Guiding Kilimanjaro is a prestigious job that requires leadership, wilderness schooling and training, and people patience. Our guides were natural, beloved, and had everything to do with our successful summiting.
“Pole, Pole” for sure helped. We were blessed to get “Joel”, a strikingly handsome man with depth of character that matched his looks. I heard the gal who lives in Tanzania say that she had never seen someone from Joel’s tribe that wasn’t handsome. You can tell Joel is a solid athlete; very agile and sturdy, a natural leader you trust to follow.
Guide number two was Dawson, a no nonsense, explain the facts, make sure everyone is taken care of person. He too, had lines of wisdom etched in his eyes.
And than there was Epa. You had no choice, but to love Epa. The world loved Epa. Every second was an opportunity to greet with a smile, a clever joke, a handshake, a hug, a slap on the back. Even the stern officials and rangers loved Epa. He was just one of those great people you are so glad to get to spend time with. Why? Because he enjoyed himself. He sincerely enjoyed his job. And he sincerely loved people. These men had something more to them. A faith they hummed along the way. A resolution with the Creator they revered that made this mountain they considered a privilege and opportunity. Ov
er 60,000 people attempt to summit this mountain each year. Most succeed because of the guides. The 60,000 come for a pilgrimage of all sorts …for varying causes and reasons. It is the only free standing mountain of its height that a non mountaineered could experience altitude.
Joel, Epa, and Dawson guide for the Key’s Hotel. Expeditions can be booked through the hotel, which is nice because you than have a place to come and return to with a shower and the rarest of things…a pool. Kathy Loper from kathyloperevents.com can give you more details.
Camping out at 12,500 feet. My boots started out grey. We are having a ‘remind me to take my Malaria pill” party. Malaria pills have to be taken days prior to arriving and for a week after coming home from Malaria infested areas. My son has a high school friend that did not take the entire Malaria regiment and got deathly ill weeks after returning from Africa. We had been in mosquito areas on the Safari so it became the daily chat. “Did you take your Malaria pill today?” And now, we were adding pills to prevent altitude sickness. Those that had already started taken them were telling us their hands tingled.
These sturdy ravens have actually been found as high as the summit at 19,320.
I have never seen thistles like these.
We crossed a stream, climbed up and over a lot of terrain, and finally got to 12,500. We were told that stream is the last water source. The porter’s draw straws as to who gets to go back a day’s hike to fetch water.
When I got into base camp the cook tent smelled so good. Makanja was making ‘pancakes’, a delicious crepe that he poured expertly into a hot pan and rolled until the sides started to bake. He said he added onions and turmeric or some sort of spice I have never heard of. Yum. Than he popped pop corn and heated peanuts. Who doesn’t get a feels good from popcorn?! Especially at 15, 500 feet. The tent was toasty from the cook stove, but even warmer was the rapport. The guides and porters were enjoying each other and the conversation that so easily flows when you have trek time on your hands.
“We brought nothing in this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. ” I Timothy 6:6-8.
Timothy 6:17-18. “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share.”…….
(Being back in the states is almost a culture shock. I have had to do business in Orange County with its 6 lane streets, manicured palm trees, Starbucks on every corner, clean stately buildings, blue sky, fresh ocean air. I went to Mariner’s Church on Sunday. I got picked up by a shuttle crew and dropped off at the pond and coffee area leading into the active church. I had worked the four summers while in college for a great camp in Bass Lake, California that the kids came to from this church. Today, everyone was wearing shirts that said, “FEARLESS”. Fearless is a theme they put in action to show the church that they could impact needs in the community instantly. They asked the church members to each give no less than $40 for a one time gift they could just hand out to legitimate needs. Slickly, they had hand held phones with credit card swipes…not as a scam or ploy, but as an instant tool to mobilize. They raised $840,000 in two services. Than, the following week they are going to ask the members to give TIME. They said, watch…it will be easier for you to give money than TIME. “Give, and share…” that is what God’s word is asking those that are rich in this day to do.
