Kilimanjaro Charity Climb 2005
at the start of september i set off on the most ridiculous adventure i've ever undertaken. we were to climb kilimanjaro, the world's highest free standing mountain at a daunting 5895m. you wouldn't do this kind of thing for fun (i mean you might, but i wouldn't). you'd do if for the experience, or for the pain, or maybe you'd do it for a charity. spannerworks' aim was to raise as much money as we could for the amani children's home, a shelter for tanzanian street kids.
i don't want to spoil it for you but amazingly we all made it to the top, and i personally raised £2981. so go me, if that's not something to shout about then i don't know what is. it was a truly amazing experience and i loved not quite every moment of it. it's safe to say we all learnt a tremendous amount, about ourselves and each other, if not about [insert something horribly cheesy]. the one thing that i want you to take away from this page, that i feel it's my responsibility to make you understand, is that you really don't want to put yourself through this. you don't want to, believe me, but i guess sometimes there are some things you just have to do. it's one of those.
so, just below is my journal from the trip (with my photos inserted in all the relevant places), then below that is the blog i was writing during the run up to the trip. i hope there's something interesting or helpful for you, and failing that feel free to donate me all your money.
01.09.2005 - Heathrow to Nairobi
this is probably the most stupid thing i've ever done. stupid isn't really the word at all. anyway, it's 11:50am, of whose time i don't know, and we're at just over 20,000ft. it's also -51c outside. i know this because british airways knows this. i'm at about the same height of kilimanjaro, but for now i'm stuck here for eight long hours. two books, shit food and eleven bad films. plus a hackysack. there should easily be room for some hackysack - the plane is ten seats wide and has an upstairs. if only it didn't smell of bad food. i lift up a glob of baked spinach rissotto and have to force it into my mouth. from heathrow it's 4254 miles to nairobi, so it's a good job i bought some of my own food.
my excitment at everything tells you that i've never been in a plane this big before. and truth be told i've never flown this far either, infact i've never even been south of the equator. i don't mean that like it's a big deal though. i don't think the world should be thought of in terms of space and distance anyway, it's all quite arbitary. i also don't think you should watch films on planes. it's disturbing how easily you forget you're hurtling across the earth at 37,000ft. nevermind, i'm going to watch a crap film anyway.
01.09.2005 - Nairobi Hotel
my experience of this place so far isn't fantastic. getting through passport control takes ages (we always seem to be at the back of the queue and smelling of deet) and waiting for our luggage is beyond nerve racking - my bag just wasn't coming. being hounded by maniac guys trying to assist me while trying to find it didn't help either. what part of "actually i feel more comfortable carrying my own bag thank you, and i really don't need help getting it off the conveyor belt" don't people who don't speak english understand?
our hotel is located in a pretty grim area of nairobi. it's all about strange architecture and warnings to not leave the hotel at night. what i saw of nairobi between here and the airport reminded me of milton keynes. english is everywhere, in the building fronts and in the traffic lights and signs. our british colonies clearly did wonders for this country's culture. the hotel is adequate enough, our bags go straight up to our room and we go straight up to the bar. a quick beer, shower and then bed hopefully. there is a party going on across the street. it sounds colourful and bombastic. glastonbury has practiced me for this though, so i'm going to be fine.
02.09.2005 - En Route to Moshi, Tanzania
i'm not sure how it worked, but we were woken up at five by tim's alarm clock. we're two hours ahead of england and meant to get up at six. you figure it out. last night it didn't seem so bad when i reminded myself it was only ten o'clock in england (an early night), but then i had to set my alarm for four.
breakfast was an interesting imitation of an english fried breakfast. i'm disappointed that no one else braved the arrowroot, and i'm vegetarian. it's the most meat looking thing i've eaten since streaky strips, and for the second time already i've had to force food into my mouth. it was good though, i even had seconds, along with the kidney beans in sauce and french toast. as i leave the restuarant i have to fill in a form saying that i've had my breakfast. as i write "laurence" in the correct box the woman smiles and says my name back to me, totally making my day. i don't even know why.
i'm having trouble writing because the road is so bumpy. apparently it used to be much worse, and i believe it. our driver is felix and he has a pink panther dangling above the dashboard. also on the bus are four europeans and a girl called mgallah who gave us the best grin when boarding the bus. she's on her way home from studying in kenya and i hope she gives me my biro back. she's spending most of the time playing with her mobile phone.
there is so much going past the window that i don't understand. and there is so much pollution. the mid-morning traffic was stationary and stretched for miles. all of the life by the side of the road has been diseased by their industrial revolution. there were goats grazing everywhere, broken up by people sitting around campfires. we just went through a police checkpoint but didn't get stopped. since kenya used to suffer from so much corruption police checks are now routine (if you're interested in this i'd recommend "no man's land" by george monbiot). we also just drove by the local export processing zone, a horrifically stark network of concrete factories.
we're into the savannah now, speeding along a single bumpy road surrounded by bare trees and termite mounds. bony cattle collect along the cracked river beds and it makes me feel parched. it's nearing the end of the dry season here and they havn't had rain for ages. it's hard to believe anyone can live in such an inhospitable environment, but on the horizon you can make out small groups of huts. dust clouds rise up into the sky where the cattle are being herded across the plains. a few kilometers back down the road a giant billboard said "live for today". i don't think they need telling. nor about the coca-cola, there are adverts every few kilometers or less. every sign is sponsored. and when we stop for a break everybody rushes for a bottle. isn't it great that you can get a coke where ever you are in the world? isn't it though?
02.09.2005 - Tanzania
we just crossed over into tanzania at the border town of namanga. after getting my forms checked and passport stamped i couldn't find our bus. it had been surrounded by an intense maasai persistence. it's a fight to get back on the bus as my hand is grabbed and all kinds of necklaces and braclets are thurst into my face. i feel bad, but it's worse when an officer comes over and forces them to move on, protecting the tourist's comfort over the local's livelihood. it's simple economics but it feels so wrong.
we had a short break in arusha where we enjoyed some of the best curry i've had in as long as i can remember. curry seems to be something of a national cuisine, which is not surprising considering the large asian colonisation (wasn't that our 'fault'? oh fuck it, i don't know). they sure know how to cook paneer tikka masala though. now we're heading towards moshi, our final destination and resting place before the climb.
it's good to travel again but i'm worried we might be slightly missing the point. a new world is right there on the other side of the window, but that's were it's safely remaining. experiencing african savannah by bus is not experiencing at all. mostly what i want to do is stop and play in the dirt, find out exactly how rough the skin of the cattle is, see up close the giant termite mounds that i've already seen a hundred times from this distance - only on the tv and internet.
it's okay though, because this isn't why we're here. and right about now the mountains are teasing us in the distance. just as i was thinking how much i'm dreading my first view of kilimanjaro - there it is, but far from in its full glory. on the right side of the bus you can see the horizon stretching upwards into the clouds. then on the left of the bus it pokes back down again, a worryingly far distance from where it began. this is kilimanjaro and we can't even see it because it's so damn big.
02.09.2005 (still) - Sal Salinero Hotel
this is our hotel and it is lush. check the photos of the pool. there was a good hour involving swimming some lengths, water hackysack, sitting in the pool drinking beer, and various other outrageously decadent behaviour. this is fully deserved. hey, tomorrow i'm going to be trekking up the mountain. as the evening goes on more of the mountain emerges from behind the clouds. i'm lying here now with my pool and my beer, but tomorrow it's going to be a bastard.
isn't it typical though? palm trees, pool, sun and shit. this was all owned by a single
man before he sold it and someone turned it into a hotel, which we've now inherited for the night.
it makes me uncomfortable how we have such luxury when people you could almost call your neighbour
have nothing, but then that is largely why we are here, and if it wasn't for the charity
i would never have made it this far at all.
anyway, in the evening we had our mountain briefing. we were introduced to our guide, godenough, and told what to expect for the next couple of days (including our incredible dinner menu). this was all done over an awesome pizza feast. the only thing that bothered me slightly was that they'll be collecting our drinking water from the mountain streams and boiling it, and when i asked about water boiling at a much lower temperature at altitude i was met with blank stares. these guys know what they're doing though, and i doubt you can get water that's much purer anyway. it was just the blank stares that worried me.
besides (and holy fuck), i just noticed that on the bottle of my 'kilimanjaro water' it says "kilimanjaro is a registered trademark of the coca-cola company". i also metaphorically choked on my pizza slice when told we were climbing the "whiskey route" and not the "coca-cola route". they truly own this fucking country.
