Kilimanjaro, charitable donations, and blogging

It is a funny thing this blogging business. Before I started doing it I had no idea what to do (still haven’t really:)), but most of all it has been an absolute blast to do. It has also been hard work, and lots of late night effort, caused mainly by a busy life, and also an incredibly frustrating typing speed. As I look back now and reflect (and I do, daily, if not hourly still) on all that transpired over the last nine or so months since I first decided to do it, a lot of things have happened to me. Some of them are related to the mountain specifically, others have quite frankly nothing to do with it, and some are jumbled up right there in the middle. I am acutely aware that my trip has also influenced some things that other people have done, and that is scary in a way, but also nice, whenever positive.

Some examples of the above are the charitable donations that I received. Bowel Cancer UK has received almost £1,200 as a result of my blog, and I am bloody proud of that. I am going to keep my Justgiving page open until the summer, when I will close it by putting some money in myself – thank you enormously again to all of the kind people who donated. The majority of these were from people close to me, but some also from people I did not even know. How amazing is that! My blog has received something like 4,000 views since I started, which is staggering to me. I am delighted beyond compare with that, and also each and every one of the comments that I have had has touched me. I want to keep the blog itself going now, despite the fact that I have been remiss in recent weeks in doing so. I also am so grateful for people like Paul and Darina, who I do not know from Adam, but they found my blog apparently. They are doing Kili in September this year, and I got a lovely donation from them the other day, which was hugely appreciated. Good luck to them on their adventure – if you want to follow their blog it is linked below:

I have also been in touch with a mutual acquaintance from work who will be doing the mountain later this year. I wish John very well in his endeavours.

I miss so many things about the mountain, and I will not let it fade. I miss it, but won’t let it dominate – it is just what it is.

I have much to tell about bikes and the Three Peaks Challenge, but they can wait for another day.

Lala salama (or sleep well in Swahili).

So what about the (and beyond?) then….

So having been rather quiet for a few days or so, whilst I reflect on life the universe and everything, I have been plotting adventures new. I shall tell you about those shortly.

Meantime I have been corresponding by email with a person whose son has been climbing Kili. He was doing the Pofu route (which I hadn’t heard of before, at least by name). This is the route that takes a longer route around and up the mountain, and then has you camping in the actual crater before summiting. That all sounds fairly hardcore, even to me.

So anyway, the person with whom I have been corresponding (I shan’t name them as I do not have their say so as of yet to do so) has obviously been nervously (big understatement there) waiting for updates from the son, and has happily been receiving them on a regular basis. It has made me think how I would feel if my daughter was doing it (it won’t be happening for my son I cannot imagine but you never know:)), and I totally understand what the emotions must be like.

Anyway I am absolutely delighted to tell you that he summited successfully yesterday. That is fantastic news, I am delighted for them both, proud parent and son alike. Apparently the only hiccups were a broken camera (thank goodness for mobile phone cameras then), and a bad case of sunburn from the summit itself.

I am hugely looking forward to hearing more of the adventures that he had, and if he is happy for me to do so then I will post them here in due course.

Meantime also I have been trying to figure out what to do next. And so I have:)

Well it couldn’t last too long could it? I mean the follow up?

For those people who know me well, then you will know that I occasionally suffer from a bout of impetuosity. In fact I am one of the most impulsive people I know:)

So for the last week or so I have been pondering the merits of renewing my gym membership as against buying a bike. The gym I have been to only a couple of times since I have been back, and as one of my other traits is getting bored (although I don’t have time for that these days), then it doesn’t have the appeal as much anymore. Whilst planning for the mountain I was very driven, surprising myself sometimes in fact, but now I need something to plan for. Something to drive me, motivate me, challenge me.

So I hit upon the idea of cycling to work. Now also for those of you who know me, and before you start guffawing away with howls of derisive laughter, I should tell you that I used to love riding bikes. OK so it was a long long time ago, but I used to do it a lot. Me and Col used to cycle through the pedestrian tunnel over to North Shields sometimes – it was probably about four miles or so! That was however when we were about 14.

So my office is about 7 miles away from my house, and I figured that on the days when it is not raining (so I could be actually very safe here) I could probably get there in about 40 minutes or so, hopefully. There are also about three different routes I could take, and so I started to decide which one to take. One of them involves a bit of off road, but is by far the most direct. The other two are quite different – the shorter one involves a fair few ups and downs, and might be a bit painful in places for a cycling novice like me. The other one probably adds a few miles on, but is almost entirely flat. The first bit is down fairly narrow lanes though and so if there are cars coming then it could be a bit hairy.

