A Moment of Decisiveness


FINALLY at Gilman’s point -210m from Africa’s highest point; Uhuru Peak-, so what the fuss is all about? it seems that the peak is within reach, yeeeeeey I’m gonna make it to the top. Hell no, I just can’t take it anymore, every part of me aches so hard, maybe I should stop for a sip of water, or energy drink? no no how about a mouthful of the strongest energy bar & a pill to kill this horrible headache, oh damn it, now my stomach hurts so bad, and my head is spinning around, what on earth is wrong with me? is it altitude sickness that got its toll on me? should I stop now before it becomes lethal? but how can I give up now? why can I barely open my eyes, am I already dead? maybe all I need is to sit on that rock over there and relax, then resume what I came for…hmmm, remind me please, what was it?
Why are my gloves all wet, and how on earth did the minus something degrees celsius find its way through my wind breaker & my 6 layers of wool and thermals? Ouuuh, here’s a rock to sit on, some hazy people are moving around looking as drained out as I am, aren’t we after sunrise? how can it be so dark or are these my eyes that cannot open anymore? It doesn’t matter because I am gonna lean on that rock now…
baaaam I hit the floor hard.

Sounds of terrified people running towards me, lifting my paralyzed body before my head hits the ground, asking in worry: heeeeeey are you okay? are you conscious? what’s wrong? what happened?
– No, answer
Hitting me on the face, opening my mouth, and my eyes. Gluing my body to the big standing rock, supporting my body from the other side.
– No, response
In a deadly sleepy voice, not believing what I am about to say I responded: Don’t worry, I’m okay, I did not faint, I fell asleep.

A guy came with a can in his hand, looking for a tool to open it, poured some of its content in my mouth which turned out to be powdered glucose that tasted like red grapes, our guide Ismail asking me to tilt my head in order to help me drink some water to swallow the powder.
Ismail : Passanti, you scared me, I thought you fainted. Continuing: at this altitude you cannot sleep it’s too dangerous.
Me half conscious pleading, starting to cry: I couldn’t control myself, I literally fell asleep. Please, I’m so sleepy, I can’t open my eyes, haven’t slept for a minute last night; I’ll lie down for 10 minutes then resume the walking.
Ismail: Listen to me Passanti, so far you’ve done so well, and I’m proud of you, you’re a very strong woman but at this point I think that’s enough, you look so tired and I think we have to go back. I’m gonna give you a certificate, and…interrupted him in a decisive yet exhausted tone: No Ismail NO, I’m not gonna back down now, after all the effort done there is noway that I’ll go back without a trophy, without a photo at Uhuru peak, I will not accept going back telling everyone that I failed at reaching the peak, so whatever it takes I will finish that hike, i will make it to the top and take photos over there.
Ismail in disbelief: You cannot be hard on yourself, you can kill yourself and I am not gonna let you do that.
Me: Ismail I’m perfectly fine, all I need is some sleeping, if only you leave me here to sleep for five minutes I will be good to go.
Ismail: You can’t it’s dangerous and could be deadily. I’m gonna let you close your eyes for a couple of minutes, and then we will have to go. Less than 2 minutes later: Ok then, we have to go now, hold on to me until you make it to Uhuru.
Me: Please give me a hand & let’s make it to the peak.

My companion who did not show any emotions during the whole incident has told me after we finished the hike that at this very moment she thought that this is it, and that I will give up and it was time to go back, but after seeing my persistence and decisiveness she got all energized to finish that hike and make it to the peak, how awesome is that? 🙂

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The Pursuit of Mount Kilimanjaro


Have been daydreaming of this hike since 2009, since I read an article in an Egyptian magazine about a 40 years old woman, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, though she never had mountain hiking experience. I somehow had a “I wanna do it feeling” & thought that this is the kind of adventures that will give true meaning to my life.

View from the aeroplane, with my mobile

View from the aeroplane, with my mobile

But something was always keeping me away from fulfilling my dream, at first it was fitness, for God’s sake I am fat, not fit and my hiking experience is more or less zero, everyone around me whom I share with my thoughts, whether I receive rejection, disapproval, mockery or a very exciting “let’s do it” that when comes into action, all the excitement fades away, then lack of resources, I wanted to join a specialized agency, without getting ripped off, yet be sure that they are good, specialized and well organized, because such trips require people with experience, specially that the major concern about Mount Kilimanjaro is dealing with altitude sickness, that could be deadly as far as I know.

