IT'S NOT UNUSUAL THAT OUR PARTICIPANTS MAKE FRIENDS FOR LIFE ON OUR CHALLENGES. IT'S A LITTLE MORE UNUSUAL THAT PEOPLE FIND THEIR FUTURE PARTNER!
This was the case for Katie and Jamie who met on our Kilimanjaro trek in 2011. We asked them a few questions about their trip, their romance and what they're up to now.
Both Katie and Jamie sent us their responses separately and haven't read each other's answers to our questions, so they'll be reading them for the first time too (we've already assured them that we don't think they'll be arguing on Valentine's Day)!
Here is our special Valentine's Day blog...
You both climbed Kilimanjaro with Discover Adventure in 2011. Tell us a little about the trip; highlights, lowlights...
Jamie: So many highlights - the view, the group, the guides, the porters, the singing, the pole-pole, and of course the mountain!
The lowlights - the pain, the exhaustion, nausea, the cold. But along with seeing Kili, this was the reason I was there: to find out just where my limits lay (and I definitely found them!)
Katie: For me, the highlight of my trip was the people I met. Not just Jamie but the friends I made and all of the team along the way. I loved the atmosphere, getting into camp every evening and all of the group, the porters and crew would huddle in a huge circle and sing Tanzanian songs. It was so uplifting and a release at the end of a tough day.
Also, I will never forget how bright the stars were at night!
The low points were when I was feeling so ill, exhausted, nauseous, pounding headache and very emotional. It is incredible how you can feel such highs and lows throughout the trip but even those low moments were made better by my new friends.
What made you want to climb Kilimanjaro in the first place?
Katie: I decided at some point during 2009 that I wanted to take on a challenge to raise money for Great Ormand Street Hospital as a small way to say thank you for them saving my life as a baby. I had open heart surgery there at 11 months old and so have always wanted to give something back to them. I spent two years fundraising, holding quiz nights, car washes with the local fire station, town collections and raffles. With great thanks to the generosity of friends, family and the kind public I raised a total of £12,727.06.
Jamie: I love mountains and I love walking but the main draw of Kili was the challenge. I wanted to find out what I was capable of and I guiltily admit that I was doing it purely for myself and not a charity.
Lots of people form lifelong friendships on our challenges but very few fall in love! You didn't know each other before the trip, was there a moment where you "just knew"?
Jamie: No we had never met or spoken before. Personally, I don't believe in 'love at first sight', but 'allure at first sight' definitely. The first time I saw Katie was in the airport check-in queue frantically trying to cram who knows what into a rucksack that was already larger than she was, but still with a massive smile on her face. My first thought was that I must find out more about her, and when I found a moment to introduce myself she didn't disappoint. The more I found out, the more I wanted to know, and she’s still surprising me even today.
Katie: We didn't know each other before going on this trip but got to know each other better and better throughout the trip. We were sitting next to each other on the flight and so got talking and then as the trip went on I found myself thinking 'I wonder where Jamie is in the group?'. On the last day as we were coming down we walked and talked for ages about anything and everything. I didn't 'know' at this point (I think I was always just so focused on the mountain) I just enjoyed his company.
It has been said that people become closer to one another when they are in situations where they feel most vulnerable and uncomfortable. Do you think this was the case for you?
Katie: I don't believe my feelings for Jamie were stronger because we were on Kili, I think that we had a lot of shared interests, hence being on the trip and that we had a common ground to start off on.
Jamie: Unsurprisingly climbing the mountain is exhausting and painful, and in the final days focusing on anything other than pole-pole is a struggle. However, we always seemed to gravitate to each other at breaks and meals, during which time Kili had made it was impossible to hide our weakness, which I found just highlighted Katie's strength all the more as her smile and laugh was never gone for long. So yes, without realising it at the time, Kili did foster strong feelings between us.
Most people hope that when they meet a new partner that they will be looking their best and feeling their best. This can't have been easy up Kilimanjaro!
