A wise man once said that the intensity of an experience lies within the detail. And this is definitely true for climbing Africa’s highest mountain. It can be a never-ending slog or it can be an experience where every day is uniquely different and the variety of things seen and found makes every hour a pleasure.
Even for my clients the expedition was in every way much more than they were expecting. And they were Africans themselves! A group of South African ex-military with their gorgeous wives and of course a token Aussie. As the days passed, forgotten was the acclimatisation process which made them feel ill, forgotten was the fact that we were camping and living rough. And in flowed the unexpectedness: the enormous troop of colobus monkeys, the deep lava tunnel, always being high above the clouds, watching the vastness of the Kenyan savannah spread before us, seeing the sun set over a distant Kibo peak, climbing into the rugged crater of Mawanzi and clinging to the edge of an enormous canyon as mist swirled all around us.
Then the cold of climbing into a hurricane force wind at Gilman point, pushing on to the summit, the sky changing into a brilliant spectacle of colours as the sun crept over the distant horizon, the camaraderie of seeing the slow ones still pushing on, everyone supporting each other as if their friends summiting meant more than their own. A long tough summit day digging deep to take the last steps then triumphantly standing for a moment on the highest point on the mighty continent of Africa!
This group knew the meaning of hard work but even so Kilimanjaro outlived their expectations. Once back in the high camp everyone collapsed. “Toughest thing I have ever done” as spoken by everyone, and huge grins of deep satisfaction.
Kilimanjaro had weaved its magic once again: a long tough struggle to conquer the summit, an endeavour so obscure when you think about it but totally living up to the cliché of transforming one’s life. Everyone stood on top and everyone will be seeing themselves in the mirror knowing that they are capable of something that before seemed impossible.
And here lies Kilimanjaro’s gift: It does make those who have reached the top realise that us puny humans are indeed capable of doing the incredible ourselves!