Returning home to ‘normal’ life after an adventure as life changing as Kilimanjaro was never going to be easy. Physically and emotionally it was one heck of a trip and coming back down to earth hit me with a thud. The whole experience was so surreal but how do I convey to people just how awesome it was?!
From start to finish it exceeded all my expectations, it pushed my body to the most extreme limits and gave me experiences that will stay with me for life – I couldn’t ask for much more than that.
Asides from seeing a new part of the world and climbing one of the Seven Summits, What made the trip such an enjoyable experience was the dynamic between our whole team, not just the climbers paying to be there but also with the support team looking after us on the mountain. Being surrounded by fun and positive energy gives you strength to carry on even at the lowest points.
Amr and Julie joined Sarah and I to form “Team Raha”, Swahili for ‘happy’ which fit us all perfectly. We had never met before and they didn’t know each other either. For complete strangers it was amazing that we gelled together in a team by the time we had even reached the camp on day one.
Our support team on the mountain totalled 15 people from guides to porters, cooks and… well I’m still not sure what everyone did but they did it so well. They were an amazing group of guys who looked after everything we needed and entertained us along the way. I have a huge respect for these guys!
Below is the link to a video I made documenting our trip, sometimes that is easier to show in video and pictures than using words alone. Grab a cuppa, get comfortable and enjoy!
“Why Kilimanjaro?” This is a question that I have been asked so many times since signing up for something so ambitious. It’s not the most obvious holiday choice for the mother of a toddler. The simplest answer – it is a challenge that I had seen on TV many years ago and always thought “wow, imagine being able to do that” and after dedicating the past year to changing my lifestyle to become more active, stronger and healthier I realised that maybe I could do this. I made it my focus and my training goal and went for it full throttle. Realistically I would never have signed up for it if Sarah wasn’t interested, right from the initial idea it was great to have her there to go through everything together and to support and motivate each other.
Above is the simple answer, below is the more complicated answer and maybe not something that everyone will understand…
Since my son was born 2.5 years ago I have LOVED being his Mum but at times it can be smothering, you loose a part of yourself as you dedicate it to raising this tiny human to be the best that they can be. For me, I felt like I had lost my spark. I was boring. Something was needed in life to make me feel like ‘me’ again and have something to talk about other than play dates and diapers. Naturally my husband thinks my passion for disappearing off into the hills means that I’m crazy but he quietly supports my ambitions and lets me get on with it.
As documented in the video, during the summit attempt it was a real fight with both my mind and body to get myself to the summit of Kilimanjaro. I felt like everything was against me that night.
Physically I couldn’t have carried on without our guide, Tammy, he was the most amazing help as he did everything he could to help me keep going. Slumped on the edge of a rock hardly able to hold up the weight of my own head my body was shutting down. Tammy fed me energy snacks and water into my mouth when I couldn’t even lift my own arms to do it myself. He wiped the freezing tears from my face and forced my arms to move keeping the blood flowing to the extremities. I’m so thankful that he didn’t give up on me.
After the horrendous struggle of climbing 7 hours higher and higher into the night sky the tiny sliver of golden sunrise on the horizon was a game changer for me. I just knew that things would improve as soon as the sun rose because we could see where we were going and the temperature would rise, through the hike it was MINUS 25 degrees Celsius with a wind chill of minus 40 – no one told us the temperature until we had returned to the foot of the mountain, even now it blows my mind just how cold it was. That tiny golden strip in the distance was my light at the end of the tunnel and from that I took warmth, energy and hope. I’ve never been so happy to see the sun and I swear I will never take it for granted again!
The statistic is that only 66% of climbers who attempt Kilimanjaro will make it to the summit. I was determined not to fail and kept pushing forward.
Everyone had their own struggles that night but at 7.50am all four of us in the group reached the amazing Uhuru Peak, the highest point of Mount Kilimanjaro. WE DID IT!
In the most surreal situation running on only adrenaline we hugged and posed for a couple of pictures at the summit before we are advised it’s time to head back down to lower elevation where there will be more oxygen.
As quick as that, it was over!
Cue the headaches, nausea, stomach problems, exhaustion, hallucinations – From the weird to the disgusting it seems that anything is possible at this altitude.
As the saying goes, “what goes up, must come down” – What none of the websites and forums mention is that after climbing almost 8 hours through the hardest night of your life you then have to continue around 8 hours walking more that day on the steep decline passing by the camp from the night before and keep going. You have to draw every single bit of energy and positive attitude you can to keep your legs moving back down to the last camp.
Upon arriving home the affects of altitude and exhaustion lingered for around 2-3 weeks both physically and mentally, longer than I had expected, before we could feel somewhat “normal” and strong again.
Despite the hard times, exhaustion, illness and the effects of altitude the whole experience of Kilimanjaro was amazing! It was worth every hour of training and every penny spent.
Now the question we are being asked “So, What’s next?” That is a very good question. At present I don’t have any plans on such a grand scale, instead I plan to continue with my fitness goals and challenge myself in the upcoming Spartan and Tough Mudder events.
Thank you to the amazing people who sent love, support and encouragement for the trip. And a big hello to all those who laughed and didn’t think I could do it, you were my biggest motivation to keep going and prove you wrong. Keep watching, there is so much more to come!
And finally…. The biggest, fattest, HUGE thank you goes to my adventure buddy and fitness inspiration, Sarah, for being the best travel companion and ray of sunshine even on the hardest days. You kept me going and made this trip so memorable, even though you ended up so poorly with a wild fever and I was scared you would be quarantined. No joke.
Thinking of attempting Kilimanjaro? Do it! I have faith in you!
Lots of Love,