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Mt Kenya Day 4 & 5 #MtKenyaChallenge2017 #ChallengeAccomplished!

The alarm went off at 5.45am, I was not going to miss this Mt Kenya sunrise ey? Then I realise I’m all alone in the tent. Abraham is not there, goodness where could this guy be? Wait, could it be rained and I’m floating in the lake? I bump the ground and I could feel the hard grass stumps. Okay so I’m not floating, where could this guy be? I check the tent door for forced entry. The zipper looks fine, though not completely zipped up. Surely if he was to be abducted by aliens (I know I know, I may have watched too much UFO diaries when I was still young and impressionable), they would not have taken the sleeping bag as well yes? So I relax and quickly dress up, wash my face to wake up and put on my headlamp and head out to the beach. I need to be ready for this moment, especially now that the struggle of the climb is so fresh…. The grass is filled with dew which is cold, I avoid it as much as I can. When I get to the beach, I can see trout jumping up out of the water. I think I need a camera with faster shutter speed to capture some of these spontaneous moments. As I wait for the sun to show up I’m also meditating about life and some key decisions I need to make in my life some which may be very unpopular with the people closest to me…

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The sun rays start peeping at the edge of the lake, as the light penetrates the darkness the effect is magical, it’s art! One of the guys making food for us comes to check his hooks; they have caught fish, sweet! :-). Habbakuk joins me and we start goofing around in that moment of astonishing beauty. Brian also comes around and the more the merrier as we do jumping jacks. Those moments were like therapy, getting the yarn balls in your head untangled. Breakfast is ready and we start finding our way there, we find pancakes which I took and went to eat at a stone further from the dining area. I could not cross my legs so I needed some elevated ground, Jeremy notices I’m not with the rest and comes to find out if everything is okay, see when I said this had become a family, I meant it! Guys leave to go for the beach but I had seen it all I go sit where Robert and Jeremy were perched a few moments ago basking in the sun. The lake looks serene from this point with the now brightly shining sun illuminating its surface. It is so calm it appears almost wave less, a wave less lake, this would be close enough. When the guys finish their beach visit we start packing and preparing to leave. Peterson also starts disassembling the tents. We take a photo and start our trek to Mt Kenya lodge, finally we will get to have a hot shower! A hot shower after four days of wet wipes, the thought alone would make me giddy inside, I could not wait for the smoky hot water running on my skin.

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.jsThe slopes encompassing Lake Michaelson are steep, we start slow and go up carefully since the ground is wet as well. We would make stops for a breather and just to look back one more extra time.

At the top of the slope there are these intriguing looking rocks which are as a result of erosion and other weather elements. There was one I liked that looked a cathedral. Maybe it was the altitude but it looked like a cathedral to me.

Habbakuk has now become our group photographer and would be taking pictures like a pro. Altitude starts hitting Abraham and Brian helps with his bag as we slowly descend the mountain. About midday we are at the lunch point. We have pasta for lunch and refill our flasks with hot water. It seems like it could rain so we also put on our waterproof pants and ponchos, our prayers to counter Duncan’s prayers for rain seem to have worked actually. Ever since we started Duncan would say how the elements seemed to be favouring our team and would pray for rain, Beatrice Tanya and I formed another prayer group to counter those prayers, we did not need rain for this, despite being prepared for it. Vegetation starts to re-appear the lower we get. And soon enough we have forests lined up. It’s getting to dusk and Mt. Kenya lodge is visible from quite a distance. Kendi hurries me up to catch up with Ken, Robert, Brian, Ivy, Wabbie, Rachel and Bonnita who are being shown hyena paws by Charles. Wabbie tells us that hairy shit is a sign of carnivorous animals around since they feed on the whole of other animals including skin.

