To complete my Kilimanjaro story . . .
Having climbed through the night to reachUhuru Peak, the very top of Kilimanjaro, we still had another long day ahead of us. Rather than lots of celebration, a good sit down, perhaps a cooked breakfast and a glass of bubbly, it was a case of Chop-chop rather thanPolepole. For our own wellbeing our guides were keen to get us moving back down to an altitude more suited to human lif
After returning across the rim to Stella Point, the descent was not as hard as the ascent, but it
was not easy. We travelled over loose scree. Each step down was accompanied with a slight slip. In some cases a long slip and on occasions a stumble and a tumble. This is where our walking poles really came in to their own. After about an hour and a half we made it on to firmer ground, but it was still a long walk back to the camp. I was very glad to see the porter who had been assigned to me throughout the week. He had walked some 20 minutes or so up the mountainside to greet me and relieve me of my back pack. Down to the camp. And at last a rest.
However, this was not the end of the day. After about an hour or so we were called to have some food. We were glad to find the three members of our party who had not made it to the top were all well and in good spirits. Although we had all come to climb the mountain, as Florence our guide had said, the main priority was that we all got down safe and well. Another short rest and then back on the trail, heading down to the next camp on the Mweka Route. It was another long walk, but mainly downhill and we quickly recovered from the earlier effects of high altitude. We began to feel normal again – although exhausted!
That night was one of celebration, but also of some sadness. Two of the party, Bjorn and Katrine, would be leaving very early the next morning to continue their holiday. So, just like in the Lord of the Rings, this was to be the breaking of our Fellowship. The Kilimanjaro 15 was to become the Kilimanjaro 13. We toasted our success; we commiserated those not fortunate enough to make it to the very top and we mourned the fact that this would be our last meal together. (Okay, so perhaps it wasn’t quite as dramatic as Boromir being shot by the Orcs of Orthanc, Pippin and Merry being captured and Frodo and Sam slipping off to Mordor, but you know what I mean!)
The final day dawned, and another long morning walk. This time down a path with semi-natural steps every 5 metres or so. In theory easy. In practice, hard on the legs, which struggled to adjust to the constant descent after 7 days of walking mainly uphill. A final delay in checking out of the Kilimanjaro National Park; a celebratory first cold drink of alcohol (for some) and a bus journey off the mountainside. The main part of our journey was complete.
Throughout this blog, which I started some months before the climb, I have drawn out lessons learnt along the way. Maybe not spectacular or stuff that wouldn’t have occurred to me (or you) if thought about, but put into sharper context by the scale of the challenge.
If you have followed the blog from the start, you may recall the Lessons:
1. Inspiration and Action (lack of)
2. Back on track. Public Commitment
3. Gaining momentum – gathering a team
4. The power of a challenging goal
5. Fail to prepare, then . . .
6. Camping – don’t do it
7. Altitude Sickness – be as prepared as you can be
8. Be firm on the goal, be flexible as to methods (or Charity begins at home, but it ends in Kenya)
9. Impressions of Tanzania – there is always a different way of doing things
10. What are your crater walls?
11. A journey of 5,895m starts with the first step
12. No Guts, No Glory (but try to hang on to your guts)
13. Getting to the top is always that much easier if you have the support of others
And to complete the list:
14. Don’t forget the Everyday Heroes
In the course of my journey I have managed to raise in excess of £3,000 for the three charities I wanted to support (http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/TonyBarradell). And this has meant as much to me as making it to the top of the mountain. And I very much appreciate all of the donations that so many people have made in recognition of my effort in climbing Kilimanjaro.
But this is my final reflection. I chose to go on this trip. I was fortunate in having the financial means to do so; the flexibility in my work and the support of my family to be able to take the time away. Plus lots of other support along the way. Some people – actually most people – would not have been so lucky. I had a great time, and any hardships I suffered (see Lesson 6 above) were 1) temporary and 2) self-inflicted. In contrast, so many people suffer hardship that is 1) long-term or even permanent and 2) certainly not self-inflicted. I only have to look around me to see:
- People suffering from physical and mental illnesses, but who struggle on
- People struggling against the effects of injury (mental and physical) that have been inflicted upon them
- People struggling to make ends meet, with little money
- People struggling to care for those they love, who are perhaps in the categories above.
The youngsters in the Footprints orphanage in Kenya, one of my charities, live a hard life. But it is not all sweetness and light for many people in the UK and other developed countries. People are battling on every day. People not fortunate enough to climb Kilimanjaro and reach ‘the roof of Africa’, even if they wanted to.
Whilst my blog may be aimed at those striving for success, let’s hear it for the everyday heroes. Those people who struggle on, against adversity, day after day. They are the real heroes, not the ones who can go for a long walk in a high place once in a while. So, on your way to the top, Lesson 14 – Don’t forget the Everyday Heroes.
Thank you for following Kilimanjaro – there and back again.