Saturday, 29 October 2016

Ode to Kilimanjaro

Having now recovered from the physical effects of the challenge and the inevitable expedition blues I thought I would write a little account of my experience of climbing Kilimanjaro in the form of the following poem! Hope you enjoy it....


An uphill struggle to a barren summit...
Shall I book it? Too late, I've done it!
I'm going to climb a mountain, the almighty Kili 
Not sure if I'm brave or just being silly!

We head to the airport with a bag full of kit 
Waterproofs, sun hats and fleecy mits 
We're prepared for all weathers as we take to the air 
With nine hours of flying before we get there

An overnight flight with hardly any sleep 
Does little to prepare us for our impending feat 
But we check into a lodge and enjoy a few beers 
As we settle our nerves and share our fears

There's 15 in the group, with Phil the trek leader 
And a doctor too, I hope I don't need her!
All lovely people with their own personal story 
All hoping to get that moment of glory

A good night's sleep and we're off to the start 
Already I can feel the beat of my heart 
It's a drizzly beginning as we head into the woods 
But the rain soon leaves, no need for a hood

We trek up through the forest at a pace like a snail 
Too quick and the guides "Pole pole" would hail 
It's better to acclimatise if we all go slow 
Frustrating at first but worth it we know

We reach our first camp a thousand metres up 
That's a mountain at home but here no such luck 
Our tents are all ready and we're greeted with songs 
From the porters who carry our camp all along

A hearty meal then it's off to bed
An early start, "Don't be late!" Phil said!
Already the air is harder to breathe
As the oxygen levels start to recede

We tuck into breakfast after a restless sleep 
Downing coffee and porridge then we're up on our feet 
As we head to camp Shira, it's a steep climb today 
We're all exhausted by the end of the day

Now nearly 4000 metres and the views are amazing 
With beautiful dark skies that are great for star gazing 
The forests are gone, replaced with bushes and rocks 
And the dust gets everywhere, not just in our socks!

We measure our oxygen and heart rates as well 
As the toll from the climb begins to tell 
Headaches and nausea have started for some 
And nosebleeds as well are about to come

Day three arrives, we know the routine
Breakfast, fill the water, apply the sun cream 
A stretching session gets our muscles all powered 
Then we head off for lunch at Lava Tower

We're really high now, nearly level with Mt Blanc 
And the terrain's far more open, the bushes all gone 
Replaced with black rocks all made of lava 
From volcanic explosions erupting like cava

We descend to camp three for much needed rest 
'Climb high, sleep low' is the plan that works best 
A baby wipe bath and wash of the feet 
Then off to the mess tent for something to eat

Day four arrives, it's a big one today
An eleven hour trek before our next stay 
Our first challenge of the day, the Barranco wall 
One foot wrong and it's a long way to fall

An exhausting climb with lots of false summits 
But we make it to the top, thank God we've done it!
A group jump photo then we march off again 
Not so steep now much flatter terrain

Then the climb picks up as we head to camp four 
The high camp, after which there are no more 
We sort out our thermals, night torches and gloves 
As we get ready for the part we'll hate or love

It's 1am, very cold and dark
This certainly won't be a walk in the park!
Five hours of climbing before the sun rises 
Head down, small steps, just think of the prizes!

We're struggling to breathe as the air gets thinner 
And some people are stopping to bring up their dinner!
Headaches and heartaches bring tears for some 
As batteries run low and emotions overrun

Then finally the sun appears in the East 
And we bathe in it's warmth, what a feast! 
It's a beautiful sight as we reach the crater rim 
The sense of relief finally begins

We're at Stella Point now, not far from the summit 
A gentle climb and then we've done it 
We solider on, weary and tired 
As we continue on up, higher and higher

Then the end is in sight, the infamous sign 
At the top of the mountain a sight so fine 
The last hundred yards and we touch the top 
To answer the question, would we make it or not?

We all take photos and savour the views
Ready to share our fantastic news
But we don't hang around, the air's cold and thin 
And we've another six hours trek to fit in

It's all downhill as we slide down the scree 
Making very fast progress, only stopping for a pee!
We quickly descend and the air gets thicker 
As we breathe in more oxygen we'll no longer get sicker

Just one more camp then the end is our goal 
As we stride on downhill making use of our poles 
We're all in good spirits but weathered and worn 
Some of our kit battered and torn

Then we reach the finish, our mission complete 
To conquer the mountain we all came to meet 
A mountain so tall you won't find another 
Standing proudly alone, she has no big brother.

A mountain that became our friend and our foe 
Testing our resolve with its beauty on show 
A huge personal challenge that each of us set 
And an experience I'm sure we'll never forget