I lost my father in 2008 to an aggressive brain tumour. We didn’t have long after his diagnosis, but his last ten days were in an amazing hospice. I’ve supported and fundraised for them ever since, and I even worked there for a couple of years before relocating. After losing him, I struggled with grief and I don’t know what happened, but something in my brain wanted to give something back to the Hospice as part of this process. I’d already been to Kenya before, and loved it, so it seemed natural to go off to Africa and do something. My thoughts were “Can I climb Kilimanjaro?”
Now there’s something you should know about me – I hate exercise and the outdoors, but in my head at the time, it made sense. I signed up through an organisation where you book a place to go and do the trek to raise money for a charity of your choice and got on the fundraising wagon. I got fit (for me) and then, in February 2010, off I went to Tanzania (via Nairobi in Kenya which felt like a homecoming) and set off to reach Uhuru Peak.
I look back now and know I was crazy – but then grief is some crazy s**t. The crazy thing is though, that I did it. I reached the top.
We started off at the bottom, with Colobus monkeys swinging over head through the jungle trees, and ended up at -17 degrees at the top with my straw from my camel back freezing. We walked for mamy hours each day, and had rain, sun, you name it. The whole way through, I kept thinking of my dad and I knew I was never going to give up. The only way I was not going to make it was if I got altitude sickness, which thankfully I didn’t (probably due to how slow I was).
At the time I hated the trek, I was the slowest in my group and was at the back everyday walking on my own – it was pretty miserable – most definitely a mental battle every single step. A friend actually died back at home whilst I was away and so for a while I couldn’t even talk about it, but I look back now and all I feel is pride. The girl who hates exercise and fresh air did it. She went to Africa with no-one she knew, and spent 8 days on a mountain, camping (for only the second time ever) and came back to tell the tale. Now maybe my reasons for going are what drove me on, but honestly it is one of the best things I ever did. I look back now and wish I had taken more time to enjoy it and appreciate what I was doing and the things I was seeing. Unfortunately such is life. I can reflect on a life changing and character building experience. If you like exercise and/or the outdoors you will have an even better time, but I really do recommend it, whether for charity or not.