The dream kept seeming so far away, yet chasing me day and night. I’m still fat, not fit, the offer I got from a trusted company is too expensive compared to online prices, but my parents will never allow me to travel with any company, and if I join the climb with the trusted company I’ll have to save for a whole year and will not be able to join any other trips on that same year -which could be deadly to me.

One day, I was hiking for a couple of hours at Kleine Scheidegg in Switzerland, with 3 Swiss friends who were at their mid thirties whilst I was 25. They had to wait for me as I got tired very quickly, at first it was okay, I thought that maybe they are more acquainted to doing so much physical activities, a step following the other I felt like a “big fat pig” and thought to myself, “why am I doing this to myself? they are at least 10 years older than me, yet 10 times fitter than I am. Maybe you I do not train as much as they do, but I sure can do better, nothing can stop me but my laziness, and these foods that I enjoy so much, I have got to cut them all, I have to lose weight and become fit. This kind of tiredness is not acceptable anymore. Once I go back to Egypt, my one and only target will be losing weight and becoming fit.” And yeah that’s exactly what happened, I took it very serious, started training with a personal trainer, dieting, getting weekly fitness assessments and my body measured bi-weekly, till I was able to drop off 11 kgs and look completely different.

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Days went by, this time only 2 things kept me from fulfilling my dream; having no people to go with at the moment, I had to wait till 2014 and it was still a 50:50 chance, and again no trusted company to travel with, but the insanely expensive one, not sure that climbing Mount Kili is worth not traveling for a year, it’s a tough call. One day I was bored at work, fed up from doing a job that I don’t like, started posting about this fact as a facebook status, an ex-law school colleague responded “you should work with my wife.”, sent him back but never received a reply. I started updating my resume, tailoring cover letters, decided to send my resume to several magazines & travel start-ups, on that same day I received a reply from one agency who thought that my resume was very impressive though I had zero experience in the field, but it seems that my cover letter did all the job -yeah I am a lawyer, my job is to convince people with whatever I have to say-, 2 days later they called for an interview, that was postponed a couple of days later, a week after I called them wondering why they did not reschedule the interview, they said that they have no vacancies, however they would like to refer me to another start-up after my approval, I agreed, received a call from this company, scheduled an interview, during the interview one of the partners told me “Hey, you know my husband, you went to college together.”, I asked her: “who’s your husband?.”, he turned out to be the same guy who told me that I should work with his wife. After the interview & after agreeing that I would do sales & feature them in my articles, she told me on a random note: “we are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro on Dec. 26th, 2013, wanna join?.” I was puzzled, yet not believing that climbing Mount Kili could arise in the most random unpredictable way. I replied: “I really don’t know, I have to check with my parents, to check my vacations balance, who else is joining? I need to think but yeah I wanna join. I’ll give you my final answer by end of this week”.

After looking forward to several approvals from my parents, my boss, my best friend that her religious marriage coincided with my travel dates, checking my bank account that had no enough funds -had to wait for my salary in order to pay the trip fees-, I said “YES. I’m gonna climb Mount Kili.” Hung up the phone, still in disbelief, not realizing that it’s truly happening, feeling a bit fishy about it, thinking that it cannot be real, been planning for 4 years, yet the opportunity has suddenly arisen, “Maktoub”. Wasn’t worried about my fitness level though I haven’t been training regularly lately, as I was in the “I am bored from the gym and diet” phase, yet I was not worried at all as I have been working out for a whole year, doing different types of exercises. And I read a lot about the hike which gave me a feeling of comfort, yet an anxiety that was due to altitude sickness issues.

Pole Pole which means Slowly Slowly in Swahili (on the web)

Pole Pole which means Slowly Slowly in Swahili (on the web)

Next thing I know from the moment I said “Ok, I’ll think about it” is reading and re-reading about the hike, watching videos about the climb, about packing, making lists, knowing all about altitude sickness and how it could be prevented, about sleeping bags, about guides, porters, cooks, about what we are about to see, how is it like over there?, the weather, the people. Kept sharing like crazy with the people I am travelling with every piece of info that I read. Started to do some shopping, borrowing some stuff. Even my backpack was packed and re-packed several times, especially after speaking to someone who did it before.

The pursuit of Mount Kilimanjaro now seemed so real, Africa’s highest peak is only a couple of days away…

to be continued…