Walking up a mountain. No big deal right?
At least one would think it was no big deal until you find yourself immersed in it all and in a very different reality.
Mount Kilimanjaro has been on my bucket list since I first laid eyes on it when I was doing my solo trip across Africa with my portable massage table. I knew I would one day be back to conquer it, I just didn’t know when. Then the opportunity arose recently in my life, years after my solo trip across the continent and it was suddenly time.
We chose the 7-day trek up the Machame route. Not the most difficult route, but absolutely one of the most challenging.
From day 1 we were amongst some of the most incredible scenery.
We began at the lush rain forest, and as we progressively got higher in altitude the vegetation continually changed. The landscape and beauty were spectacular every day.
I was totally blown away by the porters running up and down the mountain with very heavy loads. We would leave camp they would pack up and run ahead of us to make sure everything was ready for our arrival.
Blown away, and incredibly grateful. That is not an easy job.
We had some long days in the beginning with a duration of 6 – 7 hours hikes, as we got higher the hikes got shorter yet more intense particularly due to the altitude.
We always had snacks and warm drinks waiting for us when we reached our next camp.
It is about around day 3 that most people start to feel the effects of the altitude. I made sure to have all of my natural supplements and remedies with me in order to prevent altitude sickness as much as possible. As we get higher our blood begins to thicken which in turns starts to make us ill. So I had plenty of natural things in my little health kit that helps to thin the blood. It all worked so well, I had my moments, but really nothing too bad at all.
Altitude sickness comes in waves. At one point you can feel totally fine, then suddenly you feel awful, and then shortly after that you feel fine again. It is like a roller coaster ride all in itself.
The most important things are – rest and water.
We chose the absolute best company to guide us. They are called Safari to Summit, and they continually went above and beyond for us on the daily. Our safety and health were number one, and the food blew us away every day.
Literally, the chef also known as ‘the stomach engineer’ prepared our meals in a tent on a propane stove, and the things he would produce were what dreams were made of on a cold, strenuous journey up Kilimanjaro. No matter the elevation, the food was always on point.
Summit night was tough. My lips were cracked, my body feeling the pressure, and my mind having to keep strong. We started our last leg of the journey at 11pm. It was dark, cold, and where the real challenge was about to begin.
About an hour in is when I started to feel the altitude. There were some that were vomiting, others with severe headaches and body aches. For myself when it would pummel me like a crashing wave, it would come on as tight pressure in my chest and body making it very difficult to breathe along with vertigo that would make it hard to focus as well as giving me the feeling I was about to fall down the mountain. It was extremely tough, to say the least. I had to stop a couple times to even out and give myself a pep talk. I shed a few tears and asked my body if it could go on. It said yes. So onward I marched.
As we got higher the weather became more brutal. It was blizzarding and so cold that even with two pairs of gloves and two pairs of socks plus hand and feet warmers, I was still so cold my fingers and toes were burning with the icy bite of frost. Pushing through the last few hours was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my whole life.
Having an incredible team of support absolutely helped make the success of this possible. At times I was the support and at other times I was receiving the support. This time I joined a group trip with UGO Travel for Change, and it was one of the best experiences of my life.
This accomplishment put so many things into perspective for me. I found a drive in myself that is so much bigger than I ever thought before. I can clearly see I am capable of so much more.
The journey down the mountain was split between two days, and I will say aside from the summit the trek down was the hardest. It was rough and my knees almost couldn’t take it. I was ready to throw in the towel and say I couldn’t go on. It was so painful. Although clearly, that wasn’t an option. How in the heck else was I going to get down?
On the last morning of the trek, we were treated to a farewell song and dance by the guides and crew. They were so amazing and what a high vibe way to say goodbye.
My knees were swollen for days after and I could barely walk. Going down is no joke. This adventure turned out to be more than just a physical challenge. It was physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
I had so much support to help me achieve this incredible feat. I had the intention to fly this flag at the summit to show my gratitude to all those who supported me in so many ways. However, I never expected this to be as difficult as it was, nor with such extreme weather conditions. My time at the summit was so short as it was unbearable and my flag was in my bag that one of the porters took to carry when the altitude was nearly doing me in. I still flew my flag with nothing less than overflowing gratitude when I returned to base camp, and it was with us all at the top.
Metaphorically speaking, here is what I learned about life from this amazing experience – having been crashed on by waves of altitude/challenges along the way, having to stop and shed some tears a few times, check in with myself and have strong self talk to keep going onward and upward to finally reach the top. The summit. Where I shed more tears, this time of joy. It showed me that in life when we are climbing our mountains, building our success and working to achieve greatness, it will not always be easy, the hardships will come in waves, and we may cry a few times along the way. Yet if we can keep our eye on our goal, our mindset strong while being gentle on ourselves through the hardships, we can do anything and everything that we set our mind to. Ending up at the exact destination we were reaching for or somewhere even better.