Monday, 28 September 2015

My First Time In Africa - By Harry Owens

Above the Clouds

I'd never been to Africa before, and when I got off the plane I was exposed to a whole new world. The airport was so small compared to the one I'd just left, but the weather was a lot nicer. My good fortune took a slight turn when the airline informed me that my luggage was in Amsterdam, fortunately it arrived on a flight the next day and I wasn’t going to let anything dampen my good mood. I was in Tanzania, I was about to climb Kilimanjaro, and I couldn’t be more excited.

I didn’t really know what to expect from Moshi or from the hotel, and when my driver pulled down a dirt track in what seemed like the middle of nowhere I must admit I was a little worried. This was completely unjustified however as we pulled into the Midlands Lodge, I couldn’t of felt more at home. I was shown to a beautiful room with a comfy bed and an en suite; standard for all the rooms in Midlands. I was greeted by a group of Dig Deep staff, student fundraisers and very friendly locals. This was followed by some amazing food and most importantly an ice cold Kilimanjaro beer.

After a day of rest the group I would be climbing with arrived in Moshi. Not knowing anyone I was climbing with, I was a little apprehensive, but after a few more Kilimanjaro beers and a few games of cards, I was confident we were going to have a great time on the mountain.

It was foggy on the morning before we went to the gate, we were unable to see the peak, but we knew it was there and it was where we needed to be. The gate was its own adventure; meeting all of the guides and having a monkey steal our food made for an exciting morning. Just like that we were off, walking our first few steps I looked back to see Sarah waving us off. Knowing her and Jo had reached the top just a week prior was a key factor in my determination at some points. The first thing we noted was how frustratingly slowly the guides were walking, we were miles ahead of them, what on earth were they doing? By day 2 they were still going at the same pace, but we were struggling to keep up. If you’re about to climb and you’re reading this: pace yourself.

By the time we reached the first camp at 3000 metres the altitude was hitting me hard. My head was pounding and I couldn’t catch my breath, unfortunately there was nothing I could do but deal with it, which was made easier by the astounding cooking. Huddled in the mess tent the porters had already set up for us, everyone was eating as much soup and bread as possible. We were starving. Much to our surprise, the soup was cleared away and the waiters brought in the main course. We hadn’t realised the soup was a starter. After feasting on some chicken and potatoes, I certainly wasn’t starving anymore.

The sun rose in the morning, as did we at 6:30 am with only minor grumbling. Much to my relief, my headache was gone and I was feeling fresh as a daisy; the sleeping matts in the tents really are quite comfy. We continued on for 3 days of long hikes and great food, amazed by both the views and how fast the porters could walk despite carrying much more than us. Some days we were treated to a morning sing along with all 60 of our porters and guides which was so enticing that often people from other groups would wonder over and join in. As for our favourite part of the trip we all greed it fell on day 4, but we couldn’t decide whether it was the thrill of climbing Baranco wall in the morning or the taste sensation of the chips they gave us for lunch. For me it was definitely the chips.
I can barely remember summit night, I think it’s the same for a lot of people. I remember the red glow of the moon in the early hours of the morning. I remember seeing the stars more clearly than I ever have before. I remember the most beautiful sunrise. The hours of hard work and struggle seem to be left behind in the sense of accomplishment. When we could see Uhuru peak from Stella point I could hardly believe it. Only one more hour.

My group at Uhuru peak.
I cried at the peak, I think most people did from my group. There was a lot of singing the songs we had learnt from the guides over the week and photo taking for new profile pictures. We could of stayed up there for a long time, the views stretched on for miles and of course we had finally made it, although it definitely hadn’t quite sunk in for most people yet. It didn’t really hit me until after lunch walking down to millennium camp when I looked back and could see the peak receding in the background. At that point I was so full of energy, slightly annoyed because I would much rather have been energised on the way up!

By the time we reached Mweka, everyone was quite disappointed really, not able to come to terms with the fact that we were no longer on the mountain and that our adventure was over. Tipping the porters however was one of the highlights of my week, after seeing how hard they worked I couldn’t imagine climbing with a organisation that didn’t give them a fair wage.

After a few rest days in Moshi, I was looking forward to watching a few good movies on the plane. Unfortunately I was so knackered that I slept the whole way home and didn’t get to watch anything. My mother picked me up at the airport congratulating me and saying how proud she was.

“No big deal mum” I grinned. “All in a weeks’ work”.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic achievement, not just by climbing the mountain but by raising awareness of other peoples basic needs to be able to have clean fresh water! Well done!