After 36 hours of labor with my second son, what could be more difficult? Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.The only difference is with labor there is no relief.Hiking the steep rocky trails to the worlds largest free standing mountain, I could rest when I needed to .It was a feat that required every ounce of mental and physical strength I could muster, inspiring me to ask more than once,what am I made of?When I could not take one more step I dug deeper and found there was more gas in the tank than I thought. A reaffirming realization that mirrors life itself.
With 20 people, most of them millennials, 60 porters and my husband hiking with me,the 7 day trek began in the rain forest where my husband snapped a photo of a Blue Monkey in a tree and was rewarded with said monkeys excrement right on his forearm.When we met Jane Goodall she said it was a gift.
Each day brought another challenge that included scaling the 843 foot Baranko Wall with the help of the porters showing us where to step,straddle rocks and pull up with arms and shoulders until we the river below looked like a sliver.Feeling accomplished endorphins popping all around, I turned to see Mt Kilimanjaro looking close enough to touch but we were still 3 days away.
We traversed steep hills through the Karanga Valley and the higher we hiked the colder it got.For some,altitude sickness started setting in around 14 thousand feet. Headaches and unpleasantries in the belly, dizziness and sleepiness but they marched on with the help of Diamox, Exedrin, and Zantac.
At night we wore every stitch of clothing we had, including wool hats, gloves and heavy socks.As the sun set behind the mountains, the stars popped through the night sky like pin pricks on a canvas.Shooting stars and satellites dazzled us and took the mind off aching knees and quadriceps.Back in our tents, we tried to find warmth in our sleeping bags and hopedwe wouldn’t have to use the tent potty in the middle of the night and get lost in the hilly campground.
On the last day we woke up at 2am when the winds were calm and the moon was literally a slipper.Our location on the planet brought the quarter moon to the bottom not the side,It was our guide as we traversed the slabs of rocks with nothing but headlamps on our foreheads.The 4 thousand foot climb took almost 8 hours and in that time the moon set and the sun rose over the mountains.A sight so extraordinary I burst into tears.The sun was so warm and the hike so intense over lava dust and rocks I had to open my coat and shed some clothes.As I approached Stella Point just 500 feet from summit I realized I was walking slower than I ever had in my life.One foot in front of the other, the air growing thinner by the second.
My mind wandered, and I thought of the times in my life when I faced what I thought were insurmountable odds and somehow, a power I didn’t know I had brought me through and the next thing I knew I was at Stella Point sobbing in the arms of a porter I had come to admire and respect .I was overwhelmed by the journey and the ice blue glaciers that surrounded me.My husband grabbed my hand and together we slowly made our way to the summit but not before passing ex NY Giant Osi Ummenyiora who climbed the mountain with a film crew and some other British celebs to raise money for comic relief.He gave us a smile and a fist pump and next thing we knew.We reached the top.Mission accomplished.
Elated, overjoyed, exhausted and wishing there was a zip line to take us back down.