In June 2011 I was on Facebook one night when I noticed that Julian Bennet was saying that he was going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for charity. He was inviting his friends to join him. First of all my mad Aquarian self-thought this would be good fun to do. I contacted Julian straight away who put me on to the main man Toby from the children’s charity FLYING KITES which was organizing and putting together the Kilimanjaro trip. Then I basically I booked up right away to do the climb without even knowing anything about it. It was then that I read about the children’s charity Flying Kites and what they do for the Kenyan orphans .What amazed me was from the money that just one person raises for the trip, that money will feed, house, educate and clothe one child for one year. It really hit me how important doing this climb was. I then met up with Julian in London and we set about fund raising for the trip. To cut a long story short Julian and I put together two fund raising events in London clubs ‘Freedom’ and Jalouse to raise money for flying kites. We raised over £2,000.
The trip was looming so thought I’d better start doing some training, which I did in the beautiful Berkshire countryside with my dogs. Unfortunately due to a leg injury Julian couldn’t make the trip, so it was just little old me. I must admit I was starting to get a little bit nervous. I am not someone who generally goes on adventure holidays, I usually go to places like LA, St. Tropez, New York, so, for me this was a big deal.
As well as doing something amazing for a children’s charity and hopefully changing the course of a child’s life I also wanted to prove to myself that I could get to the top of Kilimanjaro. On a good week I go to the gym three times a week mainly doing spin and pump classes. So, I wouldn’t say I’m Mrs fitness. I upped my training by doing hill walking for 6-10 miles 3 times a week. After a big shop in the Army surplus store in Oxford, buying stuff totally alien to myself such as a Bergan, water purifying tabs, headlamp, sleeping bag etc,. I was kitted out and ready to go.
My first trip without a pair of high heels, mini dress and handbag.
THURSDAY 18TH AUGUST
I leave for Nairobi from Heathrow. Excited and nervous at the same time!
FRIDAY 19TH AUGUST – 22ND AUGUST
I arrived at Flying Kites orphanage on Friday 19th Aug to 27 children singing a welcome song to me. I must admit I found this very beautiful but very overwhelming. I spent the next 4 days at the orphanage with the children, hanging out.
I met my climbing partner, Zoe, a scientist from Cambridge and all the volunteers that worked at the orphanage mainly Americans that were there looking after the children. Like most people, I had never been around 27 children before. What I found was that all the children didn’t stop dancing, laughing, having fun, cuddling, playing games and making jokes with the volunteers. Not that I’d been around lots of kids but these kids seemed to be very happy children. Seeing as most of them had come from very bad situations, in the main losing their parents to HIV but also other tragic circumstances. They had very little in the way of material things, computer games, TVs but what I did see was kids running around the grounds of the orphanage making mud pies, playing games, singing and dancing and playing tricks on one another. There was something they did most evenings which did give me a really warm feeling in my heart and that was when their housemum/dad so to speak, would ask the children what they were appreciative of that day. The kids would stand up one by one and say different things like, I’m happy because the sun is shining or I’m happy because Aunty Victoria has arrived or I’m happy because we’re having home made cookies tonight. Things that we take for granted on a daily basis and, most of the time, never give a second thought to.
While at the orphanage 5 of the older orphans, all girls, took Zoe and myself on a beautiful walk, which took around 40 minutes, to show us the school and new housing that is slowly being built. I have to say that the walk blew me away, it was incredibly beautiful. Something that made me laugh on the way was Zoe falling into a stream and the five girls pulling her out. Me being the clumsy one I thought it was going to be me that fell in. They also showed us their amazing tree house on the same site as their new school, we didn’t want to leave that tree house!!
I am not going to lie, I found being at the orphanage challenging at times for a few reasons, not least as I couldn’t take a shower because there wasn’t one.
After spending four days there it was time to set off to Tanzania and Mt. Kilimanjaro. We left the orphanage very early Monday morning and the last vision I have in my head is the 27 children singing a farewell song.
I learnt a lot from the children at Flying Kites.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro 23rd August- 29th August 2011
TUESDAY 23 AUGUST – Day 1 – distance 8.2 km – 1880m to 3022m
After sorting out the formalities at the bottom of Kilimanjaro with Toby we set of on our climb at 1.30 pm using the Machame route (not the easiest but not the hardest either). It was a legal requirement to have 3 porters per climber. So we had 12 porters and 2 guides which we called our entourage. The climbers were Toby Storie-Pugh who is one of the Flying Kites founders and the director of programmes, Sam Horn a Flying Kites representative, myself and Zoe Tolken. We climbed for 4 hours through the rain forest to the sound of monkeys and unusual bird noises. The monkeys could be seen in the distance swinging from tree to tree. We arrived at camp at about 5.30 pm with our tents already set up and our porters preparing our dinner. Incredibly, dinner was really, really good. After dinner, Zoe and I settled into our tent.
