Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mt. Kilimanjaro

I just had the opportunity to experience two of my greatest joys at the same time; hiking and Africa. Chloe and I flew into Kenya on Monday, Sept. 28th. We took the most terrible bus ride of my life from Nairobi, Kenya to Moshi, Tanzania. I have never experienced anything like it, 9 hrs of pure torture.

Chloe’s face in the following picture captures the mood quite well. The woman in the other picture was the only bright spot of the whole drive. She is a tour guide from Scotland. She was fascinating to talk to.

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Although the drive was miserable I was extremely happy to be in Africa again. I love this place. There’s something about it that makes me want to stay forever.

We arrived at our hotel just in time to meet our guide and the group we’d be climbing with, three others from Canada. I instantly fell in love with our guide, Emanuel, (mostly because he’s the most handsome African I’ve ever met) and our Canadian trekking mates, Carey, Betsy, and Heather and I was looking forward to getting to know them better.

I was super nervous about hiking the mountain because of my knees until I got an email from Heidi that night telling me I had “normal knees”. I can’t tell you how comforting that was to hear. :)

Tuesday morning we headed out at about 9 AM. Here are some pictures of the first day.

Our bus drive over to the trailhead:

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The mountain from out the window of the bus and the front gate:

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Along the trail:

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We arrived at out first campsite around two ish. That’s when it started to get chilly and I was cold for the rest of the 7 day trip.

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Every day after that we’d wake up to sweet little Philbert telling us that our water bowl for washing was ready. He would set it outside the tent and then fifteen minutes later breakfast would be ready. The first few days of the trek I loved the food and then after getting the same thing over and over again I slowly lost my appetite, just couldn’t handle any more porridge and soup. After breakfast we’d start hiking and usually arrive at our next destination by one in the afternoon. We’d have the rest of the day to do absolutely nothing. It was wonderful. We’d arrive at our campsite, eat lunch, chat, play cards, and then nap for the rest of the afternoon. We’d wake up for dinner and then head back to bed around 7 PM. It was always so cold so we spent the majority of the down time in our tents to keep warm. I don’t think my feet ever got warm.

Some of the places we camped:

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Inside our eating tent:

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More pictures along the trail:

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Heather and I standing by our Heather Trees:

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Summit Day:

I’ve never had any children but I can only imagine that the six hours it took us to walk 3 miles to the summit was much like childbirth. It was grueling. We got up at 11 PM. I was super duper nervous and to top it all off just started my period. My stomach was all in knots and I just wanted to get it over with.

We started hiking at midnight. It was a full moon and the sky was beautiful and clear. The first hour or so was fun and I was just happy to be hiking. It slowly went downhill from there. We walked pole pole (slowly slowly) and it was still too fast for me. I started to feel really sick. I got that tingly feeling when you know you’re about to faint. I was super nauseous and felt like I was going to throw up. I just wanted to stop and rest but every time I did my body would FREEZE. So unless I wanted hypothermia I had to keep moving.

We were walking straight up a mountain in ash. It was miserable. Emanuel, our guide, was wonderful. He kept checking up on us to make sure we were okay. He would check our eyes and our hands. Anything we needed he would pull out of his pack and give to us. He walked slow enough that we could keep up and wouldn’t let us stop for long. He just kept us moving.

More than anything, the summit day hike was more of a mental challenge than anything else. I kept repeating things that my sister’s would say to me to encourage me. I thought of my Pops and other friends who have encouraged me to do things that are difficult. I spent a lot of time singing hymns just praying I would make it to the top without losing it.

About 45 minutes before the summit we reached Stella point. I knew if I could make it to Stella then I would make it the rest of the way. The sun was starting to rise and things were warming up a tiny bit. I was feeling much better knowing I was almost there. Emanuel was right by side helping me for the remainder of the hike.

We reached the summit and I was ecstatic and a little out of it at the same time. It all felt like a bit of a blur. We only stayed on top for about 20 minutes until they rushed us back down. The sunrise was amazing, the view was spectacular, the glacier was incredible, and we all celebrated the accomplishment of summiting the highest peak in Africa. It was worth every penny. I’m so glad I did it.

Here are some pics from the top:

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Other pics from the top:

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Little Chloe:

Chloe was hilarious at the summit. We took a few pictures and then she was out of there and on her way down. There was no messing around at the top for her: get up and get down. We laughed about it afterwards. I sure loved having her there with me. There was much laughter, singing, and chatting between the two of us the whole seven days. She was so much fun. I will miss her nightly vent sessions, her constant teasing, her encouraging words, her innocence and love. I couldn’t have asked for a better climbing buddy.

Here are some pics of the two of us:

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Our Tanzanian boyfriends, Philbert and Emanuel:

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This one is my favorite. Typical Heather and Chloe:

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The Porters:

This trip wouldn’t have been as great without all the porters. I LOVE African men so to be surrounded by all these fun porters for 7 days was so much fun. There were 19 men just for our group of 5. They carried our bags, food, water, chairs, tents, toilets, and anything else we would need for the seven days on the mountain. They would leave after us and get to the camp before us. It was so great to see them along the trail and then back at camp. They were all smiles.

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Our Guide:

Of course I have a major crush on Emanuel. He’s handsome, strong, happy, single, and African. What more could a girl want? I had to get lots of pictures of the two of us together, just in case we need one of them for our engagement picture :)

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The Celebration:

At the end of the hike after we were all showered and clean we received our certificates proving that we had reached the summit of the highest peak in Africa. Then I went to Emanuel’s for another celebration with cake and sparkling cider. The perfect end to a very memorable week.

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10 comments:

Stephanie said...

What a GREAT post! I love all the pictures, the stories, the boyfriend! I'm glad it was such a memorable exprience. You're amazing!

Elizabeth said...

Congratulations! What an experience. I love your positive yet realistic attitude about doing hard things. It gives me the courage to do the MOUNTAIN of grading I always seem to have. I look forward to hearing more about your adventures in Africa.

molly said...

HOORAY HOORAY!!! I love you!

Kari said...

W.O.W.!!! Heather, you continue to amaze and impress me! That looks like it was super difficult and the fact that you did it motivates me to do more in my own life! Thanks for always being so upbeat and positive! You are such an example and I love your guts!

Congrats on making it to the top.

Heidi said...

A celebration with cake, sparkling cider, anything else? Can't wait to summit that mountain with you some day. In a long, long time. Thanks for a the fun details!

Cheryl said...

So it went all right even though you didn't get lunchables, huh? What an awesome experience. I'm excited for you.

Ben Rhoades said...

Way to go superwoman! I'm jealous.

Emily A. Gunderson said...

Great post, Hed. Way to get there.

Zach and Jen and Elizabeth said...

That is so awesome! You are doing so many amazing things. Thanks for letting us experience it all with you! :)

Brenna said...

You are my HERO! I love you Hed! So so so so proud of you! Thanks again for you sharing your adventures with me.