Climbing the tallest mountain in Africa was never something that I thought I would be interested in doing. I was not an extreme athlete, far from it – although I did have a taste for adventure.

I think what sold me was possibly the phenomenal stories about the experience, told by someone that was genuinely, inspiring, entertaining and informative. We met as part of a business project and as a result I was included in a general email invitation to consider joining an expedition that was going to attempt to get to the roof of Africa. It was her stories, her incredible sense of humour and thorough explanations that got me hooked.

Climbing Kili allows one to witness the mountain landscape change face four times as it transitions and contrasts from tropical rainforest, to moorland, to dessert before it finally becomes a glacial moonlike landscape of artic ice and snow. It is said that you transform with every zone you enter and leave behind, and that your soul is forever touched by it all.

The magic got to me, the sense of adventure was overwhelming and with sheer determination I started chasing after a crazy dream, but first, I had to do the impossible. I had to make is real. It took me three years to do. So, what were the lessons that helped me get there in the end?

It is about inspiration

The dream was sold to me in vivid colour! Not purposefully so as I never joined the expedition that I was invited to, but I had to go! I had to experience the sheer magic, the adventure coupled with amazement, the achievement together with the pain, the greatness of nature to soothe my soul, the golden sunrise peeping over spectacular mountain peaks and the frozen earth before summit night. I wanted to experience it all and become aware of the stillness of time in my own head.

I was inspired by someone who had a passion for the mountain. Dreams are inspiring, and the people that help you get there often more so! This I believe is mostly what help you achieve dreams in the end. Motivated inspiration!

Resilience and holding on

It was a crazy dream. People thought I went a little bonkers and no one wanted to go with me. Nope, they would rather go somewhere else, like on vacation to an idyllic island! Am I sure? The costs were high, the gear was technical and expensive, I had to save and plan and then it was physical remember, I had to exercise and get strong, not something I particularly excelled at.

It all took much longer than expected, the circumstances over those three years were not ideal and the demands on my time and resources were more extreme than ever. But I had the dream and I was inspired, so it became a decision. Something that I thought of often and decided to make happen, no matter the twists and turns I had to take to get there.

Get to a place where you book the date

Sometimes when the dream seems impossible it starts to feel that way. That it will never happen, that the time is never right and the budget never stretched far enough. I had to travel solo and join a pre-booked group. It was hard to do. I decided that I will give it another three months before I had to book. Three months later the time was still not right and the budget still did not stretch far enough, but I finally walked into the travel agency and booked my wild expedition. Like a crazy woman!

And then I accidently bought non-alcoholic champagne to celebrate!

Know that things will go wrong

I do not know if it was the euphoria at booking the trip or if I just was blind to the label, but that was the first mishap, the celebratory non-alcoholic champagne purchase! It’s not a major train smash off course but then the next day, the travel agent called.

She probably remembered my happy dance across the travel office and wanted to check whether I understood that my long awaited trip to Kilimanjaro coincided with the Kilimanjaro marathon? An annual event that would ensure that the small town of Moshi is flooded with athletes and extremist of all sorts, being all noisy and looking fit and athletic, probably climbing mountains in half the time, not even breaking a sweat.

I was disturbed. And disappointed. Nowhere in my Kili dream did I picture fit athletes, crowding the streets, the hotel, the restaurants and probably my Kilimanjaro mountain! I sat a whole evening staring at my booking, contemplating what to do next. What if my climbing buddies are all a bunch of athletes and they leave me behind racing each other to the top of the mountain? What if I arrive at each camp a whole day after them?

Then it dawned on me that the opposite could also be true. Maybe athletes are nice people! That the whole event could potentially add some vibrancy, excitement and liveliness to Moshi that was not there before and that it might be far more interesting that way. So I decided that if I can’t beat them I will have to join them. The next day I called the travel agent and asked her to book me for the half-marathon too. Yes, the 21 kilometre race. And no, I never ran a marathon before. It was four months before the departure date.

A month before my trip I got injured, I could hardly walk and my doctor told me to get off my legs and rest if I even remotely want to get up a mountain. I was a serious set-back for a non-athlete with little preparation time on her hands.

I would eventually experience more set-backs on the mountain like snow and rainstorms, a scare at altitude, and seven blisters affecting both feet that I unbelievably picked up on the last day.  

Yes, I was an amateur at all of it and probably had no idea what I was in for. Watch this space for more on the actual trip and what it taught me about life and business.

What are your tips for reaching for your dreams?

2 Replies to “Getting to the roof of Africa – How a three year dream to climb Kilimanjaro became a reality”

  1. Wat n inspiring storie. Kan nie wag vir opvolg nie.
    You had a dream came true. All of us have dreams, but are we making it a reality?

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