New Boots

So as I think I mentioned in a previous post, I decided that my old boots might just not see me up Kilimanjaro. I have of course heard that the porters run up there in God knows what on their feet, but I am not a porter – I don’t have their fitness, their knowledge of the mountain, their gusto, their youth. Moreover, my old boots (I’ll put a picture of them on here sometime) love them though I do, are not waterproof even, and so if we get wet at all, which may well happen, I am left high and very wet and miserable. If you get wet up there, you can’t exactly put your boots by the radiator to dry overnight and get your socks dry. You are stuck, for seven days and nights, with what you have on your feet.

I also have bloody awful feet. Apart from being heavy on shoes, and that is an understatement, my feet blister just at the thought of blisters. I can (and have) had really bad blisters in flip flops. Maybe I should go up Kili in my slippers then? Well, then I’d get blisters for sure.

So anyway, as I think I had mentioned way back a month or so ago, I had trundled on down to Blacks last month (who incidentally today announced very sadly that they are closing 89 of their stores), and tried on various different boots. So I went back yesterday and did the same again. I didn’t like the Scarpas (too clumpy), or the Merrells (just didn’t feel ‘mountainy’ enough), and so on. I settled on what I had tried on previously, the Meindl Burma Pro MFS.  Meindl are apparently a German company, and I’ve never had a problem with anything German that I have ever bought.

The boots feel fantastic. They did cost a total arm and a leg (£175 if you are curious), but they make you want to walk. They sort of make your feet ‘rock’ forwards, and I cannot wait to get to try them out.The MFS is for Memory Foam System, which apparently moulds to your feet as you wear them. That might be bunkum for all I know, but what matters most for me is that they are comfortable, they are high and hold your ankles firmly, they look to be fantastically well made (and for the money so they should be), and they give me confidence that I can do anything in them, which is all I can possibly ask.

I want to go the Lake District this weekend for the first time in what seems like forever to try them out. There is nowhere else that I could think of going, and I think I have to go and see my favourite mountain, Helvellyn, to christen them. I have just googled Helvellyn, and came across the following, which I have no idea if am allowed to reproduce here, but just look at these pictures – I mean, isn’t it absolutely STAGGERINGLY beautiful?

So I am also reminded of my favourite Wainwright quote, which I shall put in full in another post somewhere later (perhaps this weekend when I hopefully am there), which talks about Helvellyn’s ‘mystical quality’, and uses the words ‘legend and immortal’ – can they even be understatements?

So if not Helvellyn, before I get too carried away, maybe it will be the Fairfield Horseshoe. It’s a good walk, at about 13 miles, and has about 3,500 feet of ascent. Better still, it starts and finishes pretty damn near my favourite pub in the whole world, The Golden Rule in Ambleside, which I haven’t been anywhere near in a long time. Could be a good weekend I think – any takers?

Until tomorrow………

Why join a gym?

So why a gym do I hear you ask? Well, I need to train to build up my VO2 levels etc., and stamina/endurance is the key on Kilimanjaro. At the moment, and certainly following the beep test, I know I am way out of condition. I also need some motivation, and doing it at home would be pointless to even try. I am weak-willed, I know it. My parents told me that when I was a teenager, so it must be true:).

I actually did once join a gym before, back in the old days when I was a student I think it was, and it was in Birmingham, I remember that much.

It may have been the most expensive gym membership ever, as it cost about £300 a visit. I calculate this by virtue of the fact that I paid £300 for a year’s membership and only turned up once! It was a fairly unpleasant place in any case, but it was also frequented by all of Birmingham’s finest, who had tattoos on their foreheads and bigger muscles than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his heyday, so I felt a bit out of place. It was like a competition to see who had the biggest todger, and I can guarantee you that it wasn’t me!!

So anyway, I decided this week my quest for fitness needed a helping hand here, and so I began a search for a suitable gym. I tried the usual Esportas, David Lloyd, LA Fitness etc by googling them on line etc., but there are none of them within 20 miles or so of “the countryside” where I live, and so it seems that driving 40 miles and getting stuck in traffic to boot will be counterproductive to my ability/willingness to go more than once again, and so I gave up on the larger chains.

