Kilimanjaro: Beyond My Comfort Zone – Part 3

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When asked if there was a highlight of my Africa trip I feel my face scrunch up as I struggle to blurt out one specific thing that will make the asker happy. It’s like pushing someone to state what aspect of breathing oxygen they find the best. “Well, since it keeps me alive I kinda like it all.”

The concrete jelly stomach and blowing chunks on the mountain issues weren’t highlights, but they served to shape my personal experiences, which although didn’t include a summit, were highly enjoyable nonetheless.

This post is kinda picture heavy because sometimes you just need to soak in the visuals. Enjoy.

The Summit.

Despite not being there I heard the stories about the weird weather the team experienced on summit night – dense fog that refused to clear, a lack of blue skies, and then the fog turned to ice and clung to every surface. The temperature dropped to -20 or more and the wind was cutting at the peak.

They didn’t hang around for much more than a quick photo at the top before marching down.

Here are a few photos from Chris Hill (the guy in the giraffe leggings who certainly has a keen eye for a good photo) and shared on Facebook.

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I love this shot of Pete, maybe contemplating the mountain or the meaning of life.

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That desert is quite beautiful, and somewhat eerie too.

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And of course, the fabulous summit picture.

A proud moment indeed for the team. I was with them in spirit, though not in body. Huge congrats to you all!

Especially to Joel’s coat. I am more than a bit jealous!

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Reunions.

On Thursday 26th Julie and I were picked up from the hotel and driven back to Mount Kilimanjaro, this time to Mweka Gate, similar to Marangu in the lushness department.

We’re talking coffee plantations, ripe jungle, bananas, monkeys, and green stuff everywhere.

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And then came the reunion. One by one the weary team appeared on the path just as fat drops of rain fell from the sky. That was the first time I saw rain in Tanzania and it was very welcome!

I was thrilled to hear the team’s trek stories and of summit night, and though they were very tired they remained in high spirits. They huddled into the tourist shelter for a much-deserved beer.

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There were hugs and smiles and then celebrations as the entire team including porters and guides came together to pop champagne and sing and cheer. It was an amazing moment. A genuine human experience of shared joy, untainted by the usual modern barriers we all use to keep the world at arm’s length.

People celebrating life.

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Including the Africa Alive bear!

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Everyone piled into the coach and we headed back to Moshi for a celebratory meal at Kaka’s. This time I was indeed very hungry!

A cheeky shot of Pete, who I suspect didn’t have the energy to pull his zippable trousers over his boots, but looked proud of his impromptu fashion statement.

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And then the chicken arrived!

Jesus, it was tasty!

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Back to the hotel once again the team took time out to rest, shower, find clean clothes and meet at the bar for drinks before the last evening meal. Whilst sat around a table we were greeting by a tour of wedding parties gathering to have their photos taken.

Talk about a shot of colour! Their clothes were stunning!

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We tucked into a hearty meal in the restaurant and the team were awarded certificates for climbing Kilimanjaro. Our big cheese, Jo Bradshaw said a few words about each of the team before presenting a certificate. It was a happy moment. The team truly deserved their awards.

I was surprised when Jo started talking about me, and then held something out. I wasn’t expecting anything. She had a certificate in her hand. For me. It was an emotional moment and I was quite choked up.

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I’m proud to have been included in the ceremony, but more than that it was a privilege to have been in the company of such fine people. There were no fights or arguments, everyone supported each other, and the team gelled very well.

Safari!

The next morning we were up early. 6 am I think. We packed our bags, ate our last breakfast together and piled into 4×4’s for the 4 hour trip to Tarangire National Park. It was an exhausting drive, though we saw plenty of Tanzanian road life along the way – dusty, colourful roads, vehicles, shops, buildings, and people. A wonderfully colour rich place to visit.

We stopped at a wooden statue emporium.

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Not the best photo of my mug, but I loved the big wooden dude outside the shop.

Someone’s curiosity led to this discovery…

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Moving on.

Inside was quite surprising!

My God. It’s full of carvings.

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I found a pair of elephants who now sit on my desk.

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It was hot and bouncy as we neared the park. But the scenery was wonderous.

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And then we arrived!

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At the visitors centre, we found some cool stained glass illustrating the difference between the wet and dry seasons.

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After signing the visitor’s book and drinking a lot of water we set off in the 4×4’s to find some animals.