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Finally the log cabins are clearly visible after a small climb. The smell of wood smoke fills the air and we are told that is for our showers, wow! I see a bar and make a note to come back for a drink. We grab our bags and get shown our cabins. I get into the bathroom and the water coming down the taps and shower is freaking freezing cold. I get out and ask Peterson about it and he tells me it should be working. I go and open all the taps and after ten minutes hot water starts flowing out, oh the joy, the sweetness it felt glorious to have the water run down your skin, skin which hadn’t seen water for four days now, the vapour which had a hint of wood smoke felt like a sauna as it filled the bathroom. That moment was absolutely remarkable. I get out and as Abraham, Ivy, Bonnita and Brian take turns in the shower I journal abit and they wonder what it is I’m ‘furiously writing down’ to use Brian’s words. Abraham realises he had carried more than enough snacks and suggests collecting all of them and giving them to our porters, since it seems we had over planned in that. We are called for dinner, and we all troop to the dining hall. Here in the mountain there is only vodka called chrome, and two brands of beers, tusker which I’m told is very popular with the mzungus who patronise the place regularly and all sops a pretty strong beer from what I heard… There are no fridges needed the weather of the mountain keeps the temperature low enough. So back to dinner we are all seated there round the dinner table we are all together once again like that first day at Old Moses, there is also the realisation that this is the last day of #MtKenyaChallenge2017. But everyone is happy there is tea for those who feel like and the alcohol that I mentioned as well for those who were thirsty depending on your palate. Robert is breaking our backs through some technique of applying pressure, all you hear form the guys on the floor are grunts and screams. During my turn I felt a bone make some noise, I guess it went back where it was supposed to be in the first place. Food is finally served and we have chapati, goodness wasn’t I happy. Chapati is life, I will leave this here before someone comes to tell me chapati is the cause of all the weight I was trying to lose. After dinner we are told that lights out will be at 11pm but we can have lanterns and continue without merry making. Brian rushes to the Banda and comes with bottles of champagne and champagne glasses. We make a toast to all of us, with special mentions to Rachel, team machozi, Bonita, Robert, Brian and Duncan, this had been an incredibly thrilling experience. Duncan makes an emotional, (I say emotional because I read people well, but he is one person who hardly reveals true emotion easily) he tells us we are by far the most resilient team he has ever had, normally guys summit at 6am, but most of us being newbies we did 9am but kept on until the top because our spirits were determined by all means…

Miriam takes up her role as head of Karaoke and the fun began, of all the performances there was one that intrigued so much, I felt like I was seven all again. As Brian was doing his cover for Ed Sheeran’s Shape of you he pulled a magic trick with these magic lights on his thumbs man and everyone went wild, he even did a sommesault! Dang! I was sold from now on he was no longer Brian, but Brian the Magician. I would later ask him how he did it and he couldn’t Olive would tease she knew but also couldn’t tell, it’s like they took an oath of silence…

So back you the Karaoke, Habbakuk and Jeremy did a couple of covers and boy they got the voices. They would sing and the ladies would get excited.

The amount of laughter in that dining hall that night writes off all the tears and struggle during the last four days. My stomach was hurting at some point.

People start retiring one by one and I soon followed. This had been amazing, I had learned so much about myself in the last four days. I am in deep slumber hearing crickets in my head when Ivy and Judy burst into the cabin arguing, my bed is nearly overturned and I wake up confused. Ivy was in Rambo mode and was chopping up Judy and Brian with kicks and blows. When I ascertain the coast is clear, I fall back into my cricket dream mode again, I only heard stories in the morning haha. Altitude plus champagne are not your friends, best believe that…

The trick I learned quickly is to preserve warmth you sleep with minimum rotations and movements as possible, that is why when we are woken up the beds are still tucked, if you tried to venture your foot to the corner of the bed the cold on the sheets was enough to quell the racket caused by the crickets in your dreams. We dress up and go to have our breakfast. Outside Beatrice is leading Zumba we join in and dance all the way to the dining hall. People are slow today, maybe it’s because it’s the last day, or could be because we are going back to reality whichever it is I cannot tell. After breakfast, we go back to pack and get our bags. We all congregate and Abraham gives a vote of thanks to our guides, chefs and porters and present a small token of appreciation and Charles also gives a vote of thanks on behalf of his team.

