who want to reach the summit). I even wore certain items of clothing for six days... my personal best (or worst!).
how did i look?
In terms of how I looked, the first day was a bit of a struggle as I have my normal make up routine which went out the window on day 2. With no mirror and no technology except our cameras, we were reminded how we really look. Our bare natural faces became more acceptable to us. There was a point though, when our faces were all slightly puffy from the altitude, which we found quite funny. My hair was beyond hope and frizzy so one of my friends platted it for me, which made it acceptable for photographic memories of the trip.
did it rain?
We got really good weather, with no rain and mud and the best thing is that there were no insects due to the high altitude. But.... not everyone is that lucky, so best to be prepared.
what did we talk about?
The main conversation for each day was:
• Being bloated (like you’ve never been before, thanks to the altitude)
• Summit night (D-day i.e. day of walking from base camp to the peak)
• How many hours of walking we will be doing on the following day
Overall, the four of us (me and three of my best friends) had a memorable trip up and down the mountain, we started to warm to the local porters, guides, chef and even the man who cleaned and carried our portable toilet. His nickname was: ‘Helicopter man’. These guys carried our luggage and tents up for five days and tucked us into bed nice and early (at 8pm!!) and tried to make conversation in broken English. They practically dressed us for the summit night with the gear, from gaters (I didn't even know what these things are) to gloves and headlamps. It took 13 porters, two chefs and three guides for the four of us to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. That in itself shows that this is no easy climb.
back to ground level
When we got back to ground level at the Kilimanjaro National Park gates and drove back to our hotel in Moshi, we saw the mountain from a distance standing independently in all its glory. It made me realise just what I tried to climb. Two of my friends made it to the first peak at summit, so for them it was even more mesmerising that they were up there (and even got a certificate from the Tanzanian government!).
For anyone wishing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, my humble advice would be to enjoy the journey up the mountain, be mentally prepared for anything, listen to your body and how it reacts to the altitude and be positive. I’m not sure I was carved out for several days of camping, but it’s certainly an experience worth having once... and then returning to civilisation and usual comforts feels even better. Certainly appreciated a nice shower!
We all know that life is not predictable and no one can say what will happen in the future. But what we can do when we are faced with problems, is to try to make the right decisions at the time. We can only do our personal best to find out how to take control of the situation, instead of letting problems drag on over the long run, wasting precious time and effort.
The aim is that as a bare minimum, we are content with ourselves for giving it our fair and best shot and that we have collectively made an informed decision, irrespective of the final outcome.
Recently, I noticed that a 'project' that I had put a my mind and heart into, was starting to take a different direction to what I originally wanted. To ensure that I didn’t make drastic decisions based on just one event or problem in the heat of the moment, here are some steps that helped me problem-solve the situation, while keeping my cool (sort of):
step 1: stay calm
It’s easy to react quickly when something annoys or upsets us. But the first step is to try to be patient and understand how the situation may have risen as well as try to empathise with any others involved.
step 2: observe
It’s worth keeping an eye on whether what you consider as a potential problem persists, whether you see any trends or if it was a one-off issue.
step 3: COMMUNICATE
If you do notice a trend with the problem(s), then it is important to bring them up with those involved sooner rather than later and to hear their views on the matter. Sometimes a series of conversations may be necessary in order to digest differences in opinions.
STEP 4: TIME OUT
Time gives us space to digest, explore, compare and contrast our personal views, goals and beliefs with everyone in the 'project'. It can help us understand any differences in opinions and see if there are potential opportunities to find long-term solutions for the problems that have surfaced.
STEP 5: FOLLOW UP
After some time has passed, penciling a follow up conversation and communicating this with everyone involved, is often essential in order to reduce the chances of the problems going on for longer than is necessary.
The reason for this is that prolonged problems can cause some or all of those involved unnecessary distress or confusion. This can hold everyone back from getting the best outcomes for the project, or to conclude the project so that we can move on to the next project, with lessons learnt.
STEP 6: ACCEPT
As mentioned, the future outcomes are not always in our hands.
Therefore, based on the fact that we followed some steps, took our time to find a solution to the problems to the best of our knowledge, we can accept whatever the result is and be at peace with that. This way we can ensure we live life with no (or fewer) regrets.
Here’s a little flow chart that could help: