By, Ashish Patani
I was inspired to take on the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro after hearing about the wonderful work CAREducation does for helping make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged and naturally challenged children around the world, through education.
For me education has always been a driver for change and a force for good in a world with many problems and conflicts, by inspiring the next generation.
So after several months of training and anticipation, on Friday 13 Sept 2013, along with 34 like-minded individuals, I set-off to climb Kilimanjaro – the highest free-standing mountain in the world, rising 19,340 feet above sea level.
Day 1 – Fri 13 Sept
We started early from Machame Gate, set deep in the cloud forest that surrounds Mt. Kilimanjaro. After signing in at the National Park Gate, we begin a slow and very steady walk from Machame Gate (1,800m) to Machame Hut (2,980m). We trekked through the thick forest enjoying quick glimpses of monkeys in the high tree-tops. Our guides quickly introduced us to “pole-pole” meaning “slowly slowly” which was the secret to conquering the high altitude of Kilimanjaro.
In the evening we enjoyed a candlelit dinner and sang many songs. Everyone was in high spirits at having successfully completed the first day. Reality of what we had undertaken was setting in and I couldn’t believe it that after so many training and anticipation and talk about going to Kilimanjaro – here I was already at the end of day 1!
The exciting was a bit too many perhaps and either myself nor my team mate – Ankit Shah slept a lot that evening and ended up chatting away till 3am before falling asleep!
Day 2 – Sat 14 Sept
After breakfast at Machame Hut, we started a steep ascent along the Machame ridge line, which gradually worked its way up to the Shira Plateau. The views along the ridge line of Kibo Peak were spectacular. We trekked a good 5 hours today arriving onto the Shira Plateau in the early afternoon and onwards to Shira Hut at 3,840m. The cloud-covered horizon was a truly amazing sight, with breath-taking views of both the Kibo Peak and out west towards Mt Meru and the Maasai Highlands.
In the evenings it was of course time to rest and unwind…and have fun amongst the team!
Day 3 – Sun 15 Sept
By this time I had lost all trek of what day or date it was and a new early morning routine at emerged – with a quick trip to the “camp facilities” before the morning rush hour and followed by hot tea and porridge for breakfast.
After breakfast at Shira Hut, we headed east across the plateau on a gradual incline. The gradual ascent over the Shira Plateau took us to an altitude of 4,600m, providing valuable acclimatisation, and aue-inspiring views of the Kilimanjaro peak and Lava Point. After lunch we descended down to the Baranco Campsite, set at the base of the Baranco Wall at 3,950m. The Baranco Campsite offered amazing views of Moshi town, which we could catch glimpse off in the gaps in the clouds.
It was truly amazing to be living above the clouds! The air was clean and crisp and surprising not as cold as I thought it would be. The atmosphere amongst all of us was very high and supportive. Everyone in the group had come together really well and made new friends.
Day 4 – Mon 16 Sept
There had been much talk about how tough this day was going to be any everyone was a little apprehensive about climbing Baranco Wall – some 700ft straight up!
Soon we were scrambling up Baranco Wall with hands and feet. It was the first proper rock climbing bit of the trek and was great fun! Short of making it to the top of Kilimanjaro – climbing Baranco Wall was the best bit about the climb.
From there we continued over the ridges and valleys to the Karanga Valley and then ascended up to Barafu Hut at 4,600m. Today was a tough day and it wasn’t over yet! After some quick dinner and a short rest everyone was gearing up for the midnight start!
Day 5 – Tue 17 Sept
With our head torches on we snaked upwards leaving Barafu Hut and heading towards Stella Point. The trek was long and hand and very cold. Each step was a huge physical and mental challenge but with great teamwork and the encouragement of the guides we matched onwards and upwards – to conquer Kilimanjaro.
We stopped often taking time to catch our breath and drink the icy water and chew some sweets. We needed all the energy we could muster on this the hardest part of the trek…but “pole-pole” we saw the first light of the new day near Stella Point. The sunrise was amazing, bring such beauty and much needed warmth, and the knowledge that the Peak wasn’t far now.
Soon after we reached Stella Point and from there we could spot Uhuru Peak – our goal was in sight now and so near. There was renewed energy at the sight of the peak. Though it took another hour or so to reach it, I finally reached Uhuru Peak – the Roof of Africa – at about 7.50am!
What an amazing feeling – a sense of achievement – relief – and awed by the beauty of the stunning views from the Peak – the giant glacier walls of frozen ice – the clouds far below us – the clear crisp air, surprising not as windy as I thought it might be. The feeling is indescribable – but something that I will always remember.
Neeral Dodhia, a fellow trekker, upon reaching the top said “When we first saw the mountain, it was an intimidating giant. going step-by-step and in friendship, we were able to summit it.”
Inevitable, we started the descent back down to Stella Point and down to Barafu Camp. At Barafu Camp, we rested a little before starting our descent down to Mweka Hut, arriving late afternoon for dinner and a well-earned nights rest!
Day 6 – Wed 18 Sept
After spending our last night in tents, we started our descent down to Mweka Gate, a gradual decline through the forest. Back at Mweka Gate, we rested and had several drinks while we waited for everyone to come down and sign-out at the Gate.
Soon we were driving back to our hotel near Moshi and everyone took the time to refresh after days spent on the mountain – with a shower and celebratory meal before receiving your Uhuru Peak Certificates in a lovely ceremony filled with music and laughter. Spirits were high and everyone danced to the African music late into the night.
This was one amazing and life-changing experience…something which I will never forget.
And I wouldn’t have been able to complete this challenge and reach the top of Kilimanjaro were it not for the contact support and guidance of all the guides and porters from The Really Wide Challenge Company which organised our trek and also the brilliant organisation and hard work of the CAREducation team – thank you all very much for making this trek truly memorable.
Visiting the Schools
After the trek and once I was back in Nairobi, Kenya, along with Janvi Shah, Priyanka Patel and Bini Chandaria, I got the opportunity to visit some of the schools who would potentially benefit from the fundraising which we had done.
One such school was in the slums of Nairobi called Agape Hope Children Centre – a refuge for orphaned and disabled children run by a humble couple, Oliver and Margaret. They provide shelter and boarding for over 70 children and schooling for another 80 local children from the slums – and importantly providing one meal a day for all the children – which is often the children’s only proper meal for the day.
The children studied in cramped and deplorable conditions and yet they were smiling – for life outside the school was far worse. Many children were abused and had suffered traumatic childhoods due the various social and political issues and yet they sang for us…”I don’t want new shoes, don’t want new clothes, don’t want toys…all I want is a friend…to hold and be safe…all I want is a family…” Their words I will remember always, that all these children wanted was a friend, to know that they are not alone in this world and didn’t want any toys or any other materialistic things.
Priyanka Patel, a fellow trekker, said “The whole experience was truly amazing, whilst climbing Kilimanjaro was one of the toughest things I’ve done physically and mentally, having the opportunity to see the kids and the projects after really put it into perspective and made me realise how determined and mentally strong these kids are! CARE is doing a great job to ensure these kids are presented with the opportunity to grow and I’m glad I have been a part of the journey.”
Seeing the children put a lot of things in perspective for me personally and I was so happy to have completed the trek to top of Kilimanjaro and helped funds for these are the children which will benefit so much for all the hard work of the 35 friends who climbed Kilimanjaro in September 2013 for CAREducation.
The CAREducation Kilimanjaro 2013 Trekkers:
Aarti Shah, Ankit Shah, Anuja Shah, Bhavni Shah, Bijal Shah, Bini Chandaria, Dhruv Shah, Dilisha Patel, Dines Shah, Heena Vekaria, Hetal Dhanani, Janvi Shah, Kavi Shah, Kavi Shah, Komal Patel, Kushan Shah, Monal Shah, Nayen Shah, Nikita Patel, Nirav Shah, Paras Maroo, Parin Shah, Phoebe Leung, Priya Shah, Priyanka Patel, Priyen Shah, Rajvi Shah, Ravi Shah, Ronak Maroo, Rupa Dodhia, Sajni Lakhani, Sheetal Patel, Sunil Shah, Tina Vadgama and Ashish Patani