We do Zumba remembering Maryanne who couldn’t make it. We start our descend to meet up with our bus, this is finally it. We have a chat with Bonita who tells me how she is arranging the stories to tell, if you missed it, Bonnita is a travel blogger and you can find her here. We get to the Mt Kenya lodge gate and have the final group photo, there is a buffalo head which I pose with, I had no idea this thing was this heavy… We then continue going down as I chat with Olive, having no network access and in the bush reveals a lot when you are looking inwards and as I tell her this she asks me a question I will never forget, “BUT DID YOU LEARN?” nobody has ever asked me that apart from Olive, it gave me a new perspective of retrospection, the learning aspect, it is not enough to look back you also need to learn. We find Habbakuk in the bush taking on his new found love, photography by making memories for all of us. We find 1985 to 1995 Landrover Defender 110s waiting for us, I got to take a picture here, no way I’d miss this moment. We have our bags packed on the rooftop racks as we bid our new friends good bye and soon we are gliding down the mountain slopes on our way to Chogoria.

We get into the bus and off we go. There is silence mostly in the bus as we hang on to the whatever memory we have of the last five days.

We pass by Juddie’s family business the legacy business and everyone gets samosas. How lovely, next time there is a trip passing through Nkubu or Mlolongo and Judy is there, I’ll be there, you don’t pass up free food opportunities, though that could be the source of my situation but heck it’s free food, we can work it out later yes?

We stopover at Mwea where we have lunch at Nice hotel and get awarded with certificates of achievement; this was an achievement I kid you not. The proprietor of Nice hotel, Charles Njiru (Mkombozi) OGW tells us how he was once in a plane from Russia and had the passenger next to him ask him where he was from. When they heard Kenya, they ask him if he has been to the Mara, because the guy was headed there. Feeling like the spotlight was on him he says he has been to the Mara to save face. He congratulates us for taking the initiative to see what the world holds when you still have the energy.

We continue our journey and Duncan starts an argument about a Landrover that was at Mt Kenya Lodge, he says it was a KX number plate, Wabbie and Loyc maintain it was a UN number plate they place wagers but no one has a picture of the car with its place to the bet fizzles out. Someone says how the clouds are making a funny shape… We soon get to Nairobi and just as we alight my phone goes off and the taxi is on its way. Jeremy lends me his powerbank and after several attempts it lights my phone. When I get tot he house I am welcomed by the good news that Florence managed to summit a day after. Peterson had taken her up the mountain from Shiptons after she was able to get better from the altitude sickness; this was clearly an amazing experience for all of us.

So what lessons did I take from this experience?

 

– Whenever you hear stories of grandeur and conquest, remember there are untold stories as well of blood sweat and tears which you must always pry out;

– Sometimes in your journey, all you need is to keep going even when you don’t feel like

– You will always feel like giving up the most when you are closest to reaching your goal/ target (see number)

– Sometimes fear of the unknown will hold you back from discovering new experiences

– Whenever the universe presents you with an opportunity stop with analysis paralysis take it you will figure out things on the way

– Remember when you are feeling shitty, there will always be someone else feeling shittier be always ready to offer an helping hand

– This I am sure you have heard, if you want to walk fast, walk alone, if you want to walk far, walk with others… this is very true in the journey of life, you cannot be an island, we all need someone

– You can never underestimate the power of a coach, someone who helps you pool all your energies to achieve what you want most and walks with you through that struggle with the patience of a parent to a child (Duncan, Charles, Peterson and Kendi)

– Everyone needs someone who will spur you into action in the right direction (My cousin, Cece for introducing me to extreme even though she never joined me, Nick for telling his stories the way he did to create that curious bug enough to move me into action, and all friends who we would keep tabs on each other on how fit we were keeping in readiness for the mountain). Everyone needs a friend.