I found a total of three independent gyms online that seemed to fit the bill. One however was close to Oxford’s football ground, and whilst it was nice (thanks to Tom for showing me round if by any chance he happens to read this) and fitted my requirements, it is again going to be too far to travel. The next was (I’m not going to name it) not quite as erm, clean, as I would have liked. In fact it looked a bit more like a knocking shop than a gym (not that I frequent knocking shops you understand, but you know what I mean), so I passed on that one. I’m sure it is very nice really. The last one I went to fitted the bill perfectly. It has:

Lots of running/treadmill/step/rowing machines; a good looking pool where they apparently don’t allow children:); plenty of classes to do if you want them;  a very vigorous looking ‘spin’ class – Don’t know what spinning is? (I didn’t) – this explains it pretty well: , or alternatively watch this: ; it also has a lot of corporate type membership being near offices and so is not too full of the ‘preening brigade’; and also it has something that I need, and he is called Mark.

Apparently Mark trained to be in the Marines, and is going to be my personal trainer. I am told he will ‘keep me on the straight and narrow’.  He looks scary to me, so I agree, he will. He said that my first session will be at 7am on Friday morning, and so I am not going to argue with him, about anything. Ever.  If he tells me to be in the gym wearing a polka dot tutu at 3am on a Sunday morning, then I will be there! So I dutifully hand over a fistful of money to these people (they wanted six month’s money up front, and I bumblingly oblige – see I told you that Mark has that effect on me!), and I am a member!

So roll on Friday morning. Hopefully I get up in time, mornings are not the best for me I have to say, but hopefully I shall be scared of getting a phone call from Mark, and so I shall be there. He is going to set my programme for me, get me started, and it will then be a rolling, intensive, four week plan, followed by another (more) intensive four week plan etc. Apparently they will be testing fitness and VO2 levels and what have you along the way, so it sounds great.

Looks like I’d better get me some shorts then……..

I have a flight!

So this thing finally (“yes” I hear you say!) got some legs today. I actually have been trying to get a flight sorted for some time, and having been advised to look on, I duly did. I found however that almost without exception, every flight that is shown on there comes back once you click on ‘book’ as “this flight is no longer available”, so I gave up on them.

So having tried a few other agencies online, there was not much coming in below £600. Some were £800+. Which is a lot of money, in anyone’s book, particularly when this is a flight overnight to Kenya first, which I am told is not the nicest of airports to have to spend any time in at all. So on Saturday I was in Oxford, as I had decided to be a bit touristy for the day (I must tell you more about that sometime, I loved it with a passion), and I happen upon a branch of Trailfinders, so I walk in on a whim.

I get to meet a very helpful and efficient lady there, who gets me a quote on a flight, and it is a.) on the day that I want, b.) it gets me to Kili at a good time on Monday morning (my trek starts on Wednesday, so that is a good enough time I reckon for me to acclimatise), c.) it leaves from Heathrow at 7pm on a Sunday evening, and so that means I don’t have any worries about not getting to the airport on time, d.) there is only an hour and a quarter layover in Jomo Kenyatta Airport, and e.) it comes in at under £600 (£570 to be exact). Oh and f.) she is very nice:) and has also been to Kilimanjaro before!

I therefore decide as a result of the above that I should just go for it, but she throws me a curveball with the following question: “Before you hand over your money, the flight is totally non-refundable. Are you sure that your trip is 100% guaranteed, only I have made bookings like this before when the trip didn’t happen, and it caused some problems”. Heck! Is my trip 100% guaranteed? I have no idea! I have paid no money, and so I suppose anything could happen yet, and so I thank the Trailfinders person and decide to check first. I head off to the pub in Oxford for some quiet contemplation, as it were, and send Henry an email.

So by the end of the weekend, and Monday morning in fact (I don’t expect anyone to work weekends after all:), although ‘nice lady’ from trailfinders does her job and chases me, having held the flight), I get the confirmation I require. Henry says that it is “100% guaranteed”, which is good enough for me!

So, to cut a long story short, I ring Trailfinders (who are super efficient, first time I have used them I think), pay my money, and I am booked! I will therefore fly on Sunday evening, the 21st February 2010, and will arrive at my destination in Arusha , at somewhere near the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, sometime after breakfast the following day. The 22nd February 2010 will be my first steps in Africa, and what a baptism awaits!

Tomorrow I need to select my hotel. I also got my nice lovely new boots today, which cost me about as much as my flight did (not really, but they are by some distance the most expensive footwear I have ever bought), and so I will tell you about those in the next post………

I am closer to walking, and running, and treadmilling too, so these will be covered next time also.