Day 1 - Moshi Hotel to Machame Camp
it's not what wakes me up, but shortly after my alarm goes off there's a cock-a-doodle-doo. we have breakfast by the pool, and despite it being a lovely morning you still can't see the mountain properly. it's just too high. we're now at machame camp and a height of 3100m, that's a good 1300m climb from machame gate where we started. the sun has just set and you can feel the cold coming. there are clouds rolling down through the trees towards us not twenty meters away. the camp is busier than i'd have thought. i'm not sure by how full it is exactly, but our party is 28 strong - 7 climbers and 21 guides/porters.
what i've been doing all day is pissing. i even had to get our bus driver to stop so i could piss against the banana trees.
all the way along the main road from moshi to machame gate (where are climg began) are houses marked with red crosses, like someone has gone along and tagged every house. i asked one of guides what this meant. he told me it means the houses are to be demolished when they widen the road. all houses and constructions within 25m of the middle of road are apparently on government property. i was shocked, and when asked if they would recieve compensation i was given no reply. there's a consolation in that the marks have been there for well over a year, so hopefully they'll stay there.
at machame gate we signed in we say a few farewells. it was only this morning, but already it seems so long ago that i can't remember it that clearly. the climb starts with a dirt road, which is dissapointing when you want to be in the wild away from all of civilization, but it soon becomes less of a road and more of a well worn path. it's pretty much rainforest all day. julie would have loved it and it makes me miss her, in my head she tells me about every tree fern and palm. i'm hoping the photos will speak for themselves because there's no way i can describe the density and wonder of the rainforest to my satisfaction.
the final part of the trek was easily my favourite - climbing up along a sharp walkway, the rainforest floor far below us on either side. the views into it where just incredible. no monkeys, much to charlotte's disappointment, but the tops of a hundred different plants and trees floating amongst the clouds.
every other party we've met has over taken us. i suspect that "poley poley" is said
more as a joke by these guys, but we're determined to stick to it. and what's the rush anyway?
it's not like there is endless fun to be had at the camp. i am starving though,
and visiting the toilet shed might yet be something of an adventure.
anyway, i'm writing in the dark so i've got to stop. and it's also bloody freezing.
Day 2 - Machame Camp to Shira Plateau
we just stopped for lunch a 3722m and a white necked black raven has joined our party. it swooped down out of nowhere, quite magnificent and completely fearless. like a large and beautiful pidgeon edging towards you looking for scraps of food, the fucker staring you right in the face. this is right before it dives off the side of the mountain, only to appear a second later soaring high above.
i'm still confident, but i'm dreading the nights. the moment the sun fell it was instantly freezing. it caught me off guard and each night it's only going to get colder. we huddled in the mess tent and ate popcorn. by this point i'd already removed my contact lenses, i figured i'd do it early so as not to forgot. but what a mistake, as we file out of tent after dinner we're greeted by the fullest night sky you could ever see. the milky way has torn a gash in the sky from horizon to horizon. it pours across and you can see right into its depths. amongst the millions of stars above us i can't even spot a single constellation that i recognise (not helped by this being the southern hemisphere and a completely different sky), there are just too many stars. it makes me completely forget how cold i am, and after standing still for a few too many minutes i'm more than happy to get into the sleeping bag that i'd previously been terrified off. it's cramped and halfway into space i'm still too hot in it (something i'm sure i'll appreciate in a few days though, hey).
getting up in the morning it remained freezing until the sun finally appeared from behind the mountain. for breakfast our cutlery is so cold i have to wear my gloves to hold my fork. i'm wondering why they bring metal cutlery and china plates up the mountain when i'd honestly prefer lighter plastic ones.
between then and now it's been a constant uphill. it's a steep and hard route but also a rewarding one. whenever you turn around all you can see is a sea of billowing clouds fading slowly into the sky. the world has disappeared completely. the only trace of it remaining is mt. meru, visible in the distant distance, like a volcanic iceberg.
ahead of us the trees are black, gnarly and very much dead. our guide explains to us that they're all burnt, demonstrating by pulling one of them out of the ground. a fire tore up this part of the mountain in early 1999. it took a huge team of local people to put the blaze out, and much of the vegetation was lost. as a grey cloud passes right through us it makes for the gloomiest scene.
Day 2 - Shira Camp
we've now reached shira camp, just below 4000m. the moment i got here i was resigned to the fact that i wouldn't be writing anymore. fatigued, and when i went into my tent to fix up my sleeping arrangements (before the cold came) i was suddenly hit by a wave of nausea. i hadn't realised quite how odd i was feeling, like i'd been spiked and was coming up on something rather too quickly (yeah, the mountain). i was confused and couldn't find where i'd put anything. i think it was that frantic rummaging through all of my bags that bought on the nauseau. i slowly dragged myself out of the tent for some fresh air and reassurance. our team has already had vomiting and i was panicking that it was going to be me next. it turns out all i had to do was take it easy. "poley poley" really does mean slowly.
those of us who felt up for it (and i was determined to do this properly) carried on walking a small way past the camp in aid of "walking high, sleeping low". we reached a rocky outcrop from which you can see all the way across the huge shira plateau - a desolate and grey wasteland. the moon isn't this barren, and i'm so very glad that we don't have to cross it.
on arrival back at our camp i realise how exposed we are. the ravens are circling us, waiting for us to die (or eat at least). there are bones littering the ground and the ravens pick at everything they can find. their broken charcoal feathers rustling in the wind - they look like they've been burnt to a crisp in the sun. they're evil fuckers, i love them. they're abosultely the kings of the shira plateau.
it turns out that one of our guides, hamise (picture above and whose name i can't spell, despite him spelling
it out for me) is not inexperienced with the hackysack. our quick game of hackysack around the mess tent
was a pretty special moment. unfortunately he's leaving tomorrow to take arjo and mark back
down the mountain, so he wont be joining us for a game at the summit (this is written
half in jest).
Day 3 - Shira Camp to Barancco Camp
so it's the morning day already and last night was not so bad. i got up in what i thought was the middle of the night (but was actually only ten) and was shocked to see sand as i opened my inner tent. perhaps i was expecting grass? who knows. i swear the mountain is a cross between the sahara and wales, there is dust and sand everywhere.
i'm going to have to let my camera do the talking when it comes to the evening's sunset, because through my lens it really was beyond words.
every now and again i feel completely in love with the world.
and then the next second i'm worrying that what if my biros freeze?! the condensation on my tent was frozen in the night, and now as it thaws it is dripping on me. it was the freezing cold water droplets exploding against my forehead that woke me up this morning. it amused me more than anything.
i also feel the need to say how my tent smells of porter sweat (philip's to be exact). he's our assistant guide and he's too cool in this shades. the porters are unbelievable though. some of them are carrying over 30kg, and most of it on their heads (it's worth pointing out that all of ours are limited to 25kg). they're wearing half the amount of clothes that we are and they do each days journey in under half the time. some of them almost run past you, their trainers bouncing around on the rocky path.
but now i must get on and pack. we've another long day ahead of us. tim's book says we are to expect crushing headaches when we finally get to the lava tower (whatever the fuck that is) at the dizzying height of 4600m. great or what?