Katie: I definitely wasn't 'at my best' on that trip. My idea of hygiene was wiping myself with a wet wipe when I could be bothered, which wasn't very often by the end of the day and squatting behind a bush to go to the toilet, not exactly the way I pictured meeting my future husband! I remember thinking before our celebration meal that I wished I had packed my hair straighteners and a bit of makeup but I am very glad in a way that from the very get-go we both got to see each other for exactly who we were, no hiding behind luxury items, the good the bad and everything in between.
Jamie: How could (sweaty, tired, pained) Kilimanjaro mountain climber not be your best look!?
The main drive and focus for everyone was to climb the mountain and for me the normal daily worries just sort of got left behind for new ones like 'where has all the oxygen gone?'. It wasn't until the after-party did the thought of trying to impress really cross my mind.
Tell us a little about how your relationship developed post-trip...
Katie: During the trip, we got along well and spent time together throughout. At the end of our time there we, along with another friend on the trip all exchanged numbers so that we could stay in touch and meet up once back in the UK. We were messaging for a few weeks on our return and I had written a message and put a few references to our friendship in it. Jamie then said that there were far too many references to being friends and so did I want to go out sometime.
We went bowling for our first date and almost missed our lane as we were in the bar so engrossed in conversation, the time had
flown by without either of us realising. I loved the fact that we spoke of Kili a few times, fondly reminiscing but we had so much more in common and could have sat talking all evening. We did bowl and then we ended up getting kicked out at closing time.
From then on we spoke almost every day and saw each other mainly at weekends as we lived an hour and a half away.
Jamie: At the time we lived a couple of hours apart so swapped numbers at the end of Kili when I went home and she went on to safari. When she returned I asked her out on a date, which I am assuming went well as she agreed to a second, which I am assuming also went well as there were many more until we got where we are today 😊
And you're now married! Were there any Kilimanjaro elements to the wedding?
Jamie: We had a small wedding with close family and yes it had a travel theme. It was perfect and I'll leave it to Katie to give details.
Katie: We got married last August in Lake Bled in Slovenia and as it was a small intimate day with close family and friends none of our Kili family could be there. Many of them did pass on congratulations though.
As it was abroad and we love to travel there was an adventure/travel theme. It started with passport-style invites, we had 'Kilimanjaro Stars' Yankee candles throughout and I wore a Tanzanite gem necklace found in the foothills of the mountain.
We made suitcases full of treats for the kids and had a cake topper of us at the mountain. We now have it sat pride of place in our lounge. We wanted our wedding to be personal and so all of the little 'Kili' and adventure touches were really special for us.
Have you been on any more adventures together since Kili?
Jamie: Katie refused to settle down until she had been travelling and had seen some more of the world. Left to my own devices I doubt I ever would have given it much thought and so yet again I am indebted to her. We took a 9-month sabbatical to travel around Southeast Asia, Nepal, New Zealand and Tonga. It was a truly life-changing experience and the memories we have will last a lifetime.
Katie: Since meeting on Kili we talked a lot about travelling and the places we wanted to see and so in 2013 we headed off on an around the world trip together for 9 months. We weren't living together at the time and had spent a good year and a half making a long distance relationship work so this was definitely a 'make or break' trip! We had the most incredible experiences and got to see even more of those traits you can't hide while spending 24/7 with someone. We travelled to America, Tonga, New Zealand, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Nepal and India. Thankfully throughout this trip, although a few disagreements along the way, we came back together, stronger than ever and knowing we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.
Tell us a little more about your life together since Kilimanjaro...
Katie: We moved in together on our return from travelling, bought our first home together in July 2015 and in November 2015 Jamie proposed to me, with all of my family there, I said yes and we got married Summer 2016.
In June 2017 we welcomed the arrival of our baby girl Rosie. She is now 7 months old and her nursery is full of travelling photos and pictures from our trip where we met.
Jamie: We now have a beautiful baby daughter and so as any parent will know our life revolves around her. However I wouldn't have it any other way even though, in a completely different way, a baby is just as exhausting as Kili!
Lastly, will we be seeing you on a Discover Adventure challenge in the near future?
Jamie: If you pay for it I'm there whatever it is ;-)
Katie: We do not have any plans for a DA challenge in the near future, mainly because we now have a baby but we will most certainly be encouraging Rosie and any future children we have to explore and travel. You never know, we may all return to Kili one day for our own family adventure. :-)