Holly completed our Kilimanjaro challenge, seeing 2020 in from the summit. want a peek at her diary entries from this bucket list experience? keep your eyes peeled for the lowdown over this three-part series. over to you, holly!
'Holly, here. Now that I’m back from the crazy experience that is trekking Kilimanjaro, I’ve recovered and had time to reflect. And having looked over my deranged notes from each day of my wild adventure, I’ve put together a round-up of my journey in the hope it inspires, comforts or, at the very least, amuses.
Something I learnt whilst trekking Kilimanjaro, and is definitely worth noting, is that each individual’s experience on the mountain can be so vastly different. It’s easy to be swept up in preparing for the mountain with rose-tinted glasses and it’s even more detrimental to terrify yourself with other’s tales of exhaustion and sickness. Remember, this is your own story. Train, prepare, pack well and listen to everything you’re told, and things will be in your favour. Having signed up early in the year, I had a good chunk of time to get out in the boots, figure out what kit was comfiest, what snacks I liked best, and try to prepare myself mentally for what I was about to endure. I was as ready as I would ever be, and that proved to be just right.
At the end of each day, I tucked up into my sleeping bag usually with a chocolate bar in arms reach along with my head torch, tissues, water and paracetamol for those midnight toilet breaks or altitude headache hits. Jotting down words that sprung to mind from each day of the adventure, I knew that I wouldn't be able to remember all the little details of this whirlwind experience without a little jog of my memory. So here's a window into the mind of a woman in the midst of a mountain-sized challenge. Here goes...
Day 1 [Adventure Eve]
Arriving at Heathrow to meet Vic our trip leader, there's an electric, nervous feeling amongst the group as we all acknowledge that the adventure has finally arrived after what seems like a long and arduous countdown. Although the hard work is yet to come! It's funny to think that whilst we are strangers now, soon we will be very well-acquainted due to the nature of mountain life. Vic, the trip leader, was quite the legend with a sterling reputation. An ex-Para, this was his 13th Kili ascent and he was a tough cookie. He greeted us in a thick Yorkshire accent, ‘ey up’, and this was a welcomed call each morning of the trek.
After flying from London to Nairobi, and then on from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro - with clear and daunting views of the mountain that we were about to scale, we met our local guide, Julio, who would soon be leading us to the summit and back. Julio has scaled Kilimanjaro for many years so knows the mountain well. I think to myself 'surely if he is willing to trek Kili over and over, I can stomach it once?'
The evening before mountain day was like Christmas Eve, with a few more nerves! We had last minute preparations including weighing our mountain luggage to confirm it wasn't above restricted weight for porters to carry, and a morale-boosting brief from Vic and Doc David. I for one, was making use of the shower access whilst I could. With an early supper of fish curry, we were off to bed ready for the first day of trekking the following day. Ahhhh!
Day 2 [Machame Camp]
With honey on toast and jittery excitement for fuel, we left the hotel in 4x4's, passing sunflower fields, pigs and chickens roaming on the road, and ladies with huge trays of bananas balanced on their head. The colourful views kept us captivated as we neared Machame Gate, the beginning of our trek. After weighing of bags and grabbing our lunch box for the day, we set off into rainforest with a gradually sharper incline as we turned the corner. I'd been looking forward to experiencing the rainforest climate and it didn't disappoint. Feeling like I was walking into the world of Jumanji, my day was made immediately by spotting monkeys at the gate as we set off. The banter amongst the group had already begun and as we slowly continued up, up and up, I almost felt a strange sense of normality. You get into a pattern of trudging forward, stopping for water or snacks and adjusting kit for comfort. Soon enough, it was time for my first wild wee of the trip. My pre-trip squats had prepared me for this, I was feeling confident. However, what I thought was a well-chosen spot was in fact an ant's nest. And these ants looked like they were on steroids. Especially as they ran into my boots. That was my first lesson of the mountain. Many were to come. I'd been given lots of handy tips along the way so I felt well-prepared, but there are some things you just have to learn the hard way. It makes for even more amusing stories when you are home, and I'm all for a good story-telling.
Coming into camp, after hours of upward trekking in warm climates, was a massive relief and seeing your tent up with your mountain bag in there ready was even sweeter. You quickly pick up on just how amazing the team of porters that work alongside you are. They work incredibly hard and make your mountain experience a hell of a lot more bearable, all the while with bags of energy and big smiles on their faces. Tea and popcorn awaited us in the mess tent, before dinner. Hygiene is obviously a huge factor when you are living within such close proximity and a niggly cough can have such an impact on your experience, so anti-bac was in huge supply and demand. It's funny how quickly you become accustomed to the toilet tents, sporting a head torch, anti-bac'ing like it's going out of fashion, and no showering. My focus was always in the present moment, to make sure I didn't work myself up about what was to come and that seemed to help me. When dinner came, it was brought to us by a rather stylish looking chef - decked out in blue tartan from head to toe. It was a bold yet brilliant look. We typically had a soup starter, followed by a main - chicken and chips, pasta, or vegetables and rice. The soup was particularly tasty, with loads of flavour and it warmed your tired little soul! Perfect. The food was plentiful and carb-heavy as necessary, giving us the right fuel to keep us going to the top. It's common to lose your appetite as you get higher, although this didn't happen to me at all. I think I ate my way up that mountain but whatever it takes, hey! Hand me another jammy-dodger and we'll be on our way. 8.30 pm bedtime sounds early but we all were more than ready to crawl into our sleeping bags and get some shut-eye. Zzzzz.'