Day 3 - Barranco Camp
so it's the middle of the night (it actually is this time). i've already got up three times to go the toilet and i just heard the most terrifying noise. it was a deep gutteral rumble and i swear i could feel the ground vibrate with it. it's rolling and never ending. deep down i know it's thunder, but the fear says avalanche. there's currently a barrage of snow colliding down the mountain and heading right for our camp. i've never felt this vulnerable or scared of things that go bump in the night, and i think i've almost accepted my fate. what could i do about it anyway?
you see, our camp is in a valley (an outstandingly beautiful valley, especially compared to the exposed desert of last night). to the south the two ridges we're nestled between form a "v", with the lights of moshi craddled delicately between them over 3000m below. directly behind this kibo looms terrifyingly over us - the glacier encrusted "roof of africa". those humungous glaciers that are rapidly melting and could slip at any moment, killing us all. every time i've got up to go for a piss kibo has terrified the hell out of me. it is so large and opressive. the view is completely consumed by it.
physically i'm now fine, but today was so much harder that the previous days. by the time we had set off from shira it was nearly ten. again it was a constant uphill for several hours, but the landscape is now trecherous and barren. it's just rocks of different sizes. it's something straight out of doctor who, or worse - star trek. after a couple of hours it really pisses you off, all you're doing is constantly walking around dull grey boulders. we keep sane by reeling off lists of films and songs. at some point i started getting confused and when we stop for lunch i'm feeling pretty bad. i just wanted to sit on my own and go to sleep. i found eating taxing (the rest of the team does too, but that's blamed on our lunch which is completely fried and vegetarian, so i'm to blame obviosuly) and i start to thinki how much that ascent has messed with me. it reminds me of taking mushrooms, nothing seems quite right and i just want everything to go back to normal. unfortunately i don't know if it actually will. acclimitisation works in strange ways. there's also mild paranoia, do i try and hide my altitude sickness and hope the nausea keeps at bay, or do i make a scene? after our lunch (that i extended for as long as possible) we take the hard route and continue up to the lava tower. we're now walking at a fantastically slow pace and i begin to feel better. really, you can't imagine how slow. i don't know if i was still withdrawn or it's too hard to talk, but i had the same bar of portishead repeating over and over again in my head.
as we're walking kibo appears and disappears in the clouds, so close you could almost touch it. and when we finally reach the lava tower i'm shocked to hear that we've been walking for a total of six hours today. i must have been suffering more than i thought, it doesn't seem at all that long. the lava tower is a spectacular extrusion of volcanic rock, thrusting up a good number of meters, and easily makes for the high point of my day - the rock climbing isn't exactly easy (something charlotte particularly hates but she does really well). then as we're about halfway up there is an almighty boom or crack (like the one i just heard that is still making me feel uncomfortable) but nearer. godenough stands firm that it was a storm, but even a real avalanche couldn't sound more like an avalanche. i can then hear what sounds like rain, or a helicopter, and water rushing down a stream that we crossed not ten minutes ago.
the view from the top of the lava tower is about as good as you'd expect. and considering that it's
our highest point yet we're feeling surprisingly perky. unfortunately the descent to our
camp is long and horrible. everyones headaches are coming back with avengence and the sunset
is nearly upon us. the landscape is beautiful, really really incredible.
the path twists down into the rock alongside a gushing stream. ferns begin to sprout
up from between the rocks and everything is green and orange. it's so lush in comparison
to the environment we we're negotiating not even an hour ago. but all i want is the
solitude of my tent. and all i want to do is lie down and for this to be over.
we arrived at camp so late we went straight into the mess tent for dinner, where nauseau claims it's second victim (and first again). we're down to four and i feel properly wasted. eating is a real struggle (a classic altitude symptom) and eveything seems pointless and i hate it. this is despite godenough's good mood and tom's superb cooking. it took me over an hour to eat my dinner, forcing it down a chew every ten seconds. going to bed would have been so easy but i knew i had to eat as much as i possibly could.
like i said earlier though, i think i've acclimatised now - as demonstrated by my three desperate rushes as i tried to escape the tent before wetting myself. all this pissing gets me really dehydrated, but it's clearly better than the water escaping by any other route. my biology knowledge tells me it's all good. anyway, it's cold and now that the fear of being buried under several tons of ice has passed i should try to sleep
i just hope defjam and biscuit don't hate me for letting them get so cold. after my camera, clothes and essentials are in my sleeping bag there's little room for anything else.
Day 4 - Barranco Wall to Karanga Valley
today was suppoed to be quick and easy, but the two hour walk took four and it began with us scaling the sheer barranco wall. i honestly don't see how it could have taken us less time. the lanscape, apart from the odd palm tree and waterfall filled valley, is uninspiring and taxing. it is endless sand and boulders. all of them volcanic rocks that have landed here and not moved since. they've just fallen from the sky. and when you throw water on the ground it disappears in a cloud of dust. out here it is so dry. and the temperature changes so quickly. all it takes is for a cloud to come over and it drops by about 20c. the moment you put something down and it's already freezing cold.
this is the most interesting thing that happened today.
on the otherside of karanga valley we overtook a party led by a guide who was carrying a bell.
i joked that they must be blind. that would just be ridiculous wouldn't it? but godenough checked
it out and they are actually blind. up a mountain without sight, and i thought
we were having it tough. it makes our efforts looking pretty lame.
i also saw an amazing number of rats (or gerbils, whatever). the only animals around here are the rats and the ravens, which survive solely on our waste. there's nothing else out here alive, and there's so much litter it's disgusting. they need to recruit a litter picking team. the sweet wrappers and the disgarded toothbrushes are everywhere. how are people this thoughtless?
back to the now and this is easily our least nice camp. despite being called 'karanga valley' it's actually on the top of another ridge, fully exposed and scary. the booming still hasn't stopped. it would be completely horrible, but when i look up there's kibo. it's right fucking there. and from here we can now see the uhuru peak. i can't believe the enormity of it. after all this, and tomorrow night especially, i'm going to hate it.
on arrival the first thing i did was soak my now aching feet and sprayed them with charlotte's
'party feet' spray. it's pop rocks for your feet, and the cold has done something very weird
to it. as soon as i had collected myself we had dinner, and what a dinner it was. i appreciated
it so much i can't
explain without the use of song and dance. it was only simple rice, baked beans and broad
beans, but it was so good. if not just to get my appetite back.
after lunch i crashed again. digesting that much food and functioning mentally or physically was a little too much to ask. to kill some time before our next dinner we played the rizzla game (as if our memories havn't been bad enough on this trip already). i am moira stewart's fits of laughter. tim is barbara hepworth's hysterics. maddy and plum are frank bruno and torville's (as in dean) uncontrolable giggles. i'm thinking that it's good that we can laugh about our insane predicament.
ray was still resting so we took a quick stroll up the hill - walk high sleep low. going uphill is so hard i'm wondering why we bothered. your head begins to pound as the oxygen it should be getting is being pumped to your muscles. all of my blood is in my feet and i'm thinking of the neurological damage this could be causing me.
grimness aside, i tried to talk to our porters more today. our assitant guide is philip, he's 20 and currently in training to be a proper guide. when he completes his two year training he'll be the coolest looking guide on the mountain:
our main (for want of a better word) porter is daniel. his job is to rush off ahead and set up our next camp, he's also our waiter. he seems quite young but he's actually 36 and he's massive. i was hoping that he was maasai but he's not. he is a warrior though, he has these massive hands which he has no gloves for. he requested that if we had any spare could we pleae give them to him at the end of our climb (giving away your unwanted gear is the done thing). it made me wish that my gloves would even slightly fit him, but there's no chance. he's so careful and gentle when arranging the table and bringing over your water. and when he puts your water bowl down infront of your tent he doesn't bend his knees, he just folds in two. then there's emmanuel, he's daniel's assitant waiter and is much younger. they make a fun team but unfortunately neither of them speak much english. at night they sleep in our mess tent. it must be freezing.
at times you forget that they must suffer too, what with them being so fast, hard and cheerful. they're always all laughs and smiles, and they dash about while we can barely move. there was a casualty among out porters last night though. one of them was sick, but godenough sorted him out with his special lemon/lime drink.
wow, there's the moon.
