Brian & Linda Travel to Africa – Part 3
The Rooftop of Africa
The final leg of our adventure involved a week long hike to the summit of the tallest mountain in Africa Mt. Kilimanjaro, elevation 19,341 feet. This mountain is also referred to as the roof top of Africa as it is the highest free-standing mountain in the world. This means it is not part of a mountain range.
Even though Brian and I feel like we had prepared physically for our trip the big unknown factor was the elevation. We never could have imagined what was ahead or that this would be the hardest physical challenge that we had ever experienced. We began our trek with 23 members of our Young Life group and 52 porters/guides whose job was to get us to the summit. Each of us was allowed a bag of gear that could not exceed 40 pounds which a porter would carry for us. We then carried a day pack with snacks, water and extra clothes. After this experience I now look at these men as real life super heroes. They worked tirelessly each day to make sure our needs were met and that we were successful. They carried not only our personal bags but also packed in the items necessary for food prep, and camping including our bathrooms. The first day a porter passed us not only with a large bundle balanced on his head plus his entire body was covered with the bread and eggs that would be used for our breakfasts.
Our team started out enthusiastically but very quickly the elevation and dehydration began to take its toll. We had a guide that paced us and we soon learned, this needed to be marathon pace not a sprint. The route we followed began in the rain forest and as each day passed the trees thinned and the boulders size grew. To have the highest chance of success the plan involves climbing to a high altitude then dropping lower to camp each night to help with the acclimation. We were told to drink, drink and drink some more. This created some challenges as there aren’t many bathroom structures along the way (and the ones that are there are not appealing). We grew closer as a team each day as we observed many of our teammates suffering the effects of high altitude climbing. We came upon one young member of the group delirious on the side of the path. The porters were amazing in dealing with these issues and our health and safety were their number one priority. Happily, our young team member recovered fully the next day.
Each day even though the landscape became more barren the views became more amazing. Each day took us higher above the clouds but one night the clouds cleared and we were able to see the lights of Arusha far into the distance. Awe inspiring to say the least.
We all concentrated on our accent during the venture but nothing prepared us for the challenge of summit day or the descent! We began our summit attempt at 1:00 AM. Summit temps were 10 degrees with 40 mph winds. We had to wear 4-5 layers of clothes which made our mobility restricted.
Approximately 5 ½ hours later and some tough trekking we reached the summit just as the sun was rising. Miraculously our entire team of 23 made the summit. Now the real work began. We had begun the day at 16,100 feet, reached the summit of 19,341, returned to base camp for a 2 hour nap and then hit the descent trail for 6 ½ miles straight down a 9,400 foot descent in about 5 hours. Needless to say, our feet and toes took the worst of it. We fell into camp that night utterly exhausted but so excited that we had accomplished this feat. The next day was the final leg down where at the bottom we were greeted by locals who washed our shoes for $2.00. We would have paid a lot more for a foot massage.
We ended our stay in Tanzania with a 3 day safari with a whole lot more creature comforts than we had over the previous two weeks and boy were we thankful. If you have ever dreamed of going on safari don’t give up on that dream. The experience exceeded our expectations.
My purpose in sharing all of our experiences in Africa not just the coffee part is to encourage you to go after the dreams you have. We stepped out of our comfort zone big time on this trip and the rewards were unimaginable. At Bergies we encourage our staff to reach for their dreams because we only have one life and it is our choice to live an ordinary life or to go for the extraordinary! We made lifetime memories to share and I would love to hear about your dreams and goals for the future. My new motto is LIVE BOLD NOT OLD what is yours?
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