This is probably the crucial thing to understand here, or for me it is. I have had a long trawl on the internet today and looked at a lot of people’s blogs on doing Kilimanjaro (I had no idea just how popular climbing Kilimanjaro was, or indeed how many blogs there are), and (for me) I can almost without exception (OK, I only read a thousand of them:)) not find out why people get to make the decision they did. I mean, let’s face it, for most people, whether or not they actually think “if Chris Moyles can do it so can I”, it is not going to get them to part with several thousand pounds, and put themselves through a lot of abject misery just to prove a point, is it?
Also, lots of these blogs seem to start with “so here is my brother and I on the way to Tanzania, about to embark on the trip of a lifetime…..” or “My training starts with lots of horrible trips to the doctor/dentist/therapist/Milletts etc….”. But why on earth did you decide to do it? I, at least want to know!!
The thing is, I am sure that lots of people watched Comic Relief for example, and thought, “yeah, that Gary Barlow couldn’t walk for toffee , I can do that”, or otherwise have a few too many glasses of the vino one night, and think (or say out loud, even worse) “I am going to do that”. But I am sure that most of them, even if they are taken seriously by the people that they have said it to, will stop and decide against it when they know what it involves, how much it costs, or what the risks are. I read a good section in Henry Stedman’s book* today (of which massive amounts more later), which may well stop most sensible people in their tracks once they have done some research. Excerpts from the section read as follows:
“…Almost one in four people who climb up Kilimanjaro fail to make the crater….sadly as I write this in early 2006, three American climbers have just died in a rockslide near the summit….like all big mountains it’s very adept at killing off the unprepared, the unwary, or just the plain unlucky……..the fact that the Masai call the mountain the “House of God’ seems entirely appropriate, given the number of people who meet their maker every year on Kili’s slopes.”
Now bear in mind that these words are written in a book which is actually encouraging you to climb the mountain, and yet a lot of people will read those (hugely responsible, thank you Henry) words and say “nahhh, not on your nellie” or words to that effect, and good for them if they do. Some people however will not get to read (and they should) Henry’s brilliant book, and may otherwise miss the real threats that are present. They should all take seriously however lots of other things which they will no doubt (like I have) read on the internet and elsewhere, which are apparently all real and present dangers, like the horrible AMS (“Acute Mountain Sickness”, or Altitude Sickness”); the risk of other ailments like malaria (although at the bottom only, not on the mountain apparently); and the fact that the temperature on the final night will be -25 degrees etc. etc.
Let’s just add to the above, the fact that you have to walk at least 80km to get to the mountain and back; the fact that you will be crapping for a week in a filthy shed through a hole over the edge of a cliff; that it will cost you the same amount of money as you could buy a small car for; that it will take up a very sizeable portion of your annual holiday to do it; and that you are going to what appears to be a dirty, impoverished country where theft is apparently rife (sorry Tanzania, I am ignorant here, OK). Oh, and you need to do eight weeks pretty extensive gym training beforehand apparently – I have never been in a gym since I was at school some ninety billion years ago. I’m 45 years old!! Right, you get the drift – so what is it all about then?
Well let me just say that I sit here now (the date is August 29, 2009) and I have today filled my head with all of the things above, I have watched internet footage of people vomiting with AMS, read of people going blind at the summit etc. I also joined a UK walking forum, and asked for advice/help on going to Kilimanjaro – I hoped it would be an exciting prospect for the members there, and I might get some good pointers. The one post I got back following my request was from a guy who had been there and tried to climb Kili, but had got really severe dysentry, and had spent five weeks in a hellhole of a hospital instead. He wished me well, nonetheless. Thanks!
So (despite the above) all I want to do is climb Kilimanjaro. It sits in front of my eyes like cataracts. In fact reading all of the bad stuff just makes me want to do it more. I wish I was going tomorrow, really I do. WHY? AM I MAD?
I think two things in particular drive me in my thought process. Firstly, and this is going to sound really strange, but bear with me here: I got ‘called’. Sorry, but I did.
It didn’t come to me one night and appear from within a big cloud, which parted and said “Chris, you must climb Kilimanjaro….”, but I got called regardless. It happened a few years ago, and I don’t know why or at what specific point it happened. Maybe I watched too much Monty Python as a kid (actually I did, I always liked the sketch about the queen who had false wooden teeth from Augsburg, and who used to take her dead dog for a scrape around the garden each day……) or something. Anyway, it has then gnawed away at me in my subconscious for a couple of years, but it has been there all the time, sitting there like a recalcitrant voice in my head, never giving up until I submitted to it. Weird? I agree with you.
Secondly, I read a magazine article last weekend which gave this thing legs – this was my epiphany, as it were. Now I have always really admired (that is an understatement) Muhammad Ali, and saw an article on him coming to Britain this week for a tour to see underprivileged kids etc. I then went and read one of the websites dedicated to him (don’t know why I went there, see the ‘calling’ bit above perhaps, but I have never seen a Muhammad Ali website previously). The first quote I saw from him was “a man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” That was it – BINGO! Don’t ask me why the two things are inextricably linked, but they were. Muhammad Ali – you have a lot to answer for!
Now reading again the second point above makes it sound like all a bit mid-life crisis stuff. Those who know me well are probably reading this now and actually guffawing (and agreeing) at me saying that, for reasons I won’t go into here, although I suppose I am 45, and will admit to buying a convertible Porsche recently….
Anyway, the point is, I really really really want to do this. It is something that I know over the coming weeks and months that I will regret at points, and perhaps even deny, but here it is. In fact this is the point of this big splurge here, and my thought processes right now – the very reasons why I came to make the decision. There are others too. Trigger points, if you like. One, a friend (more ex-work colleague really, but I think of her as friend and also as an inspiration) called Michelle (Michelle, I know, or think I know if you get to read this one day, that you won’t mind me mentioning you here) did the San Francisco marathon in the summer. She did so not because she is particularly adept at running (in fact she totally isn’t, sorry again Michelle), but because she wanted to go and raise some money for Cancer Research in honour of her brother Pat, who died tragically last year from the disease. She went and succeeded, and I admire her for it so much.
Next, I wanted to do something good for charity too, and I haven’t yet decided how to do it, but I will. I will admit here publically that I thought of raising a lot of money that would help in part to pay for my trip – I dispelled that (through massive guilt) though as quickly as it arrived – when I find out how to raise the money efficiently here (which will be cancer also, for my mum, who died of cancer too) then I promise that every single penny raised will get to the charity. In fact the only way I will raise money is by having a link to a third party site, where people can make donations directly. I don’t want to even see any of it, and anyway, I understand that that is the most efficient way for gift aid to get collected by the charity itself, so increasing the money earned by them.
OK, so this is getting stupidly long, and it is a blog, and not a dissertation. It may all not even fit on the page. It may send everyone who reads it off to sleep, or otherwise logging off before they get half way through. So be it – there endeth my first ever blog thing – there will be lots more to come…..