Day 5 - Karanga Valley to Barafu Camp
last night was the coldest night yet. it was the first night i wasn't uncomfortably hot. it was so cold i only left the tent once to piss. it was also the first night that i treated myself to an extra diarolyte, which makes me think that i havn't mentioned the toilets yet. they're small huts without a door, just a partition between the entrance and the hole in the ground. most of them are okay, but some of them are just grim (when one or more people have missed). the best time to go is the morning because everything is frozen and it smells less. all those years at glastonbury taught me how to conquer unpleasent toilets.
although i only went to the toilet once in the night i was awake for a lot of it. this is something you get used to. because you go to bed so early everynight you spend around ten to twelve hours in your tent, so even if it doesn't feel like it you've actually slept for hours.
i want more sleep but i can't stay in bed any longer. i think i can hear the rats trying to get in around the back and it's making me paranoid. plus the sun has finally risen and it's burning through the tent, which is still rigid from the ice. it crackles as i unzip it, hoping to be warmed by the sun, but once again i'm greeted by the harsh frozen wasteland and endless rolling clouds. some hot porridge would be dynamite right now. it seems that we're eating outside in the sun this morning. it's nice after the frost but the air is still biting cold.
just before bed though, the most magical thing happened. from outside the mess tent tim cries "you guys have to check out this view". we all hurried out and there wasn't a cloud in sight. you could see all the way down to africa. it was the first time we'd seen the ground instead of clouds for four days. from the end of our ridge were a million tiny lights, moshi all lit up 4000m below us like a satellite photo. the lights stretched all the way to the horizon where they met the stars. it was breathtaking, and not just because it was so damn cold.
in 24 hours this will all be over. our final ascent is tonight. i can't believe how long ago the first day seems. it seems like weeks have passed since i last saw trees.
Day 5 - Barafu Camp
we've just reached our last camp before we summit - barafu camp, which loosely translates to "ice camp". i feel this weird nervous energy. everyone is exhausted but i think we're all finally in good spirits.
this morning was really hard. i found it difficult to deal with everyone's negativity. yes it's painful and it's hard and we all feel rubbish, but misery will get us nowhere. we're about to do the most amazing thing ever, we have been doing all week, so can we please focus on the good stuff instead of the bad? everything is so amazing (even when you're constantly and exclusively surrounded by slate and fog) and it just irritates how people can disregard it so quickly. being a team is all good, and summiting together would be fantastic, but if everyone's going to stay in this terrible mood then i don't think i'll be able to deal with it. i need to focus and just get on with it.
anyway, today we've trekked through nothing. pure fucking nothing. it's been desert all the way. like the previous day but without even the rocks. it's scrag in every direction, and beyond ten meters it's just cloud. cold fucking clouds. the terrain wasn't so bad, i swapped my boots for my trainers (to save my heels) and they've faired just fine. my poor vege shoes though.
barafu is the most stupid camp yet. it's a pile of slate hanging off the side of the mountain.
how can anyone camp here? my tent is pitched on loose rocks on the edge of a fucking
cliff. nutcases the lot of them. i'm in my perilous tent now and the sun is properly burning me
(it was a short days walking and the sun is still high). i can feel its evil incredibly hot rays,
yet the air outside is freezing. and all i can hear is the clank of colliding slate. getting up to
go for a piss in the night will be a nightmare. at least we only sleep here for four hours, right?
right? we're not allowed to stay at this camp any longer than that because there isn't
enough oxygen at this height for you to sleep properly.
charlotte just had her last cigarette. i can't believe she's been smoking up to this height. i mean, with the lack of oxygen she can barely keep them alight.
the worst thing about this camp is not the slate though, it's the uphill scrammble
to the toilet. not good when your loose
bowls are ready to give way. the first toilet i came across was completely open, i nearly went
right there infront of everyone but instead i struggled to the next hut.
a nasty story that you don't want to hear but had to be told.
altitude makes you fart constantly. this is also worth noting. i can now recognise who has farted based on the fart's pitch and duration.
i'm getting rugged. i had to apply so much moisturiser and skin protector this morning you wouldn't believe. my lips are bleeding and whenever i put cream on my cheeks it stings. at least i'm not sunburnt.
my other thought today was that climbing kilimanjaro is like irrevesible - the best film i could never recommend you to watch. the paralells are really something. perhaps gaspar noe would like to climb this bastard mountain himself.
my writing is incredibly disjointed. i've noticed. it's because i get random thoughts while walking and forget them straight away, only to remember them all in a really stupid order later on. my biros are still working just fine.
dashing in a hurry, rushing or else accident. dashing or rushing anywhere at 4700m isn't possible. if your legs allow it then your heart or headache will cripple you. your heart rate at rest is still racing and your breathing is always deep. i've learnt the meaning of "poley poley". you go slower than you imagine you could whilst still remaining sane. this is why the final ascent will take us an epic eight hours (or possibly more knowing our track record, but then godenough says "no please").
now i'm just waiting. it must be about half nine. i feel ready. considering how much maddy and ray have suffered i don't think i could feel better. we had our "last supper", one of the better meals as we were all in high spirits. meal times have often descended into uncontrollable fits of laughter. it's funny what lack of oxygen does to you. these will be fond memories.
i can hear the ice cracking on the inside of my tent. i can't wait to go. about an hour ago tim said he felt like a child waiting for christmas morning. it's that crossed with going to the dentist, sitting there waiting to be called up.
the problem is that i can't sleep - i'm just waiting. whenever i begin to fall asleep my body slows my breathing down and i wake up. you need to breathe really deeply and my unconscious self hasn't realised this yet. it happens once a minute, and i have to take several really deep breaths before the stupid cycle begins again.
i just had the best text from ben:
"you are one hardcore motherfucker. hope you got some mogwai or silver mt zion for the top. fuck."
the display on my phone is really slow. this is from the cold. liquid crystal displays freeze in the strangest
way. my camera isn't suffering because i'm keeping it so warm. a small child wouldn't be cared for better.
it's nearly time - 10:38pm
09.09.2005 - Finally back on the ground
so i've finally recovered enough to write about the awe and trauma. my nose is still bleeding but i have stopped hallucinating. climbing mountains fucks you up. altitude really fucks you up. and doing it with no sleep for 36 hours will destroy you.
those last fifteen minutes were agonising, laying sleepless in my tent feeling like the moment was too big to ever arrive. but then all of a sudden i could hear the clank of slates again and our guide was waking us up. as if i even slept. the panic makes me rush too much and i'm already exhausted (i don't even know the meaning of this word yet). i climb out of my tent to discover it's completely still and not that cold - it's the perfect weather for our summit. as i enter our mess tent for tea and biscuits (no really) emmanuel and daniel and trying to sleep in the corner, daniel's head buried in his huge hands between his legs.
i apply a few extra blister plasters and we're ready to go. we havn't even started and it already feels like nothing i've experienced before. we set off. fantastically slowly. in the distance you can see head torches like stars, snaking up into the sky. there's over 100 people hoping to summit tonight/today and as you look up you can see all of them slowly ascending into the heavens. this feels like a pilgrimage. this feels like the dark crystal. slow and laboured, one foot at a time. around every corner you're greeted by another zig zag of bobbing twinkling lights rising up impossibly high. and apart from a half meter semi-circle, mostly taken up by the feet of the person ahead of you, this is all you can see. beneath my feet is all loose stones, and as they begin to freeze i start singing mogwai to myself, starting with the first track on their first album and proceeding with each song in order. by the time i reach 'mogwai fear satan' i can't feel my feet at all, but at least my heels and toes don't hurt anymore. possibly not such a great thing. then halfway through 'my father my king' i realise i can no longer grip my poles properly. if they weren't attached to my wrists i would have lost them by now. my hands just wont respond properly.
