Posts Tagged Kilimanjaro

A Beautiful Monster

Kilimanjaro summit from the plane window. The full mass of what appeared from the mountain was impossible to see through just one window.

The flight to Nairobi was a long one so rich with Egyptian stewardess’ “hosbitality”: “Would dju like tchea?”, “I am sorry za blankets are finished.” My excitement still overrode everything because all I could ever think of was the fact that it was finally happening. All those months of anticipation and training are about to be put to the test.

After a long wait in Nairobi airport waiting for the connecting flight to Arusha, the sun was already out as we began to board the little Precision Air plane. I didn’t know then that sunrise would continue to be my sign of hope throughout the week. It meant I was getting closer to my target.

The plane was so small and almost everyone on it seemed to be set to climb Kilimanjaro. My backpack was so wide because of the foaming mat and the inflating mat that I had to walk sideways along the aisle. I definitely did not look like someone traveling light. I ended up seeking help from a cool looking British climber who himself had great trouble putting my bag in the compartment at the top of the seat. I immediately began to feel self-conscious.

But as the plane took off I sat with so much excitement looking out the window with my bag sitting on the ground in front of the empty seat next to me. I could not hide my ongoing grin as I kept looking out the window. A thick condense layer of clouds was underneath us, but I knew I would still be able to see the top of Kilimanjaro. It did end above the clouds, didn’t it? It was a high mountain.

Soon a nice majestic dark summit began to appear piercing the clouds. I stared at it but quickly decided that it was probably too pointed to be Kilimanjaro’s summit. It was rather short above those clouds too. Then soon a much larger one appeared. I almost jumped with excitement and I really wanted to ask everyone on the plane if that was Kilimanjaro, but I hesitated because I didn’t want to ruin all the composure I tried to build after the backpack scene. I had to look like a cool climber so familiar with the mountain and was just going there for the 6th time for fun. But the minute the flight attendant showed up I had to stop him and ask him if that was Kilimanjaro. “No madam. Kilimanjaro is going to be on the other side,” he decently replied.

Soon after that I discovered that none of the climbers around me required all the composure I was trying to hold on to. Everyone suddenly shifted like mad to the windows on the other side and kept staring out there with disbelief.

There it was.

It took me a few minutes of staring out the window with a blank mind for me to realize that my mouth was actually wide open. I could not take my eyes off it. It was a monster. So high with its glaciers it seemed to be all on top of the clouds, floating with such ease. The clouds were like loyal servants surrounding it and caressing its edges. This was a mountain I could not take lightly. It was the most beautiful monster I had ever seen.

I was humbled. I felt so small. So weak. And I was in so much awe and love I immediately felt hooked to Kilimanjaro for life. I was finally there face to face with one of the seven summits and the highest free standing mountain in the world.

I was scared.

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It’s Happening! Kilimanjaro is Just a Few Hours Away

My packing mess: Duffel bag with snacks and obsessive little anti-bacterial gel bottles sticking out

It’s finally here. The moment I’ve  been waiting for for three months is only a few hours away. This is the first time in my entire life that I start packing and feel relaxed as I do. No rush with anything, just put the items that have been lying there since I bought them from Britain, fold them one by one and whisper secret wish to each of them that they work well, and voila, the red duffle bag is all packed and happy. This trip should be a lesson for me in traveling light, I still added some extra items I know I can do without, but you know, it gives a sense of security to feel that you have everything abundantly.

My everlasting FPO (Fear of Peeing Outdoors) syndrome, which was diagnosed and named by my good friend and Kilimanjaro veteran Nadia, continues to rule my life. Being not very well versed in the art of peeing outdoors, today at the supermarket I bought 8 little bottles of anti-bacterial gel and an endless pack of wipes. I might have been able to hold it for 12 hours on St. Katherine in Sinai, but I’m not sure it could work for a week in Kilimanjaro, unless it freezes.

I have a rough idea of what to expect on the hike from others who have already been to the mountain. So I did my homework and got the clothes and the equipment I might need. But I know that no matter how ready I try to get or how ready I think I can get, there will always be room for panic over just what might be missing. So I do believe that a mountain experience is a very personal one. It’s me and that mountain. We’ll figure out the language we speak to each other, and it will tell me how to climb it.

The minute I took the decision to go up Kilimanjaro I stopped sleeping at night. I would toss and turn in bed, forever obsessing about getting ready and having the right equipment. My heart would race just by the thought of me taking my patient steps one by one to the top. It was like I discovered an inner passio

n in me that had always longed to express itself and has finally found its way out. There is something that draws me to that summit. I feel at awe each time I look at mountains, and this was the chance for me to experience the full majesty of the highest peak in Africa.

Kilimanjaro is known to be a kind and friendly mountain. It looks serene in the picture I have on my desktop. You only trek up, no supernatural abilities of climbing are required. But the altitude of 5893 meters above sea level has a tendency to work wonders over people’s brains. The lack of oxygen can disrupt muscle functionality and cause brain damage. I get claustrophobic just by thinking about thin air, and I get dizzy in heights, but I still want to climb mountains. No other experience I have been through has given me the same physical or spiritual rewards. So I’m starting with Kilimanjaro and my mind can’t wait for the journey.

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