WEDNESDAY 24 AUGUST – Day 2 – distance 5 km – 3022m to 3830m
We climbed for 5 hours through the steep rocky and dusty bare landscape. Today I had a banging headache and an upset stomach. So, there was lots of running behind large rocks if you know what I mean. We arrived at camp around 2 pm. Our porters had once again already set up our camp and were preparing food. I thought it would be my legs that may have hurt but to my surprise, fitness wise I felt good. It was the altitude that was getting to me hence the banging headache and the heavy breathing.
THURSDAY 25 AUGUST – Day 3 – distance 10.4 km – 3830m to 3900m
Climbed for 6 hours going up and down in order to acclimatize but once again I had the headache from hell. Funny tummy again and lots of dashing behind rocks. Fell over twice. Arrived at camp around 3pm.
FRIDAY 26 AUGUST – Day 4 – distance 5.1km – 3900m to 4100m
Today we set off at 9 am and we climbed for just over 4 hours. Although I still had a bad headache and fell over twice, today was my favourite day so far as it involved climbing rocks rather than hiking. This made me think more about my next move as obviously a wrong move could be dangerous.
SATURDAY 27 AUGUST – Day 5 – distance 3.5km – 4100m to 4330m
The route today was short and steep with sheer cliffs and large rocks. My legs started to feel weak today.It was a beautiful sunny day and we climbed for 3 hours. We needed to get lots of rest as we had to get up at 11 pm as we were leaving at midnight for the summit.
SUNDAY 28 AUGUST – Day 6 SUMMIT DAY – distance 17.4km – 4330m to 5895m to 3075m
We left at midnight. We started out on rocky ground which soon turned to snow as we neared the crater rim. My guide Holson and I climbed through the night with only a head torch for light. If I thought I’d worked hard on the other day then that was a picnic compared to tonight. I can honestly say that I hated every second of the six hour climb through the night to the summit. I was freezing, tired and couldn’t feel the ends of my fingers, couldn’t feel the ends of my toes, couldn’t really see where I was going. I felt claustrophobic as it was pitch black except for small light given by the torch. I wanted to stop as my legs were killing me but when I did stop it got very cold, very quickly. I went to take a sip of water but that had frozen up. In my head I was saying to myself I’m hating every second of this and I just want to get to the top so I can then descend. To my surprise, I made it in a very fast time. It took me 6 hours and I reached the summit as the sun was coming up. My much fitter team mates, Toby, Sam and Zoe were there when I reached the top and had only been there for 15 minutes, so I think they were quite surprised to see me so soon. As much as the view from the top was absolutely beautiful, at that point I just wanted to get a couple of shots of me at the top and to descend as quickly as possible.
If it hadn’t have been for my guide Holson, I most definitely wouldn’t have made it to the top. He was a pillar of strength with his silly jokes, singing songs that I couldn’t understand and warming my hands up that I could no longer feel.
Although it only took the others one and half hours to get down to the next camp, it took me 3 hours due to my legs feeling very weak. Once at camp we rested for a couple of hours and then once again descended 5 hours to the next camp. I was once again slower than the others. At this point my knees and shins really hurt. I arrived at camp at 5 pm and was so exhausted I didn’t even have dinner but went straight to my tent and to sleep. This was the most tired I’d ever been in my whole life!
MONDAY 29TH – Day 7 – distance 8.8 – 3075m to 1645m
Up at 6.30 am. Once again it took me longer to get down as my legs were well and truly buggered as I descended down through the steep forest to the National Park gate. I felt like the climb down was taking forever and when I finally saw the National Park gate, I was so so happy!
We then drove to the Oasis Hotel which was in a nearby town called Arusha. Shortly after arriving at the hotel I had my first shower in 10 days. This was the best shower in my entire life and I didn’t want to get out!!! The rest of the day we just ate, slept and repacked for the next day and played with the hotel’s two beautiful dogs and one mad bird.Really enjoyed hanging out with my roomie Zoe, we never stop laughing and cracking jokes.
Well, this trip has been quite an adventure, unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions, everything from the people that I’ve met, the children that I stayed with and climbing Africa’s highest mountain, something I didn’t think, I’d be able to do. It would not have been possible without our entourage from the climbing company MASSAI WANDERINGS. Those men were incredible in strength and in spirit.Thank you so so much to my guide Holson and the main guide Oforo, you are both superstars!!. What an amazing experience this has been from beginning to end. Difficult at times but I’m so glad that I’ve experienced all of this. I don’t think I’ll ever forget my time here and I certainly won’t forget the children.
Flying Kites is an ongoing project and they plan to have an orphanage that will house 150 children, and also a school for them. The work that they do for the children is vital and needs much more funding. If you would like to donate money to Flying Kites, however small or large the amount may be, then please inbox me or if you would like to go on an adventure holiday, which will benefit this charity then go to www.fkadventurechallenges.org
If I can climb Mount Kilimanjaro then almost anyone can!!. Would I ever do the climb again ? Hell NO but am I glad that I did the climb? 100% YES!!!