this is essentially sensory deprivation. you have no idea what is happening or for how long it's been going on. you just try and control your breathing and your thoughts as they jostle around inside the blankness in your head. it's about this time (whatever time it is, i have no idea) that two things happen - i start seeing faces in all of the rocks and stones (terrifying smirking skulls) and there's a nauseating gurgle and wet slap as someone in our party vomits violently off the narrow path just infront of me. i slide my scarf up over my nose and trek onwards. there's a pounding in every nook and cranny of my head and every stone grins wildly back at me. there's an incredible relief whenever i pause and close my eyes, but i try my best not to, especially since the vomiting has developed into fainting.
every few corners we turn we pass the same people again (or not, i can't tell) as they're looked after and given water. under your white headlights everyone looks pale, everyone looks like death. i try to keep my light trained on the ground at my feet and ignore them. it's all about rhythm, you can't stop no matter what. when the person infront stops i have to shift my weight from one foot to the next, tapping my poles into the stones. not breaking the rhythm. don't break the rhythm.
if you think this sounds slightly nightmarish then you're starting to understand. explaining how it feels is impossible, if not soley for the reason that before you've finished it you can't even remember your journey. your brain hasn't been recording it, either due to lack of function or some kind of defence mechanism, i don't know. the last few hours of my life have been the most desolate.
the first pay-off comes six and half hours into our ascent, as i stare open mouthed into the pre-dawn. the 5100m mawenzi peak is to the east and is now resting below the horizon, which has become a red slash that quickly fades upwards to dark blue. between the edge of kibo and mawenzi a town lies all lit up, over 4km below us. and to the right of mawenzi is the roughest sea of cloud. the whole scene is reds, browns, pinks and greys. right now all the pain has been worth it. witnessing this view, that is just too enourmous to photograph, it'd take your breath away if only you had any left.
tim later tells me that he couldn't enjoy the view, every time he took his eyes from the ground he was struck
by dizzyness and worried that he'd fall from the path. with the sun rising and the darkness lifting it's like you're slowly
being freed. your being eased back into the world, except it's not quite how you remembered it. the sun is too bright
but it still doesn't warm you. the colours are all slightly strange and your head feels like it's being squashed to the
size of something far too small. at least you're in the world though, rather than the place you've been for the last
between us and the crater rim is only twenty minutes. that's twenty minutes of the hardest climb you will ever do. every account of climbing kilimanjaro will tell you this. the sun is beating down and every step you take slips impossibly down - you make no progress. it's exhausting to the extreme and it's this that stops you from realizing quite how fucking weird you're beginning to feel. because i was trying to take photos and dehydrating (relying on philip for water as my own had frozen) i was at the back of the group. i could see the whole agonising struggle as each one of us crawled and scrambled to stellar point. infront of me there are people literally on their hands on knees battling against the skree.
you're at stellar point. you should be ecstatic, but you're numbed. you should be feeling incredible but you're exhausted. you should be feeling determined to make the final 500m to uhuru point, but what you're feeling is worse and weirder than anything you've yet felt. like i said, altitude fucks you up proper. you don't even know what's going on, and when you do everything is outlined in an oddness that makes nothing seem real. this is where the word "high" comes from. some people are becoming paranoid, some people are physically crippled by their headaches. they're being led up, unable to make it without being dragged or pushed.
the goal of your trip should be the best part. when you achieve your goal it should make it all worth it, but finally reaching uhuru peak you don't even realise what you've accomplished - only how fucking hard it was. there's little celebration. it's a matter of doing what you must. and only moments before we leave does the dream like state let up and it dawns on me where i am and what i've just done. the famous sign is right fucking there, dressed as always in tibetan prayer flags, and all of us made it.
i pick up two pieces of volcanic rock, one for my mum and one for julie, and manage the world's highest hackysack (resulting in a crushing headache, but it was worth it). then we head downwards.
in explaining the pain i've completely forgotten about the view. it's so high up there's little to see but sky, crater and the glaciers (which constantly tease you on the ascent as they repeatedly appear within a stones throw).
with the different layers of cloud being so far apart it looks like there are two horizons, like we're wedged inbetween two worlds, and i keep getting confused as to where the actual horizon is. the crater itself is a huge bowl of grey dust outlined by the glaciers dotting its rim. they're huge slabs of ice clutching to the side of the volcano, and they've melted and refrozen into amazing shapes. they are truly awesome. we also saw a minor avalanche as a boulder fell and rolled into the crater, creating a rather distrubing noise and a large cloud of dust.
maddy had been struggling on the way up but now she was really suffering. she couldn't stand without passing out and it cast a grim shadow over our recent success. godenough and jackson began to carry her down at painful speed. we were all knackered and i could barely make it myself, and it wasn't at all helped by our route. we're to 'ski' back down to the camp via a steep dust slope that has been gouged out of the mountain (erosion anyone?). i can't keep up and we all get spread out, our lungs and eyes filling with volcanic dust. halfway down this ridiculous slope i'm hit by the surreal. i suddenly have no idea what i'm doing and can't even rationalise with myself that this is even real. it's not happening and i'm not even here, wherever it is. nothign makes sense, the whole trip is stupid and a total farce. these guys are idiots for expecting us to be able to do this, especially with one of us so clearly ill. this point in time is expanding out and ruining every happy or exciting moment. i fall over twice, crashing down in an impressive cloud of dust. i manage to only slightly cut myself.
it seems forever until we're finally back at our camp. the rocks are still all staring at me and i'm seeing the
scariest animals in the sky. a crocodile, a deformed pirahnna, all kinds of killer dinosaurs hiding
in the clouds. we only have two hours to eat and "sleep" before we move down the mountain to mweka camp. i don't
sleep, i die for forty minutes. i'm incapable of anything and my brain shuts down completely. when i come around
daniel has placed a bowl of warm water at my feet and i revive them ever so gently. after this we eat and
frantically pack our bags, there is no longer a method and everything is covered in dust, including myself -
it just wont wash off. five minutes later and we're descending again already.
pissed off with our guides timing we arrive at mweka camp just before dark. on the way we passed through millenium camp, where a 1000 climbers set off for uhuru peak on the millenium (three of them never returned). between millenium camp and mweka is the most enchanted forest. for some reason it just feels magical as we walk along the lava ridge, surrounded by new and interesting flowers. after so much dust and so many rocks it makes me happy as pie having vegetation by my side. some of the flowers have become solid and grey, like the sun has burnt the life from them. i steal one and hope it lasts the journey home.
with our final dinner we enjoyed our first beer in seven days. i then passed out in my tents for the deepest sleep all week. it was so good that waking up from it was too hard. i just wanted to sleep forever. over breakfast we calculated our very generous (but desereved) tips and then said our farewells to the team. after giving out our tips they performed a special kilimanjaro song for us. it's an emotional moment, made stronger by the fact that we all actually made it.
the final walk is back through the rain forest again, with a gold certificate each and the hotel pool as our prize.
10.09.2005 - Hotel in Moshi
when we finally arrived back at the hotel (and washed the grime out of everything) we sat down and slowly deconstructing the last 48 hours. in retrospect the whole thing makes more sense, it doesn't hurt any less though. after enjoying the next best three beers we've ever had, george picked us up and took us to a roof top party and barbecue in downtown moshi. it was nice to be around everyone and be clean at the same time. the people from tanzania jounrneys were here and also our guide and chef, who was already completely drunk when we arrived - clearly we'd tipped him too much. when it turned too cold we moved downstairs for the food. it's worth noting that every curry i've had here has been exquisite (a word used exclusively to describe food). comments went around that we all looked shattered and were chauffeured back to our hotel where we instantly hit the bar. you'll notice how much we drink in the hotel, so you'll be surprised to find out our final tab was only £10 each, and that includes the food. i can't really remember going to bed but when i finally did i slept badly, being woken up once by dehydration and twice by a hazy high-pitched buzz in my ear. i can't say for sure if i've ever heard mosquitos before, but i had no idea what was going on. this morning i noticed one squashed between the toilet seat and bowl. nice.
i'm just going for a quick swim and a strange breakfast (something like an impressionist english breakfast). we're then off to meet and hang out with the amani children and hand them their cheque. i imagine it's going to be an emotional day and i'm a little too excited. also exhausted, but that kind of goes without saying.
