One of the best things I carried in my backpack on my recent trip to Kilimanjaro was a sketchbook, a fine pen and a shading marker. Everyday as we trudged in to the campsite, I would scurry into my tent and retreat into a world of my thoughts trying to bring them alive visually.
Everything around me worked as catalysts- the air, the rain, the foliage, wind, clouds, my friends and the giant mountain that looked at me everyday.
More than all the pictures I took on the trip, it was the sketches that I treasured the most because they brought my thoughts alive.
Ticking off a bucket list
“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
-Sir Edmund Hillary
In an interesting case of serendipity, 2 years ago, I listed Kilimanjaro on my Bucket list of things to do for no specific rhyme or reason. A few months ago, the trip actually came alive as the universe listened and brought it to life. Before I knew it, some of my closest friends from school, from college and a very interesting mix of people from around the world made up our group of a dozen climbers.
Something about this group was magical.
“He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary.”
Every single person in our group was unique in their personalities and together the bonhomie was infectious. Right from get go, there was laughter and camaraderie that permeated every conversation. There seemed to be an unsaid connection in every action. We seemed to know each other from a long time ago and set off like best friends on one mission. Maybe the purpose connected us or maybe the mountain just made us closer.
As the trip unfolded, we became a tighter unit- standing up for each other, helping, encouraging, laughing a lot, sharing food and looking out for each person. The outdoors have a wonderful way of helping us find ourselves and at the same time seeing people as they really are. The trek ended with best friends becoming even closer and new friends become like family.
Preparing for the climb
“Each fresh peak ascended teaches something.”
-Sir Martin Convay
All of us went through various preparation methods. I got myself a trainer and he worked on strengthening my core, my legs, shoulder and back and getting my overall strength in place. I jogged to build my stamina and did walks with 5 to 7 kilos in my backpack. Every weekend I would climb the steps of a 36 storey flat to get the calves in shape. I did this with a friend from Dubai, Bharat and we would time ourselves and see how we could improve our timing each time. The group had a whats app chat where we would motivate each other by sharing our preparation and exercise regimen.
Though the preparation helped a lot during the actual trek, finally it was about how strong we were mentally on the final summit day that got us to the top. Besides all that, that it was the amazing pacing and expertise that our guide Sarah Kingdom led us with through the days that also ensured we all made the summit.
The importance of a great guide
“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.”
A big part of getting things right on an adventure like this lies with how well we are guided in the journey. Sarah played a great part weeks before we even left. In our chat window, she would inquire about our progress every day, share quotes and helped build a bond amongst the group. Through the trip, she would ensure we set off on time and paced us through the day.
Thank you White Magic Adventure for the amazing coordination and organising of the trip.
The trip of a lifetime
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”-John Muir
This adventure couldn’t have got any better! There was an amazing group, a daunting mountain peering through the clouds, we trekked through rain, past brooks and giggling streams, saw inspiring climbers of all ages with the same focus, pitched tents amidst lakes and foothills and each of us made the summit. On the way down from the summit, heavy snowfall made our descent near impossible, snow over the gravel became ice and climbers kept falling and sliding like dominoes. That trek pushed our bodies to its limits and it was possibly the toughest thing I have ever done and for all of us it was our minds that redirected us back to our tents that day. We trekked 18 hours before we finally slept that night exhausted yet smiling over our personal victories that day.
The last day was the most beautiful part of the journey as we trekked downhill over 7 hours past hills, fields, flowers, foliage and a gentle rainforest. With new-found energy and exhilaration, the day was a abuzz with fresh thoughts and a cool breeze. As I walked, so much clarity about every aspect of my life unfolded in my mind. I felt so many knots untie themselves and ease away in those few hours. Clarity like the crystal clear streams that I walked past, changes in paradigm and a sense of calm.
Thank you Kilimanjaro for the adventure of a lifetime and helping me find myself!
“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”