 

Just to add to this, Abraham had the following epiphany:

“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.” ~ René Daumal Lessons I learnt: 1. With the right company you can conquer Mountains (Literally) 2. Life is not a competition. 3. You reach your goals step by step. 4. No matter how hard it is. Keep going. 5. Teamwork gets everyone to the goal (Point Lenana, in this case) To all the amazing, awesome, happy and lovely souls that did it with me, I salute you. Cheers to greater heights!

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And like that the #MtKenyaChallenge2017 came to an end. Until the next mountain you have not heard the last of this mountain/ experience.

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Mt. Kenya Summit Day 3 #MtKenyaChallenge2017

Mt Kenya Point Lenana

The sun peeping on the Mt. Kenya Slopes, just before we could summit

Just when the sleeping bag has got warm enough it was 2 am! “Guys wake up!” Peterson came to the dorms waking us up. It felt more like a nap than sleep. We all jump up, the day of Reckoning was finally here, the day we’d all been waiting, the summit was so near yet so far. It was expected we should summit before sunrise and get a glimpse of the magical rays at dawn. You could tell people were on sleep mode autopilot because we took a whooping one hour to prepare and pack our bags. We have some black tea and biscuits to reduce the probability of throwing up so I heard. The real breakfast would await us after the summit. About 3.30 we all go outside and Duncan tells us to make a single file, with the people who were susceptible to altitude sickness and crying being put in front. I was near the back with Abraham infront and Brian and Ken behind. Our headlamps glowed in the moonlit night, this was it. Peter came out to wish us well, this gent is used to this lifestyle clearly, because were I him, I’d be seriously zipped in my bag, wait, maybe he is one of those light sleepers who the lightest noise makes them wake. I would still sleep through the racket….

We start our ascend slowly up, we can only see a few metres ahead, which I later realise is a pretty good strategy to keep people going without them thinking about the steep challenge right in front. My toes are cold so are the fingertips but as we walk, the circulation helps. After about one hour Nnena and Rachel start having altitude sickness, Duncan, Habbakuk, Peterson and Ken stay behind with them to help out, true teamwork ey? I know. So up we continue and Charles is telling me how we are about to get it easier because I was starting to lag. Kuna tambarare pale halafu utaona tu Lenana tupande. My legs are completely beat Brian would be telling Kel twende tu, let’s go. Whenever someone saw my frustrated face and they ask you okay? And I tell them my legs are beat, they would be like keep pushing and go on. We all knew what to do when you got altitude sickness, drink lots of water, puke if you feel it, let the gas out, but no one had a clue about what to do with beat legs, that seemed not to have any solution. The mountain was telling me how my weekend preparations were not shit, they weren’t enough I needed more endurance, if we were batteries it seems I would be some Chinese variety when everyone else was Duracell they seemed to last and last and laaasssst haha. I’m trying to paint a picture here, anyway I think you get it. Then it happened, the sun started peeping on the eastern slope, the first rays kissed Batian giving it this beautiful amazing golden hue, absolutely breathtaking.

Mt. Kenya Batian Peak

Sun kissed Batian Peak

The guys who were ahead started to hasten up remember the sun should have found us at the summit. So it was me and Kendi and Charles. At this point it was clear that Rachel was having a tough time, but one thing I really give Rachel is her grit. You know how we are always told to never ever give up? She is the embodiment of this. It was her second time attempting to summit Lenana and she was pushing her limits to the end. Charles took her camera and told me he would make memories for her should she not be able to summit. And he did take awesome pictures…. Nnena caught up with us but she was crying, at some point she told us, “I did not get on a plane to come here only to turn back here, summiting is not an option but a must, even if I have to crawl up that mountain I will crawl but I have to get to the top!”. To be honest the determination that kept being shown repeatedly up this mountain was far greater than any of the description in management books, this was not theory it was the real deal. Olive tells us how Bonita, (oh Bonita is a travel blogger who you can view her posts here) was telling Yvonne

#MtKenyaChallenge2017

Everyone needed to summit, we were one team

‘Wewe lia tu ukimaliza tutapanda’ (just cry it out, when you finish crying we will climb). Yvonne also tells us that Bonita was telling her “I know what you are feeling hata mimi nililia na saizi Niko sawa”. This is how we finally got to have a TeamMachozi the team of free flowing tears.