10.09.2005 - The Amani Children's Home
so, the amani children are amazing. it startled me how quickly the focus of our trip changed from the mountain to the children, like we havn't suffered from the bends enough already. as we arrived at the children's home they were already piling into two buses, the less shy ones grabbing hold of my hand and saying "hi" as i walked past. i didn't quite realise why we were visiting the amani home without the children being there, this was until i saw how tiny it was. with the excited kids running about it would have been impossible to see or hear anything.
we met up with valerie, our contact at amani and their main fundrasier, and she showed us around the shockingly small home. the first room serves as dining room, classroom and playroom. when it's raining outside all the children have to squeeze into this relatively tiny space. it's not too depressing, it's just a little bare. the next room she shows us is a bedroom containing a large sofa and something like four bunk beds. it's a bleak place to live, the beds look small, hard and uncomfortable and the window lets in little light. valerie explains to us how this is the reward bedroom. if they're well behaved there's room for sixteen children in here, they only have to sleep two to a bed and there's no adult sleeping with them, so it's somewhat like a slumber party. this is the room they get as a treat. the next room is the proper boys bedroom - nine bunk beds squashed into a three by three grid in the middle of the room. 18 small beds for 62 boys. it's hard to imagine that many children sleeping in here. there's another bed against the wall where the night supervisor sleeps, a job you wouldn't envy i'm sure. the walls have been decorated by the kids, murals of spiderman, batman and bizarre collection of animals. i'm sure that's supposed to be noddy.
moving outside valerie shows us the kitchen, which at first i'd mistaken it for a shed. inside is a stove consisting of concrete blocks cut to have three 'hobs'. pans slot into the holes and hover above the fires below. i can't imagine it would provide you much shelter from a storm and i wonder how they cook when it's raining. beside the kitchen is a row of ten sinks where the children wash and an allotment for growing food.
across the courtyard is a second building containing an open classroom and the girls bedroom, currently occupied by eleven girls. the classroom is tiny but only used for teaching the children who they can't afford to send to school and those who aren't yet ready. i learnt that "mraba" means square, "duara" means circle and "nyota" means star.
after the brief tour of the home and introduction to how it's run we hopped back on the bus for the bumpy ride to catch up with the kids at the local college. a sports day had been organised for us all, and hence their excitment. when we arrived half of the kids were waiting patiently on the grass, while the other half ran, gamboled and backflipped around us. after a long wait for something official the football teams were picked and several games began - they're great at football since they spend so much time playing it back at their home. whenever anyone scores they run around wildly, jumping and cartwheeling across the pitch.
too tired to participate myself i wandered around and 'talked' to the various kids who also weren't participating, quickly eating the way through my camera's memory card. these kids love digital cameras, and before i knew it one of them had taken my camera and was taking photos of his own. i couldn't believe it, i wouldn't even let one of my friends back home use my camera. it was awesome. and then he came back later and started looking through the photos i'd taken. these are smart kids, but then i guess you have to be smart to survive on the streets.
after football the children all held hands to organise themselves into a giant circle, with one of the carers in the middle. i guess this is the only way to communicate effectively and equally with so many children. most of the games they played began like this, starting with "do as i do". watching all of them bounce up and down on one leg while swinging their arms was just too funny.
a lot of the children are fantastically energetic and outgoing, but there are also a few that are timid and withdrawn - often the ones who have only recently joined the home. approaching one of the younger girls she scowled at me and crawled behind another girl, clinging to the grassy bank and popping her head out to glare at me. i felt bad for being so forward. but my awkwardness and confusion must have shown, as she suddenly giggled and ran to hide behind the next child. from here she continued to scowl at me, only for it to be broken by another dash and giggle when i followed her - this game repeated for a few minutes.
the child that moved me the most though was this young and painfully quiet boy. i was standing as part of the giant circle when he suddenly let go of my hand and fell into me, gently but tightly putting his arms around me in a hug. not quite taken by surprise, but it was so silent how it happened. after a while he let go and stood there staring into nothing. i asked him his name, and when he didn't reply i took my name badge out of my pocket and handed it to him. he stood there playing with it in his fingers for a minute, and when i took it back her barely seemed to even notice. i desperately wanted to connect with him but i couldn't see any way in. for the rest of the evening, everytime i saw him he was carrying a leaf. he'd either give the leaf to enother child or tear it up and pick up another.
we had a brief break for donuts (i forget what they're called locally) and pop, but what i was really looking forward to was dinner. we gathered together for a 'welcome and thank you' ceremony for everyone involved and we handed over our check for 22,000,000 tanzanian shillings (about £10,000). the highlight though was definately the short but sweet thank you speeches from several of the children. eating was also good (the chilli sauce was definately not too hot).
after lunch valeria showed us the blueprints for the new home - the main aim of our fundraising. its estimated cost is $100,000 but over here you get a lot for your money. the main building is going to be 59m by 12m, adding up to a total of 1821 square meters. every child would now have their own bed (with plently of room for expansion) and there are several classrooms and even a library. compared with their current home it's a palace, and thanks to all the support they've had they can begin construction next year. there isn't enough funds quite yet, but the way things work here is that you start when you can. buildings can remain unfinished for years, but hopefully the money will keep coming and they'll be able to complete it within the year. it's an impressive project.
i didn't really want to say goodbye to the kids, but it was made easier by the hotel pool
and promise of a few kilimanjaro beer. i swam as the sun set, and as the sky darkened the colours
turned to beautiful - the pool lit up by a pair of turquoise lights and the sky a
smooth purple, outlined by palm trees and crowned by the highest moon. a while later arjo picks
us up and drives us to another amazing indian restuarant. after the meal we got to taste moshi
nightlife. i was way to tired to do anything but
go to bed, so being dragged out to a club was the last thing i wanted. it was cool though,
and easily the best club i've really not enjoyed. it was like going back in time fifteen
years but the music was awesome, all coated in dirtied beats and ragga. except barbie girl
which was a big no no.
11.09.2005 - The Flight Home
this morning was quite a scramble. i slept in late and took time with breakfast, then had to rush to pack and brush my teeth and all that copmlicated stuff. once all on the bus we we're driven to arusha, where we had the worst pizza ever, and then on to nairobi with five hours to kill before our flight. it's lucky we had so much time because getting through airport security was a nightmare. our bags were scanned a total of three times and inspected a couple too. ray even had to take his 'suspicious looking' trainers off to be checked (this is understandable if you'd seen them. why would anyone wear a pair like that if it wasn't for some crazed act of terrorism?). this all made more sense when finally on the plane and i was inspecting my boarding pass for my seat number, it's only september 11th isn't it? and what better way to celebrate?
so now i can't sleep. the films are really bad and the food is even worse. i did quite enjoy grabbing bottles of wine from the back of the stewardes trolley (note: these are actually complimentary) but now they've stopped bringing them down the aisle. perhaps i should have experimented with the valium? or perhaps not.
Kilimanjaro Training & Fundraising Blog:12.09.05: waking up for the hundredth time today and i'm finally in my own bed. it doesn't make me any less confused but it's comforting none the less. people keep telling me that it's gone so quick. they have no idea - it's been months that i've been away. in africa we've aged years. we've been nearly six kilometers up and we're met over seventy orphaned children, all of them incredible.
you'll have to wait for my journal and photos, but you can rest assured that it was the most extreme twelve days you could spend away from home. at least, as long as no one dies or falls in love. i've never been more equally exhausted and enthralled by the world. i mean, lets be honest, what could you do that is more worthwhile than this?
and before i'd done them (climb kilimanjaro and hand over a check for £10,000 to the
amani kids) there's nothing anyone could have said
to me that would've given me any idea what it was going to feel like. the best and
the worst all at the same time.
anyway, i have photos to work on.
