MT. KILIMANJARO, KENYA
The most outstanding trip I ever undertook was with a group of 5 women and we climbed Kilimanjaro. It was an amazing, emotional experience. We trained really, really hard. We trained together. We made a schedule. We trained at least once a week, sometimes twice. And we’d go up a thousand steps, and we’d do 5-hour hikes, and we went and did altitude training. So we were really probably the fittest we’d ever been in our lives.
We arrived there and we were at the bottom of Kili, and we’re having a group hug, and of course, I burst out crying because it was so momentous. We got to the top, I burst out crying. It was an emotional experience because it was really, really tough. The altitude was horrendous. We had really bad weather – it rained, it poured – so much so, that the 4-wheel drive that was supposed to take us to the bottom of Kilimanjaro couldn’t make it. So we had to walk an extra 6 or 8 kilometres before we even began.
It was just amazing. When we got to the top, it was the most amazing experience – the camaraderie, the fact that the 5 of us started and the 5 of us finished together. We were always together. If someone was feeling a bit bad, you would help them to put one foot in front of the other. It was just the sheer exertion of getting there. It was the physicality as well as the emotional experience. So physically it was really tough. It took us 5 days up and 11/2 days down or 41/2 and 11/2. It was 6 days, 5 nights.
Was it the most difficult thing you’d ever done physically? Emotionally?
Both. It’s almost like the 9 months of carrying a baby and then finally having the baby. And just being so elated at the top that you forget about all the problems that you had getting there.
Why do it?
Because it’s there. And it’s a challenge. We all love a challenge, and that was my physical challenge. It was a now or never. We were all in our early 50s. I think you need it because you need it for the mental aptitude and the ability to do it mentally ‘cause it’s a head thing. Apart from it being physically difficult, it’s really hard to keep yourself going. There were nights when we didn’t get into to the camp until well after dark, exhausted, fatigued, not even wanting to eat. And you know you’ve got to force yourself to eat. You’ve got to force yourself to do everything because you’ve got to get up the next day and do it again.
Do you think you were mentally and emotionally stronger now than when you were younger ?
I did a marathon when I was in my early 40s and I only believe I could do it because I had the mental attitude to keep going. When you’re young, it’s not that important, give up, who cares?
Why is it important now?
Because if you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it?
Did it in anyway change your relationship with the other women?
Yes. We’re best friends now, we’re all friends.
Yes, absolutely. We’re really close friends. We’ve accomplished something together and experienced something together that is really inexplicable and you can’t take that back. So now even if we don’t see each other all the time, they are counted amongst my best friends.