When we get to what Charles was calling tambarare I sat down and my legs just said I sit. It felt so good to sit. As the other guys started going I told Charles I would not be moving an inch, Olive comes and asks me if I am okay, I tell her I’m done and I’m going to sit till my legs get better. She takes the picture below, it tells what I was really going through. It is at this point I start thinking with cuss words every second, I start thinking how it wouldn’t be so bad if I just let this slide, how there will be another opportunity. But Charles as if reading my thoughts keeps prodding me and being ever so patient.

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I remember I still have two calls to make at the summit and I wake up and trudge on. It is about 7.15am when we get to lake Harris, just when we get there the other guys start going up. There are two ladies who are coming down from Lenana, and they are walking fast, clearly these are pros. They tell us to keep on going as it is amazing up there. The I notice there are a couple of bags and Charles puts his bag down. I ask him if we would be coming back the same way, he says yes. I ask him again and he answers in the affirmative. I put my bag down and tell him twende. He asks me what about my water and snacks. Kama wewe unaenda hivyo hata mimi naenda hivyo, Chenye ingetokea kama haijatokea hadi sasa haitatokea. Plus I realised I had carried these snacks which I was not even eating, I made a note to give them all away, since we were being fed, water and juice for me were the only key things. He looked at me and realised I was dead serious and just left me to be. With ten kilos off my back I felt very light and I started to catch up with the rest of the the team. As we went higher pockets of ice were hidden on the rocks.

Highest Via Ferrata in the world

Olonana the highest Via ferrata in the world

At 9.15 we get to the summit, there is this cable and a board saying Lenana is the highest Via Ferrata in the world. I have no clue what a via ferrata is but I make a mental note to check it out later. We climb some steps and there we were. 4985m asl. I felt peace, like a load had been taken off my chest, this was it. I was tired yet excited, I went round the peak just taking it all in, this was the moment we all had been waiting for. I call my mum and told her I was actually up there. She thinks I’m crazy for doing some of these things she tells me to take pictures and she awaits the stories. The next person I call is my grandfather who asks “so did you go as part of work?” I tell him no the umpteenth time. So you decided to just go and climb a mountain? I tell him yes. He asks if I am at the top of Batian. No, I tell him Batian needs experts with ropes and picks and a board of other specialised equipment. He tells me it’s good that I’m doing these things when I can, because when I become old as he is, there will be many things you desire to do but your body says no.

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We start taking photos at the peak, Habba has become our designated camera man for the summit portraits. Wabbie is broadcasting live, this was her second time here with Loyc, then guess what? They change into black dresses and take pictures with all that cold. Wow! Well these ones were having the time of their lives. “Do you have network?” Mimie asks, “I have Airtel”, “Hotspot me, I need to post something”. The network was 2G up there I put on my data and start searching for a stronger network, if you looked at me I looked like Rafiki when he was presenting Simba to all the animals in Lion King. When you want something it’s when it starts playing games yes? Murphy’s law? Mimie goes to a higher point on the peak and lands on some good signal. I notice Yvonne is seated tears rolling down her cheeks.

Day 3 #MtKenyaEaster2017 #mtkenyachallenge2017 #summit #LenanaPeak

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You should go and have a summit photo, this is your story now taken for posterity

No, I’m not going there, actually I want to start  going down

But have you had your picture taken?

Yes, when we came someone took them with their phone

Why are you crying, how are you feeling?

I don’t know

Do you feel pain?

No, but there is a slight headache from a far. I actually cannot explain this feeling I am having

Can you describe it?