31.08.05: i think i've read enough articles on climbing kilimanjaro to be able to finish this page off already. i could just fill it up with anecdotes of vomiting, diarrhoea, hyperventilation and delerium. why can't people's accounts concentrate on the more pleasant aspects of mountain climbing? like joy, elation and conquest.
i leave tomorrow, so this is going to be my last entry before leaving. you all better wish me luck before it's too late.
as for the trip, i was hoping for more of an escape. i want to get away from the world completely. but tim is taking a webcam of all things, you can view it here if you must. whenever possible i'll be pain stakingly recording the whole adventure by clever use of paper and pen. this is if my biros don't either freeze or pop - if the balls come out of the tips i'm going to be very very angry. i have a backup pencil, but that wont save an ink leakage.
so cheers for the help and support everyone, it's been nice knowing you.
30.08.05: i've started doing all my goodbyes. which is slightly strange because it hasn't really sunk in yet what i'm about to do. it'll smack me in the face when i'm at about 16,000ft in the dark.
on monday night rifa and chris invited me over for dinner. how civilised are we? that was awesome. there was card drawing and sitar too. then we had a quick (turning into not so quick) drink with steph, discussing everything at the speed of coffee. a dash into hove later and natalie gave me a well good massage. then i trialled some diamox and started my malarone and now i feel wee-erd. wee-erd. i guess i'm just not used to taking stupid drugs. i'm never taking drugs ever again, and nor should you.
and here are our funny tshirts:
28.08.05: i thought it might be useful for me to catalogue all of the equipment that i'm taking. i might regret attempting this later, but i'm determined to preserver:
65 litre backpack
25 litre day pack
3 litre water bladder
sleeping bag (rab s12)
sleeping bag liner
tube scarf thing
gortex shell jacket
2 wicking tshirts
long sleeve wicking shirt
2 long sleeve thermal base layers
2 pairs trekking trousers (zip offs)
thermal long johns
2 pairs thermal underwear
3 pairs smart wool socks
hardcore walking boots
pair of trainers
very good camera bag
spare batteries (for torch & camera)
mountain sun block
extra lip care stuff
anti-bacterial dry wash stuff
quick dry light towel
drugs (see below)
nuts, dried fruit and power bars
most of the clothes are
spf and mosquito proof too.
and that is all you need. i'd classify a lot of it as absolute necessary kit as well.
24.08.05: and the drugs are in:
diamox - check (for altitude sickness)
malarone - check (yes, i decided to take malaria tablets)
dioralyte - check (oral rehydration)
imodium/normaloe - check (for diarrhoea)
paracetomol - check (for headaches)
antihistamines - check (for stuff)
asprin - check (for the plane)
the malarone is fucking expensive, but then we already know what
capitalist bastards pharmaceutical companies are, especially glaxosmithkline. i figured the price might
be worth it though. catching malaria would really suck, no really, and
the side effects from doxycycline or chloroquine are something i'd rather not have
in combination with altitude sickness and general fatigue. the fucking protozoans.
it also turns out that diamox is not licensed in this country and it's very hard to get a prescription for. i've got another trip to my doctors later today to plead my case. there's also a manufacturer shortage, so it's going to an ass (for my chemist at least) to get hold of some.
22.08.05: in one sense i feel very rich. in another way i feel very poor. this weekend we spent so much money on gear. i've now pretty much got all of my kit. it was an epic two days but i'm finally ready, and not a week too soon.
the people in activ8 and peglers were awesome help. and i got some really good deals too. i'd tell you how much it all cost but it'd make you sick. especially since i just bought myself a digital slr camera as well. if you're going to do this you may as well do it properly (this is why i'll be so pissed off when my camera has frozen and wont work). the plan with my camera is to disable the lcd screen (which freezes and also drains the battery) and to carry extra batteries on my body.
what scared me the most though was my sleeping bag - it's a coffin. i felt quite uncomfortable when buying it. just the thought of being stuck in it. crawling into it at 16000ft when it's -20c. it's going to be horrible. i'm going to have to sleep in it a couple of times before i leave so i can get vaguely used to it.
the other considerations are vaccinations and drugs. i'm assured that there is no yellow fever where we're going, but it's also a legal requirement to get across the border. apparently they wont check though, or we can bribe them. it's all very confusing. and malaria tablets, to take them or not? taking them seemed to be the sensible option until i'm informed that they don't stop you getting malaria, which doesn't make sense either. getting malaria would really suck, but then would getting fucked up a concoction of malarone and diamox.
i'm knackered and havn't even begun the climb yet.
16.08.05: so i've reached my fund raising goal (big round of applause, thank you). this actually happened a while ago but i thought i'd keep it a secret. no, what actually happened is it got too complicated to work out my exact total. i've handed over my first check to spannerworks though (for £2000) and the money's on its way to the kids. only when i'm finished and done and the money's all in will i know exactly how much i've raised.
on the slightly less good side of news (for me at least) the flights have all been changed and are now over double the previous cost. but nevermind. here is the new itinery:
Outbound: Heathrow to Nairobi
Depart: Thu 1 September 2005 10:25
Arrive: Thu 1 September 2005 20:45
Inbound: Nairobi to Heathrow
Depart: Sun 11 September 2005 22:45
Arrive: Mon 12 September 2005 05:20
training is going good. and i've discovered running. i never enjoyed it much,
except on a treadmill where you have complete control over everything.
and this is why i hadn't been doing any as part of my training. then the other
day i felt the need to run, and i ran and ran and ran. all of a sudden i can
run for miles. it's amazing. on saturday night i ran all the way up
ditchling road (okay, not the really steep bit at the very start, but still).
what is going not so good is my buying of stuff i need. this is horribly slow but my parents are coming down this weekend, and if i remember correctly i havn't had any birthday presents yet..
i also need a new camera, obviously. why take a crap camera up a mountain, huh?
19.07.05: all i'm doing here is learning how to sweat.
13.07.05: well, we had really good day yesterday. it looks like it went super smooth. the money raised totalled £559 (including new sponsors and such), which is kind of staggering. it sounded like everyone had a well good time (hey maybe i can get a quote from my mum?!), especially yashi. i can't really thank everyone who helped enough. actually i probably can, thanks.
it's not over yet though. i'll just have to increase my personal fund raising goal.
11.07.05 it's my mum's open house and garden tomorrow - a day of health and relaxation. she sure knows how to organise a charity event (remember nature's way to health?). the weather looks like it is going to be awesome and the local newspapers have been all over it, so it should be good. there will be cake and stuff, y'know. various health and friendly beauty people etc. it's three pounds to get in, all of which goes to the children. unfortunately i can't be there (this is kinda stupid right?) but nevermind.
06.07.05: and here is my first piece of press:
it's more funny than anything else, the photo is hilarious. the
grammar is also shocking, and for the quality information i gave
him he quoted me terribly. still, i finally made it into the
rugby observer. oh, how i laugh.
05.07.05: so here is the kilimanjaro model charity box that steph has kindly agreed can be placed on the counter in dave's comics:
i'm doubtful that i'll get more money from it than it cost me to make (i had to
buy all new materials etc) but it was fun none the less. i'm especially proud of
the qee's tshirt detail - he's wearing a perfect replica dave's comics tshirt.
i made sure the slot was big enough for notes, ha! it's made out of modrock,
which is basically what your cast will be made of next time you break your leg.
its skeleton is a paper/plastic cup that i took out of a bin. three cocktail sticks
were harmed in its making. also a lot of green acrylic paint (see also: grey, brown
and white). awesome.