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I was fascinated by the trees as much as the animals. There was so much variety.

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And then we saw an elephant!

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And a family with a baby!

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I’d love to return to Tarangire in the wet season because in the next photo you can see the dry riverbed, and to witness animals gathered when it’s engorged with water would be a fabulous sight.

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You can’t see it because I was using a smartphone for photos, but there’s actually a lion behind the group of trees in the photo below.

I was able to make out his butt and back legs through the binoculars.

You’ll just have to take my word for it.

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I like this photo – it has a hint of the dinosaur era about it.

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This family of elephants were digging a hole to find water. The baby seemed more enthusiastic about it than the grown-ups.

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Another family were getting stuck into some tasty lunch in this thicket.

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The giraffe population were a little elusive.

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We ate lunch under a sausage tree.

I prefer to think of it as a snozzcumber tree.

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Jo and Vicki enjoying their lunch.

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We stopped on a hill-top for a while to look out across the vast plain below. It was a quiet few minutes as we took in the sights.

Breathtaking.

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All too soon the safari was over and we headed to Kilimanjaro airport.

It was a very long and tiring day.

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As we drove out of the park I remained stood up whilst my tour companions rested in their seats. I wanted to savour every moment and take every smell, sound and sight. The wind out there was very hot and dry, and sand tickled my skin.

The 4×4 rumbled away, but it felt silent and peaceful.

I took over 300 photos on safari, some of which were pretty crap, but I captured plenty of good shots.

Whilst I’ve shared enough here to tell my story, I’ve kept a lot more to myself. I dislike how photos are no longer things to be treasured and enjoyed, but cheap consumable items akin to fast food. We snap, we share, we LOL/Like,we forget.

It seems these days we share in order to get Likes, not because we a driven to share life’s quality moments with people we care about. I’m the same. I have almost 20,000 photos stored on a hard drive and the cloud, stretching back to 1999, possibly never to be seen by anyone other than me.

I’ve bought a scrapbook/photo album for my best photos. My aim is to create a snapshot of memories, starting with Tanzania and…well, who knows. Maybe when I die I’ll leave a legacy of a hundred photo albums for people to cherish.

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Perhaps I’m old-fashioned. What’s the point in snapping hundreds or thousands of photos to leave them idle and forgotten on a drive somewhere?

Good photos should be printed and shared and treasured.

So, we headed home.

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Goodnight weary travellers.

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Giving Thanks.

This feels a little like I’m giving a speech after accepting an award, but stick with it.

Firstly, thank you to Jo Bradshaw, our guide on Mount Kilimanjaro. I cannot complement Jo more. She was kind and courteous, professional and approachable, and a font of knowledge. My trek could have been very different if it wasn’t for Jo.

You can find more about Jo by visiting her personal website http://www.29029feet.co.uk

Helen Lafford at 360 Expeditions – not only did Helen keep in contact with me when I came down from the mountain – contacting my insurance company, keeping me up to date, but she showed genuine empathy for my situation. She’s warm and friendly, and very easy to talk to. Thank you, Helen, for everything you did to make my stressful event tolerable and easier.

Pristine Trails – a huge thanks to everyone, from Mussa and Joel to every porter and guide who made my trip possible, but also helped the team reach their summit, and who continue to trek up Kili to earn a living.

Dave Stewart at the Fresh Air Learning Company – Dave is an amazingly positive chap who exudes knowledge, smiles and passion for educating people about the great outdoors. He helped improve my confidence around trek prep during a weekend at the Brecon Beacons in Wales in October 2016.

Thanks to Dave I aim to return and reach the summit of Pen y Fan this year, hopefully this time without torrential rain and gale force winds!

It’s all about baby steps.

And thanks also to Dom Rudd, an expedition leader for 360, who helped lead with Peter on the Brecon Beacons weekend. His calm, confident demeanour was very welcome and helped settle nerves around the Kili trip.

Finally…

Thanks to the team who travelled with me to Tanzania. You guys were amazing, and remain a source of inspiration.

Thank you to Julie, my travelling companion who has an outstanding positive outlook and a fantastic sense of humour.

And thank you, dear blog reader, for following my adventures!

So, What’s Next?

Tanzania has been a catalyst for change, and life is about embracing change and doing more than simply existing. After thinking I was happy in my bubble for many, many years, I now know I want to do more and see more.

As this has been a visual post, I’ll leave you with one final image that points to my next adventure.

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