I can’t

Is it an overwhelming feeling?

Yes

The world crushing you

Yes

Lungs lacking air

Yes

Brain as well

Yes

Like some force sucking the breath out of you and you are fighting to breathe back

Yes

Well if that is what it is, then I don’t know what it is.

We have a summit photo and start our descent, this is finally over, so quick like an orgasm. There was this caldera full of ice. The ice is somewhat dirty which I am meant to understand is because of global warming and changing weather patterns.

Mt Kenya Global Warming

The world looks so small on top of a mountain… The frozen caldera. Notice the dirty ice #globalwarming

As we get to the point where we saw the first pockets of ice, you will not believe this, Bonita, whom everyone had thought had quit the #MtKenyaChallenge2017 is coming up from a far, she is coming up fast and furious. Wow! This is the determination the mountain taught us. We cheer her as much as our lungs could allow.  This was grit on another level. Charles is cheering her on, this guy is a true coach, walks with you along the way.

Bonnita on safari

Our wonder woman, Bonita coming up as we came down

When I get to the point I had left my bag we strip down, it is getting hot anyway. We rest for a few minutes and start our trek to Lake Michaelson. I am doing my sweeping duties with Kendi, Ivy and Abraham, at this moment and time nothing else seems to matter. Our faces though tired are glowing with contentment, we done did it! Kendi shows us where Shiptons camp was where we had left, to be honest if we had left when there was light, there would have been many who were not going to finish. It was a really smart idea to go under the cover of the darkness. We start seeing so many lakes in our way to Lake Michaelson, this is pure natural beauty, pure joy to be experiencing. The Mountain slopes make these intricate shapes that I cannot seem to be having enough of. I ask Kendi why I keep seeing piled stones in our path, she mentioned that is how the guides have marked the paths. The path had loose gravel and we kept on skidding, Ivy decides that will not be her struggle, she sits and slides all the way down, find the video on my day 3 pictures.

Mt Kenya Chogoria route. Scenery

The scenery on our trek to Lake Michaelson was breathtaking!

Mt Kenya Shiptons camp

Shiptons camp: It was a long way we had come…

Day 3 #MtKenyaEaster2017 #mtkenyachallenge2017 #summit #LenanaPeak

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We are hungry and are thinking about getting to the campsite and having something to fill up. At about 5.00pm we finally see the lake, it is so serene, undisturbed by intensive human activity. The water is so clear you can see the bed of the lake with the deeper parts having a green hue as a reflection of the vegetation around.

Mt Kenya Lake Michaelson

We finally make it to Lake Michaelson. Ivy and Abraham with frowns all gone, we had done did it!

We finally get to see tents, finally I will sleep in a tent, this was a trip of many firsts clearly. Duncan is clearly excited to see us, his face hides many things but this moment he was beaming he was truly happy we could tell, we get high fives for a a job well done. And are shown our apartments haha. We take our breakfast at 5.00pm and boy was that food delicious. My taste buds were back in action, sometimes I’d think, instead of shedding few kilos I might put on a few. It starts to drizzle and we get in our tent ⛺. We chat with Abraham until we fall asleep, then Ken comes calling. Their tent is leaking so he needed to occupy the one that had our bags. We quickly pick up the bags and brainstorm how we would all fit in with our bags and keep dry as well. After we arrange them I take another nap until we are called for supper. We had fresh trout for our proteins, and that fish was awesome. Inasmuch as we didn’t want to take off our gloves because of the cold the fish was good. Yes we are fish with forks and spoons, and threw away most heads shoot me lol.

Lake Michaelson

Campfire

We go around a campfire and Beatrice is coordinating Zumba sessions with our headlights as the spotlights. Guys start retiring one by one and when I get my hot water bottles I am off. Tomorrow at 6.00am I need to be up to see the magical sunshine of Lake Michaelson. I get into my sleeping bag and go into sleep as quick as I got in. The following day would be another day for the #MtKenyaChallenge.

 

 

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