In the midst of the climb, here’s a side addition. Before I headed to Africa, I got an email from Rick and Bere, an American married to a Galapian that runs a travel agency with the commitment to preserve and respect the islands and their culture. He is introducing a marathon with the invitation to come and REALLY get to see the islands and REALLY get hands on interaction with the people. He is asking that those that come adopt a Galapian. (I am not sure if that is what you call a native born islander). They do not have the excess funds to run in an event. He is asking that each person bring shoes and pay their entry into a race. Having been there, run that event, be totally taken by the love and respect of Rick and Bere, I KNOW this will be a PEAK EXPERIENCE. So I am adding this to the commitment. I will find 20 people who want to explore the Galapagos, walk, run, or just shop in town during the run, but come with a certain size shoe, shorts, and a shirt, and the chance for an islander to run. Visit http://www.cometogalapagos.com and click on MARATHONPACKAGE2014. When signing up, mention you are a PEAK EXPERIENCE. Rick will give you the name and shoe size of your adopted islander. Kathyloperevents.com is offering a trip, trek, and marathon in Peru in September 2014. Remember the climb over the Andes the Quechuas? Let me tell you about some great needs there. But first, let’s actually summit this mountain. I think we have no idea what we are getting into. We are heading to the next camp called BASE CAMP. It will be at 15, 500 feet. This is the highest elevation I have slept at and the highest elevation I have been to. We packed our daughter and son over the Andes from the Amazon so they would get to see and know the Quechuas that lived on the elevated plains of the Andes. Their only source of fuel was Alpaca (Llama) dung. And their delicacy is Guinnea Pig. They live in low level mud and rock huts. In fact, they live in mud. And they weave bright red, berry, purple color cloth. My children were the first North American kids they had ever seen. But as the Quechuas carried our supplies on horseback, we got to experience altitude. It takes slow even steps to get anywhere and even the slightest extra effort throws the heart and breathing into a panic. As we huffed by on the trail, we would see Quechua kids kicking around a taped up wad for a ball and playing soccer. Huff. Huff. As we approached the highest pass, almost 16,000 feet, my than, eleven year old, huffed, “Why can’t we have a normal vacation…like the ones I see in magazines where people hang in this mess between two palm trees and read a book. I don’t even know what that thing is called!” But did my daughter choose to hang in a hammock during high school? No, she came back to Peru and spent the summer helping orphanages in Peru.
I have an assignment. I am coming back to Tanzania/Kilimanjaro in end of Feb/March 2015 and promised by name, to bring boots, a jacket, wool socks, and a backpack with a hip belt for each of the 25 porters and 4 tents for the guides. To do so, I have to bring 25 people that will benefit from a trip of a lifetime. The only way the Tanzanians gets to benefit directly is if each person brings an extra duffle bag full of this equipment and we personally hand it to the porters. If you send second hand or first hand supplies to Tanzania they get stopped at the shipping point and TAXED. They cannot even afford the tax and than the gift becomes something that burdens and takes food money away. So they beg not to think we are helping by sending boxes of things. If you ship directly to an establishment, like say the host hotel, all the supplies are pilfered before the guides get back down the mountain. A very giving gal in Colorado did so and the guides said they never saw one jacket, or tent. It was just gone when they got there. I am not sure how this CAUSE PROJECT will play out, but I am going to set it in motion. We will call it PEAK EXPERIENCES. I think those that gave legitimately back to this land like had a double summit experience. I think everyone that comes here gives back. You can not climb a mountain without knowing that you are doing so because the guides and the porters are helping you get there. It is a huge part of the experience. There are programs that are being put in place that help in real ways. They have a program that equipment is pooled and can be checked out and returned so it is always there for the next porter in need. The guides gave me a name of the woman in Colorado that has figured out how to get supplies directly to them. She set up a non profit called NORETURNS. I am going to look her up, go meet with her. So follow the blog and lets see who these 25 people end up being. I am hoping it is YOU! You can travel to Tanzania with http://www.kathyloperevents.com. She has set up the best of adventures. But add this extra commitment to find sponsorship to bring this gear. We can work on getting manufacture cost of the items. Email me ideas and interest. email@example.com. Thanks in advance. We will be holding a banner on the mountain in 2015 and making it a double summit experience for ourselves and a banded group of guides and porters. We will give them an opportunity to safely continue to provide income and food for themselves, their parents, their children…and their future.
We climbed over rocks, up crevices, across moonscape they called desert. We piled onto a ledge where we finally caught up with a group called WHOA…Women High On Adventure. These two gals from New York were so impressed with the experience that Kilimanjaro can bring that they went home, made a website, formed a travel excursions company just for women, and came back with 28 gals from around the world to summit on International Women’s Day. They were literally dancing when we came upon them. They would repeat this victory dance at camps and on the summit. It was fun to see all their colorful hats and packs. It was nice to hear their laughter and buzz drifting over the trail. The trail merged here with other routes. A pre base camp appeared high on a open ridge. Our tents were perched 13,000 feet above Moshi. The view was so expansive you felt like you could slip right down to the little town. It was picture perfect. Rain, pitted with ice, came and went. And so did the wind. The clouds made for a stunning sunset over another volcano across the valley.
