No matter what I say in this blog I will never be able to use words to explain the out of world experience that is Mt. Kilimanjaro. I could easily write 5000words but I’m going to keep it as short as I can. For those of us living in NZ who have never seen one of the great peaks in person before do not look at the token Kili photo with giraffes in front of it……it looks nothing like that at all!! Picture been in your car looking out the window with your neck bent back as far as it can go, looking up above the clouds and picturing the largest thing you have ever seen – that is what Kilimanjaro really looks like! Our American guide Shaun told me that every person has a ‘Holy Sh*t moment’ when walking up Kili – you literally do think “holy sh*t what have I got myself into?!” Luckily enough on our drive in to Kili it was cloudy and we couldn’t see the mountain because damn that would have been all of our holy sh*t moments for sure. NZ has nothing even remotely close to seeing that mountain in the flesh (NZs highest point, Mt Cook, is a whole 2.2km lower) so just as well we didn’t actually see the mountain in her entirety until we were leaving, but that made it so much more special to think “damn I just climbed that thing”. As we drove away we all just could not stop staring at it in awe.
I’m going to summarise day 1-5 up pretty easy. There was one saying the guides said in Swahili that was repeated more to us than any other saying and that was “Pole Pole” which means “Slowly Slowly” in English, and wow did they mean it! From the first step we took, to the last at the summit, it was the slowest walk you can imagine. There is method to their madness as the slow pace is used for acclimatisation, but was pretty painful in some areas. “ClimbKili” the group that took us were absolutely amazing in every aspect. The guides were so knowledgeable and attentive to everyone. I know for a fact that a few clients would have not got through the experience without the guides. The porters, wow! Every morning they were amping us up with song and dance, and then they had to break down our camp and carry it, including our gear, to the next camp. Now, myself and Matt would normally rate ourselves with the weights, but these little chicken legged guys put us to shame carrying 20+kg on their heads up that mountain 3times as fast as us! The cooks! How they managed to feed this big group too much food I’ll never know, even Matt and I couldn’t finish it all. It was always quality and the right type of food to keep us going. One of the great things about Kilimanjaro is that you move through a different eco system everyday so no 2 days look the same – which is great for the mind keeping yourself on track, but in the back of your mind is always the thought that summit night is getting closer and closer. Over the first 5 days you really got to see the group come together a lot closer which was awesome, we all started to learn about everyones backgrounds etc and all this helps make summit night so successful. The camaraderie between us all was needed and it was great to see the group come together to help each other.
Alright the bit everyone wants to know….the infamous Summit Night.
Wild Kiwi broke me physically, I had the worst cramp possible everywhere and every movement hurt but the mind was still strong and, even if I had to crawl, the last 10km I would – you know where the end is and how to get there. However, on Kili you can’t physically go any slower than you are already going and you have no idea where the end is. Add in altitude and no sleep since 5am the previous morning this is when the fun starts (by fun I mean not fun – we start walking at 11pm and trek through the night). Now I definitely don’t want to paint this experience as horrible, so lets just say it was out of this world. Before Stella Point (crater edge but not highest point) I literally do not remember the last 3 hours – I don’t know if I was actually sleep walking or had mentally blocked it out. I do remember at one point just staring at the persons calves in front of me hallucinating big time. Both Matt & I had the role to help get all our clients to the top – provide motivation in order to help them out when things got tough, and mentally change their mind-sets when the mind started giving up. Never did I think we would both need to be giving ourselves the very same pep-talk to just keep going without showing the clients that we are actually struggling along with them. The devil inside you says just stop, just fall asleep, and rest, but the rest of you says not today mate I’ve got something to conquer then I can do those things. Each step is 1 step you never have to do again, Kili you might be the devil right now but I’ve (we’ve) got you.
Spewing, crying, hallucinating, severe headaches, being the coldest you have ever felt, are all perfectly normal and accepted on summit night and within our group we experienced it all. Did we stop and turn around? Heck no! Everyone pushed through it all, absolute exhaustion and mental fatigue. This is 2years in the making and 5days of trekking everyone knows that this will be temporary pain to get the ultimate glory and that was the mentality that was portrayed. From this the only conclusion I can reach is we NZers are some damn tough, stubborn idiots (Our summit night: Group of 6 Americans 0 summited, group of 7 Malaysians 2 summited, OUR GROUP OF 30 KIWIS 29 SUMMITED).
Not really selling it am I?
Well here we go then, was it worth it? Not a single doubt in my mind! The last one hundred metres to the Uhuru Peak sign with our now super-close group but in particular hand in hand with my wife Chani, good friends Scott & Tania and Matt cuddled with his mum Jo is a moment that I (we) will cherish forever. Not only the ultimate achievement, but being able to do it with your best friend(s) even better! And the views – indescribably amazing. Its one of those things you need to witness yourself in your semi-hypoxic state and just reflect on its physical awesomeness. Words, vids and photos will never give it justice, then add in the journey it’s taken to get you there…Kilimanjaro you were out of this world, thank you for the memories.