Bring. It. On.   Marvellous.

Happy days.

Past the point of no return

Have I got news for you!

So what did you think I did today then, huh? Did you think I’d gone all quiet on you? Did you think this was all not going to happen? Well I do admit that I’d gone a bit quiet, but after today well let us just say that the game is ON – IN A BIG WAY!!!

So, here we go:

I have, in no particular order as they say, the following accomplishments, all today:

  1. A flight booked and paid for to Kilimanjaro International Airport
  2. A new pair of Meindl Burma Pro MFS walking boots
  3. A subscription and outline training programme at a gym

More of the following in the coming posts, one on each, to make up for my lack of posting recently.


It feels closer now than ever – more to follow…….

All of God’s Little Creatures

Did I tell you that I am scared of spiders? Well I am, and am not afraid to admit it. I’m just afraid of them, with their beady eyes, and hairy legs, and scuttling movements, and things. Horrible.

Why do spiders exist at all? I mean, I am told that spiders are good, because they keep the fly population down, but I don’t entirely trust this statement. You see, I loathe and detest spiders, and the way I see it, if spiders eat flies, then they grow bigger, and they live longer, and they reproduce, which means MORE SPIDERS! What can be good about that?

I say the above because recently there has been an absolute invasion of them into the house. This would be bad under any circumstances, but it is especially bad now for two reasons – firstly the house has these ledges at the top of the walls where you would normally have coving or architraving (is that a word, or did I just make it up?). This means that the spiders can sit there on these ledges and watch me. And they do, I know it. Secondly (and this is worse), for some reason this year (or is it this house) has the BIGGEST spiders I have ever seen. I killed one in the bath the other day that was bigger than my head. I had to throw the telephone directory at it to stun it, and then beat it to death with a golf club. I think I may have damaged the bath, but it was worth it. The scream was pretty awful though, and that was just me!

I have heard that some people can collect spiders under pint glasses or whatever, and then gently plonk them back into the garden. What is the point of that? If you do that, then they will eat more flies, have more spider sex (if that’s what they have), and produce more spiders, which will then come and invade your house ten-fold! Fools! In any case, I don’t think I could come that close to a live spider – what if it ate through the glass when I picked it up? What if it stared at me and then laser-beamed a hole in the glass and then attacked my neck? That is pretty bloody scary stuff I can tell you.

So anyway, a very good weekend was had by one and all this weekend. I think we ate rather well. Home-made (of course) curry on Friday night, and about 14lbs of chicken wings on Saturday night, followed by roast beef for lunch on Sunday. Had to come to work this morning for a rest from eating! Also had a complete exercise failure. I don’t think I can count sitting in the pub watching Sunderland get beaten by Burnley as being very good for me. It certainly was frustrating, that is for sure, but the beer was good! The bleep test didn’t happen though – I did offer to host it a few times, but for some reason my very kind offer was declined – funny that!

The other thing which happened this weekend was that I received a T-shirt from those nice people at the charity. I need now to put it on, get a picture taken and update the charity site – I can then start publicizing it and hopefully get some donations rolling in. I think however on reflection I am going to change the name of the people I am supporting – I want a new charity, called something like “Exterminate Spiders UK” or something like that. As far as I am concerned, there are “All God’s Little Creatures”, and then there are spiders!

Miles walked/run? Probably not!

Centre Parcs!

So I have been quiet for a few days, as I have been away on a trip with work. We had our annual company get together at Centre Parcs in Longleat, Wiltshire, which was great. Much hard work during the day was followed by way too much Tequila at night, and so as I sit writing this I am sat on a coach on the M4 on the way back, and am feeling somewhat jaded, to say the least. In fact I am feeling rough as a badger’s backside still, and it is 5pm the following day. I think it must have been a ‘bad pint’ or something.

Centre Parcs is great – I’d love to go back there sometime and try to do some of the activities, although it looks like they charge you a lot for all of the those things. The only thing we got to do was bike riding, which is essential to get around as the place is huge.  The bike riding itself was fun though, if a bit of a challenge whilst hanging my stupidly heavy laptop bag off one of the handlebars and carrying a couple of bottles of wine to boot. Oh, and down twisty lanes, in the dark, at 1am, and inebriated as well. I seem to be still intact as far as I can tell, which is quite frankly a bit of a miracle

I have not focused this week on the trip at all, and have a busy weekend ahead of me with my kids coming down to see me, which I am really looking forward to. I have said to my son Dan that he should do the bleeping beep test, which I think he may have agreed to, so that should be fun, but not when he beats my score!