I met another group in camp that were wearing matching beanies. They worked for a company called Salesforce.com. This successful German based company GAVE BACK. It had its employees pick causes and gave money and time back to those causes. These four guys were zealously tackling Kilimanjaro and helping a project called Charity Water. They were having fun.
Night fell and the buzz of camp wrapped you like a warm blanket. Conversations lullabying. Though you couldn’t make out words, you could feel people getting to know each other. Porters sandwiched 10 to a tent, laughing and jesting, humming and singing. All the girls in their tents talking into quieter and quieter subjects until all that was speaking back were the twinkling stars. This made Kilimanjaro…well Kilimanjaro, an experience like no other.
Though we were rising over 10,000 feet the vegetation was full forested. We scaled step over step up a ridgeline. The trees finally became shorter and we passed through a ghost arrayed level of forest draped with moss. It had a Lord of the Rings surreal feel. The sun was showing through and the valleys were opening up far below. We got our first peak at the snow capped summit. SNAP. SNAP went all the cameras. Things change constantly on Kilimanjaro. Soon the wind was blowing and clouds were billowing across the valley and being sucked up to our height. We were shrouded in the clouds. And than the sky would open up again. The guides told us we were entering a new ecosystem. There were plants I had never seen. They rattled off their scientific name, lost on me. I will have to look them up for you. But there is a plant that never sheds its leaves. The leaves dry up and layer as an insulation to the root and the plant continues to live on the top of the leaf stem. Pretty good survival techniques.
Last night I had opened this little Gideon Bible that I ‘borrowed’ from the hotel. The Gideons
are a group of business men that wanted to read the Bible together. When they found that no one in their entire motel had a Bible they vowed to start a group that would leave a Bible in every drawer of every hotel, motel, hospital, and military station. So far that organization, over the years, has placed Bibles across the world. And lo and behold, even in Tanzanian. (PS.I was careful to put it back upon my return). One of the trekkers had Philippians 4:13 tattooed on his back. It made me read the entire book written by Paul, the one who originally persecuted, even put to death Christians, until he became one. Paul was a high official that gave his position up to travel and preach about salvation and get churches started. “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content. I know how to be abased and I know how to abound everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
The porters did not get fed the first day until camp was totally erected and our meals were made and served.
We finally made it to our first camp. I think we hiked 6 or 7 hours. It was on a rain forested hillside. Mamma Pinkie stood outside the tent for far too long. I finally got her inside. The porter’s had set the tents up and were already getting hot water for tea. But Mamma Pinkie sat in the tent, unmoving. Than I realized, she needed help. She was totally spent by the day in the rain. I put her pad out, got out her sleeping bag, told her the little tricks of living in a tent as I took off her wet socks and got her in dry clothes. I had spent four college summers living out of a sleeping bag and tent. I actually found a familiar zeal out of being in this tent. She finally started talking and said, “I have never camped. I don’t think I like this. I know I don’t like this.” But the fact that it was hard for her, and yet, she strongly did it is going to say a lot about what triumphs Kilimanjaro trekking can bring. I was already proud of her, and thankful for her pink spirited spirit. Even her walking sticks coordinated! You go girl!
The dinner served was fabulous and well welcomed…for camping. The stars popped out and our eyes shut…save mine. I had some dead end roads I had tried in the past year and the consequences were putting me at a start over level that felt too close to the bottom or endeavors. And the Malaria pills were making me feel funny. And the altitude pill I just took was making me have to pee twice a night. I never take anything so these medications were whirling in rebel in my system.
The porters limberly passed us as the guides made us go, “pole, pole.” Slowly. Slowly. This was a formula they knew worked. It got our bodies used to a pace it would have to learn to hold in elevation and guaranteed our bodies and hearts time to acclimate. What a gift a chance to climb Kilmanjaro would be for all of us.
The porter’s laughed and jested and joked despite the loads. And we were treated to singing. Some had phones and battery radios that carried tunes up the trail. The first two days we would be in a rain forest. And rain it did. Drenching, get under the gortex and down the sleeves wet. The little pink petite spirit on our trip that the guides nicknamed, Mamma Pinkie, got really quiet and than she started to hike faster and faster. I nearly ran after her. I told her the guides wanted to slow us down. Her sad eyed response, “I just want to hike out of this rain.”