I narrow a number of choices down to a few bikes online without really knowing what I am looking for, but a Cannondale Bad Boy really takes my fancy, and is a snip at about £630. I then go to my local cycle shop and my head is spinning again. I could have  Trek for this money, and a Specialised for that money, or a Bianchi (wasn’t she in Eastenders?) something-or-other. Even if I had chosen a bike I could have chosen between about 30 different tyre types alone. I leave the shop none the wiser.

And so I buy myself a cycling magazine. Sorry if this is a long story by the way:)

So I still just cannot decide which bike to buy. There are (to follow:)) so many decisions to take about 53-39 chainsets, and doubles and triples, and Tiagra versus 105 and things that it will make your head spin. And that is after you decide between a hybrid, a sloping frame, aluminium or carbon and the like.

Anyway, I see an advert in the magazine as I am thumbing through, and it is for “the Great British Bike Ride”. I look at the website and it tells me that the ride is in September this year, and is 320 miles between Lands End and Twickenham in London, over 4 days. It is the first time it has been held in the UK, and it is for three different charities, all of whom I like a lot. So I think – why not, and go and immediately sign up!

I am so excited about this it is fantastic. I have a new adventure to plan!

Here are the details of the ride:

Looks like no hybrid then, but a road bike, and a serious one. More decisions to come then, and a rigorous new fitness regime. 320 miles – gulp!!

Hi Ho, It’s off to Heathrow I go – 21/02/10

So this is day one of the trip. Hard to believe actually after all that I have gone through that it is effectively all just starting today.

I think that packing bags was hard. It is very very difficult to ultimately know what to take and what not to take. How many pairs of underpants am I going to be able to realistically change into when it is -30 degrees up the mountain?

I have plumped for three bags. One is my main repository for things that go up the mountain with me. It is a duffel type tube bag thing, capacity about 80 litres. It contains my sleeping bag, thermarest, hats, gloves, camp shoes, my layers of thermal underwear etc etc. The bag also contains a bunch of medical supplies, and things to munch on along the way.

Heathrow, all set....

It will all have to be unpacked when I get to Tanzania, as I will have to carry the things that I might need (suntan lotion, fleece, waterproofs, snacks etc) in my backpack on a daily basis. The duffel bag itself will leave me every morning and be carried by the Porters, and so I will not see it from morning until the evening. On the other hand I will have to pack it myself every day still. I wonder how hard it will be to roll up my sleeping bag when I am at altitude. It was a complete git to do rolled out on the carpet in my house on Oxfordshire, an so it will no doubt be bloody hard work.

My next bag is my daily lifeblood, quite literally. It is my backpack, a 30 litre Camelback thingymajig. It will carry my 3 litre camelback bladder and the day supplies as mentioned above. It also has sunglasses, camera, and the like, and my money etc.

Lastly I have packed a bag for the hotel. I will be in Arusha for three days and nights altogether, two before I go and on after I come back. The temperature there at the moment is around 35 degrees C. I pack T shirts and shorts and flip flops accordingly.

Each bag is fitted with a padlock, which I hate doing. I am advised however that there are unscrupulous people in Africa, and so I take the advice. I think it is sad, and I know that I will lose the keys as I am so rubbish at keeping hold of small objects.

And so it is off to Heathrow. I am filled with trepidation. A new continent altogether for me, let alone a new country and then Kilimanjaro. And on my own. It is only the second trip I have taken on my own in my life. The first one was four months ago to Lanzarote. I don’t enjoy being on my own, although this I know is way different.

At the airport I basically feel just overwhelmed. I want to be there, but I feel all of a sudden so tired, and then I spend probably 20 of the next 30 minutes going to the toilet. Please excuse the information overload here, but this is how it was for me.

Before I know it, and after several telephoned goodbyes, I am on Kenyan Airways flight 101 to Nairobi. I fly overnight (I am on the plane as I write this) and will land in Nairobi at 6.20 tomorrow morning. From there it will be a short layover and then a 20 seater plane to Kili – I cannot imagine the plane will get as high as the mountain is – we will see in the morning I suppose. I hope that I will get to see my first glimpse of it from the air – I am back in the zone again.

I eat some strange tasting Kenyan Airways macadamia nuts, and ask for a gin and tonic. I am told there is no tonic, and so just take the gin. I eat what I believe to be some sort of curried gazelle (if it was chicken then I am a leprechaun), and then try to get my head down. I can normally sleep on planes, especially after a few beers, wines and gins, but not tonight. I have a feeling that this is going to be the first of many nights where the anticipation of what lies ahead of me prevents me from getting some proper rest.

Bring on Africa – I am ready for you, I hope………