(edit: i've actually got £36.33 from this so far, and one euro cent)
29.06.05: i just got back from glastonbury festival. if that wasn't hardcore training i don't know what is. my boots are now fully worn in. infact, i'm totally in love with them. they're are the greatest boots ever. i had the dryest feet in the whole festival. all that exta mud clinging to your boots does wonders for your leg muscles, as does having to yank your feet from the ground when trying to dance.
in other awesome news i've now broke the half-way mark for fund raising. check out my fund-o-meter - konnie huq would be proud. so, a massive thank you to everyone who has pledged money so far. i really appreciate it and i'm sure the kids do too.
i'm pleasently surprised at how easy it has been to get this far. i guess it's mostly down to how generous people have been. i'd like to think that it's been helped by the fact it's for such an awesome cause. but still, the second thousand is going to be the tough one.
21.06.05: i believe this may be kilimanjaro viewed from really high up (thanks to google maps for this one). at least, it's the most interesting looking thing from way up here. if you switch to map view you can see that it's pretty much all of tanzania. that's one daunting view though.
i swim, i cycle, i swim, i cycle, i raise some money, i swim, i cycle, i climb steps.
and here is the final itinery:
August 31st: Morning depature
Gatwick 07.45 Arrive Brussels 09.45
Brussels 10.35 Arrive Nairobi 20.00 - transfer to hotel for overnight
1st September: Early morning depart Hotel for Moshi - overnight hotel & evening meal with briefing
2nd September: Start climb overnight Machame hut
3rd September: Overnight Shira hut
4th September: Shira Plateau
5th September: Overnight Baranco Hut
6th September: Overnight Barafu Hut
7th September: Summit & overnight Mweka Hut
8th September: Descend and return to Moshi hotel - evening barbecue and celebration
9th September: - Visit Amani Kids home - day at leisure
10th September: - Morning departure for Nairobi Airport
Nairobi 23.15 Arrive Brussels 06.35
Brussels 07.45 Heathrow 08.05
09.06.05: it sounds like kilimanjaro is starting wars (yes i'm being over-dramatic). or at least playground fights. it's a mountain, location based purely on luck. and as arbitrary as their borders.
anyway. i've been fitnessing loads. swimming three times a week (i can do thirty lengths in my lunch break, or i try and do 1000m if i go after work). i'm also cycling to work every day and walking up and down those fucking steps at the top of bear road at least once a week. i'm now doing it seven times (1057 steps up). i have new boots and climbed cader idris in two hours the other week. i'm also eating silly amounts of brocolli and molasses (ack).
on the financial side i've decided to have a blue peter style pledge-o-meter. but probably not. i've raised my first hundred pounds which makes me 1/20 of the way. i also need to work out how to make a papier mache mountain to sit on the counter in dave's comics. that sounds too absurd. i need chicken wire damnit.
13.05.05: i thought i'd stick up a photo of all the cute amani children.
i should also give you a brief run down on what amani kids actually do. the amani children's home is at the base of kilimanjaro and provides health, education and safe living for tanzanian street kids. they basically take children off the streets and save them illness, starvation and abuse. and aren't the kids the cutest?
brief, but if you want to know more there's always the amani kids website.
12.05.05: so the fundraising has begun. i've contacted to my old school and there's been phone calls and emails - it's all very excited. my mum is being totally awesome in helping and is organising various open days and the like. she's even selling rhubarb in the local health food shop, with all the profits going to amani kids.
as for training, i've been cycling to work every other day and climbing the 91 steps up to the office five times a day. i'm planning on joining the gym this weekend. i used to really enjoy going to the gym, but i do agree there is something a bit shit about paying money to exercise, duh. the next plan is to buy myself a jar of molasses (high in iron) and start eating even more broccoli and spinach. red blood cells stick around for about three months, so it's high time i started pounding my iron intake.
3.05.05: after the weekend i'm really aching. i'm not too sure what i did but i hurt everywhere. i wasn't really doing any training, more likely it's down to my lack of sleep and heavy drinking. although, in my defense i also think i might have picked up some weird virus. that, or it's my wisdom teeth coming through. i've had a dull headache for nearly three days. it's slowly fading now but my legs are hating me still. perhaps it's sympathy period pains.
so, i've been told that even though kilimanjaro is only the 124th highest mountain, it's actually the highest from base to peak. everest is only a peak in a huge mountain range, so from the bottom of it to the top it's not as high. the altitude is not something to shake a stick at, but it goes to show that kilimanjo isn't either.
26.04.05: i had a dream last night that i got knocked off my bike and promptly squished like a donut under penn and teller's toy truck (this was no doubt spawned by the incident last night). i took it as a sign for me to start cycling to work again. i don't know if i can do it every day (for fear of my crotch seizing up) but three times a week is nothing but beneficial right? it always makes climbing the stairs that little bit more painful.
my gears have stopped making clicking noises. this makes me happy. i knew if i ignored the problem it would go away.
25.04.05: i'm developing a fettish for steps. yesterday i found the best steps ever - and even, better they're at the top of bear road! there's 152 of them and i climbed them in pairs three times. i would have done it a fourth but it looked like rain. the first go is the worst. the second time is the easiest. on the third you're thinking how you're going to quote tender branson (from chuck palahniuk's 'survivor'). on the forth attempt you'd be wishing you could remember the quote.
15.04.05: my office is on the seventh floor and i havn't been in the lift for well over a week now. each floor has 13 steps, so that's a total of 91 steps from street to desk. i'm doing this three times a day so that's only 273 steps a day. it's not enough but they're good steps and it is a start. i suppose.
12.04.05: this page says that kilimanjaro is the 124th highest mountain in the world. that doesn't seem much but it's still the highest mountain outside of asia and south america, and just over two thirds of everest. so whose stupid idea was this again? a few kilimanjaro sites have been passed around the office and most of them just scare me, this list of drugs especially. it makes me wonder if they were also going elephant hunting.
by the way, tim also has a kilimanjaro climb page. his is more grey than mine.
11.04.05: anyway, i'm now officially committed to the kilimanjaro climb. to the value of £140. does that mean there is no going back and in under five months i will be up kilimanjaro? what have i done?
i've been thinking about my reasons for climbing kilimanjaro and i think the list would make you sick. am i really living my life based on 'wwjd?' style decision making? is it really all to do with me trying to get over inadequacies i've (possibly falsely) acquired from various people? this isn't a competitive thing. it's more like me trying to feel that i have a life. that i am worthy. or at least would have been. it's not that i can't explain this properly, it's more like i don't want to.
08.04.05: a map of our route can be found here. i'm told it's the machame route that we are following.
07.04.05: last night i had my fitness assessment for the kilimanjaro climb. i came in at about an average, something i think i should be happy about considering i spend the best hours of my day sitting at a desk. i'm not technically committed to the climb yet though, as i havn't paid my deposit - i'm still a little concerned about my finances (maybe i should start a second fundraiser for my £81 a month council tax bill, that's £19 a week). i'm full of enthusiasm though, climbing kilimanjaro is something that i really want to do. and the ball is rolling so it's not one of those things you talk about but what never actually happens. i just need to find the time for fitness training and raising money, and sooner rather than later. (oh, and cheers to rachael for the email)
17.03.05: so it's about time i talked about the kilimanjaro climb. the plan is we're going to climb kilimanjaro (this beast) and we raise a whole load of money for amani children's home. we've even set up a kilimanjaro climb website and everything. you see how dedicated we are? now, the target for fund raising is £2000 each (that's per person), so do you see where this is going? basically, i either want your money or your ideas/help for raising money. obviously this isn't completely selfless (i figure honesty is the best policy always), if i can raise enough money i can get part of my personal costs paid (quite generously by spannerworks). it's still going to cost me a fortune, but it doesn't have to necessarily break me. oh yeah, the kids need the money too (and just look how cute they are). it's all about the kids don't forget, and nothing to do with me trying to get a cheap holiday. of course. etc. you understand? so, you can email me about this and i can give you love in return. the format of the love depends on how helpful you are.
any stupid or obnoxious comments above are purely part of my internet persona who i must remain true to, even when trying to be charitable. you fucker.