So the things I have do first and next, in no particular order as they say, are book a flight, book a hotel, get the charity thing started, re-engage with Henry and make sure I am on the trip that I want to be on, then buy some new boots, some new trainers, find a gym, get walking, start my kit list, contact people re sponsorship, book holiday from work……….this is just the start, it is going to be a busy old time.

So; Miles run: 0

Miles walked: 0

Does riding a bike drunk at Centre Parcs count?:)

Abramovich Doesn’t make it….

It was with considerable interest that I read last week that Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea football club owner was to climb Kili this week. I opened my Sunday Times this morning to read the following headline however:

I think it goes to show you that even with a lot of support (apparently the seven strong group (Abramovich plus six mates) had the assistance of no less than 113 porters!) you have to take going up to nearly 20,000 feet very very seriously indeed. I think I need to redouble my training efforts therefore (efforts, what efforts? I haven’t done anything at all yet!) – so today will have to get down to something or other. I had thought about doing something yesterday, but the pub won at lunchtime and that was that for the rest of the day. Need badly some willpower – anyone lend me some?

I am going to therefore start today by monitoring miles run (I am going to get a treadmill, did I tell you that already?) and also miles walked, such that by the end of this all I can tell myself just what it took for success (or failure).

So: Miles run: 0

Miles walked: 0


Help me Choose a Hotel?

OK, so am trying my best to choose a flight after a week of indecisiveness. I thought I had a flight booked yesterday, but then I lost it after I tried to press the ‘buy’ button. Shame, it would have been perfect – it left London City airport at 8am and got into Arusha at about 9pm the same day via Amsterdam.

I found out that it is Arusha that I need to stay in, so all my deliberations about Moshi or Arusha the other day are in vain! It seems that all of CMK’s operations are there, and so that will be my base! So that is a decision made for me. What happens if I don’t like Arusha though? I think I much preferred the sound of Moshi.

What I need to know now is which place to stay in, and so I am asking for help.  Can you help me? It seems that I have the choice of the following hotels:

Arusha Naaz: Arusha Naaz Hotel

Le Jacaranda: Le Jacaranda

Outpost: Outpost Lodge

Now I can do each of the above inclusive of my trip price, so they will be paid for already. Like the look of them? I looked on, normally my favourite authority on these matters, and it seems that le Jacaranda is the most favoured option. However, there are also these:

L’Oasis Lodge: L’Oasis Lodge. Now this one doesn’t look fantastic from what I can see, but it costs me an extra $30/night. Any takers?

Onsea House: Onsea House. This looks absolutely wonderful, but is another $170/night (wow!), and is only a B&B with four rooms, so will be horribly quiet I imagine?

Arusha Hotel: Arusha Hotel This does look good, and apparently Bill Clinton stayed here. $400 a night apparently – wonder if that includes the cigars:)

Impala Hotel: Impala Hotel Big place in the middle of town. It says, Pure Comfort, Sheer Luxury, 160 rooms, 1 21″ colour TV. Looks a bit scary to me – I think it may have locks on the outside of the bedrrom doors!

Moivaro Lodge: Moivaro Lodge Quite like the look of this one. Might be horribly pricey too. Need to find out.

So I have a lot of choices – I think there are also the Arumeru River too: Arumeru River Lodge.

What does anyone think?

I am trying to decide what outweighs what (does that make sense in any language?). I am going to get there needing to just kip and get up at 6am the next day to walk ten million miles to the surface of the moon, or something like that. I’ll then get back a week later stinking to high heaven, and need a hot shower for an hour. That’s it, really. Next day I’ll be on a plane out of there, so I might as well stay anywhere I think.

Anyone reading this been there and can give me some help with this one please?

Oh and tomorrow I am going to play croquet, of all things. Is that random? Don’t ask!

Until then………..

More decisions to make…

So this morning I got an email from Henry (actually I got two) which said “you are going to climb Kilimanjaro” I cannot possibly imagine a time when I could tire of hearing that phrase. Maybe when I’m half way up I will pitch a fit, and reel off the world’s longest list of expletives when I even think about it, but for now, it is all gravy, rock and roll.

