Nearly two weeks later and I am still waking up at 6:30am. I expect to wake up to the sound of one of our porters lightly shaking the tent, followed by his usual "morning ladies", this was my favourite bit of the trip. In mountain world this is known as "bed tea", being woken up with a lovely hot cup of coffee. One of the few luxury's we had each morning. It certainly makes up for the lack of sleep, due to howling winds at night, oh, and, of course, the fact the I can now officially report that sleeping bags are possibly one of the most uncomfortable things ever created. But despite not being able to shower for 7 days, missing my gorgeous bed and having to wear the same clothes for several days in a row. Taking on Kilimanjaro was without a doubt, one of the most incredible expeditions I have ever done in my life.
I am almost positive that each experience of Kilimanjaro is incredibly personal. The biggest mistake I made was listening to what other people had to say about their trip, and things they had heard. A friend of a friend said this, did this, bla bla bla. I think I was more frightened reading stories on Google, then finally making my final ascent up the mountain. The worst thing about the expedition has to be the pre climb jitters: "Will I make it?", "Will I get sick?", "How Steep is it?"
Let me be the first to tell you though, there is no plain sailing. Each Day is tougher than the last. You better like walking, because there certainly is a lot of that, and not just any walking, 7 to 9 hours of walking in the hot unavoidable sunshine and don't forget always on an incline. One day you will find yourself in Lush Rain forests, with Monkeys scrambling from tree to tree, and for a moment you feel like you could be hiking in Thailand, heading to the beach, and then the next you will find yourself in harsh brutal desert like terrain, each breath becoming heavier than the last due to the rapid change in Altitude, and not forgetting the dull headache that always seems to be there.
Despite all of these hard ships, getting to camp each day was like winning the lottery. Time to baby wipe every bit that feels filthy, brush your teeth, get those foot warmers in your boots, and prepared to be delighted by dinner. The porters are unbelievable beings. Each guy carrying at least 20kg on his head, it takes them a quarter of the time to get to each camp that it does you. Once you arrive everything is ready. The only thing you need to worry about is rolling out your sleeping bag. Within a few hours of arriving, dinner is served. We even had Spaghetti Bolognese for one of our meals. I mean could it get any better? Yes it could, cheese, wine, chocolate, prosciutto ham. You name it we had it!!!
And just as you start to take the whole thing for granted, you have been lulled into a false sense of security. Summit day arrives like the Hiroshima bomb!!!
Your "day" begins at midnight. Wearing every layer of clothing, armed with only a head torch, you set off for the most challenging journey of your life. For me personally, it took around 9 hours of painstaking switchbacks, scrambling over rocks in pitch black, feeling more nauseous with every step, and then something brilliant happens around 6 and half hour into your climb, just as you loose the will to carry on living, just at the point where you can't go on any longer, just as you are about to give it all in and announce defeat. THE SUN RISES. It may possibly be the most beautiful sunrise you have ever seen in your life. Slowly your fingers and toes start to warm up, once again you feel comforting warmth on your cheeks, and life seems worth living again. At this point I had made it to summit No.1. Did you know there are actually 3 different summits? Well I didn't, and did you know it take around 2 hours to get from the first Summit to the last and highest point in Kilimanjaro? First up Gilman's Peak sitting at 5681m above sea level. Next up Stella Peak sitting at 5739m above sea level and finally Uhuru Peak, the final and Highest Peak in all of Africa, sitting at a colossal 5895m above sea level.
Channeling the last bit of energy I had saved somewhere in my body, I scrambled over to the final point, with a massive sigh of relief while feeling slightly smug with myself. The girl usually draped in couture ball gowns, and 6 inch Heels had made it to the highest point in Africa! Hell Yes!
I am sure you are all asking just about now, did she DJ on the top? Did the Bee Gees ring out over the Plains of Africa? Yes, they certainly did. Just as I arrived at the highest peak, I was lucky enough to bump into the rest of my group, all looking well and ready to help me with my quest. I pulled out my kit and speakers, the girls put their 'dancing shoes' on and then it happened. The world's highest DJ set began. I have to say the dance moves were questionable, but what did you expect at 5895m above sea level? I am so thankful to my wonderful team and all the people that made it happen. Without a doubt, this has to be placed at my no.1 spot of life adventures so far, and there isn't much more I can tell you other than to try it for yourself. It is only then that will you understand how incredible the journey actually is. However I still stick with what I said, don't listen to anything anyone says, this is your adventure, and live it the way you want to live it!