But now I have more decisions to make. I think too that I’m realising that I don’t like making decisions. I think that is my Dad coming out in me – someone tell me who is related to me – is that true? Am I in fact turning into my Dad? Oh, and if that IS what happens to you when you get older, and if my son is reading this, then DAN – be VERY afraid:).

OK, so here are my extra decisions to make. Oh, and the point about decisions here is like this: You know when you go into a restaurant, and you order your meal, and then you order something to drink, some wine perhaps? Then the waiter asks you if you would like some water – you look back at him, unsure, but sort of mumble “erm, yes”. Then he asks that (for me) awful question – “still or sparkling sir?”. I think I must often look back at waiters with a totally gormless look on my face at this point, because I NEVER know the answer. Maybe it is just me. Maybe everyone on the planet apart from me has a distinct preference for either still or sparkling water – but for me I just don’t know! I usually look hopefully to whoever I am with at the time with a sort of “help” expression on my face, which actually never ever works, but I always do it anyway. I am hopeless.

Oh, and I also worry a lot. Did you know that about me already? I am one of those people who worries about pretty much most things, other people’s feelings especially, but also getting things wrong, making mistakes, having regrets afterwards etc. I’m not sure it has ever really done me any good, in fact probably the reverse, but I am what I am I suppose.

So I’ll get to the point. The first email from Henry said “which hotel do you wish to stay in?” Just like I have spent so much time worrying about which route to take (and I am SO not convinced that having decided upon the Rongai route that it is the right one, in fact ALL of the others are probably dramatically better), I now have to decide which hotel to stay in. Maybe the ‘still or sparkling’ analogy earlier is apt here – does it matter which hotel I am staying in? After all, I will be in there for one night before and one night afterwards. I am after all going to smell like a drain, if I am lucky.

Now don’t get me wrong, no blame on Henry’s part for the hotel bit. In fact the reverse. I love the information.  I have looked on Tripadvisor, read his book (advice there on thirty or more hotels). Looked at twenty more websites, and googled till my fingers don’t work anymore. Part of the trouble also is, that if you look at most of the hotels in Tanzania, they are scary as hell – they really do not look pretty at all. And also, I want to make sure that firstly I don’t get bitten by forty three billion mosquitos the night that I get there (mosquitos like me, believe me), and also that I don’t get robbed, murdered, or worse when I get there.Sorry Moshi and Arusha folks if you are reading this, I am sure there is no crime in Africa at all, really.

So should I go for the the L’Oasis, the Jacaranda, the Muranga, the Hakuna Matata, or the Dead Englishman Hotel? Thankfully I made the last one up, or did I?

Next, I look at various search engines for flights. I have been very wisely (but causing me more worry) advised  that “sometimes luggage goes missing en route.” There are of course no direct flights there. I once took a bunch of flights to and from Reno in Nevada from the UK, and lost basically everything  that I owned for three months, although it did all eventually get returned to me. If my stuff does not get to Kilimanjaro International Airport via Dar Es Salaam, Nairobi, or wherever I fly in from, then my trip is not going to be a happy one. It also appears that  cannot fly in there in one (sensible) day. I can fly Kenya Airlines and go over night, spend the day in Nairobi airport, and get to Kili late at night, or I can get a flight via KLM, which takes me from London City at 7am via Amsterdam, and gets me into Kili really late the same day. Surely they will lose my luggage? Then there is Precision Air, or BA, who also go to Nairobi. Then I could fly Qatar Air, via Doha and Zanzibar (sounds exciting, wasn’t Freddy Mercury born there?)

I will, I am sure, make some decisions tomorrow. I just don’t know if if I prefer sparkling or still?

It is booked, sort of!

So yet another momentous day, but this one the biggest yet by far.

I sent off my booking form to CMK (, and asked to join the trek on the Rongai route which starts on the 24th February 2010. I am sure that I will hear back from Henry in the morning, but there was still space this morning on the website, so I am assuming it is OK. Even if it isn’t, Henry has said he can find a climb for me around that time (may still have to find another climber or two), but I am going, that is for sure.

I am going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro!

It feels closer now. Or does it? I just counted and it is approximately 166 days from now. I don’t honestly know whether that sounds to you like a lifetime away or just around the corner, but it feels like a mixture of both to me. Part of me just cannot wait to go, but another part knows that I am so not ready to go, and need a long time to prepare. I have so little time during the week, and need to make some – and it is just 22 weekends away! Help!

So much to do, but one very big step nearer to it being reality…….tomorrow I need to get me some flights I hope…….