The Road To Kilimanjaro

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On November 2006 I went on my first overseas trip to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia to climb Mt. Kinabalu. It was a life-changing trip as it opened my eyes to many things and possibilities.

South Peak in Mt Kinabalu

South Peak in Mt Kinabalu.

More Mt. Kinabalu trek photos can be found here.

On my way down from the summit of Mt. Kinabalu, I met a middle-aged Malaysian climber. We chit-chat and he mentioned to me about his plans of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro after Mt. Kinabalu. He told me that it was something doable as it doesn’t require any technical climbing skills.

After I came back from the Kinabalu climb, I researched more about Mt. Kilimanjaro and became more interested with it. Aside from being the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5,895m, one of the things that really fascinated me about Mt. Kilimanjaro is its unique vegetation. There are 5 main vegetation zones from the lowest point to the highest point namely: farmland, forest, heather and moorland, highland dessert and the snow-capped summit. Looking at the landscape photos made my heart skip a beat and excited. From thereon, I dreamed of trekking Kili someday.

One of the biggest challenges in trekking Kilimanjaro for me was the cost of the whole trip. The airfare getting to Tanzania and the cost of the trekking package was already quite very expensive for me. It’s not possible to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro independently without a mountain guide as the park authorities had made it compulsory for all trekkers to arrange their walk through a licensed agency.

Aside from this, there’s the cost of buying gear/equipment for the trek, vaccinations and the mandatory tips for the guide, cook and porters.  Add this all up and I needed a considerable amount of money if I wanted to fulfill this dream.

In 2008 I decided to leave my home country in search of better of opportunities abroad so I can fund my Kilimanjaro trek as well as my other travel plans. I remember my former manager asking me why I have to quit my job and go overseas to fund this trek. I explained to him how expensive the trek was going to be. Then, he asked me further why I just can’t find someone to sponsor my trek. I can no longer remember my exact reply to him but I remembered what was going on in my mind that time. I’m not an elite athlete or a high profile mountaineer. That time the only high altitude mountains I’ve climbed so far were Mt. Apo (2,954m) and Mt. Kinabalu (4,095m). There are certainly more strong and fit mountaineers in my country who deserve the sponsorship much more than myself. So off I went to work overseas to save money for my Kili dream.

Hiking to the summit of Mt Apo with Lake Venado in the background

Hiking to the summit of Mt Apo with Lake Venado in the background

My 2nd summit of Mt Apo in October 2007

My 2nd summit of Mt Apo on October 2007

More Mt. Apo trekking photos can be found here.

While overseas, I didn’t had much opportunity to do any major trek except for the Mt. Rinjani trek in Lombok, Indonesia on July 2009. I did however kept myself fit by running which also became a separate obsession. I had this mindset that if I keep myself fit I will be ready to go to Kili anytime once I have the money.

Mt Rinjani, Mt Baru (crater volcano) and Segara Anak (crater lake)

Mt Rinjani, Mt Baru (crater volcano) and Segara Anak (crater lake)

Me with Mt Rinjani, Mt Baru and Segara Anak in the background.

Me with Mt Rinjani, Mt Baru and Segara Anak in the background.

More Mt Rinjani trekking photos can be found here.

Running which has also become a separate passion and obession. Photo by shutterunning.com during Columbia Trail Masters Thailand

Running which has also become a separate passion and obsession. Photo by shutterunning.com during Columbia Trail Masters Thailand

On May 2010 I purchased 3 books from Amazon all about trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro. My favorite is Henry Stedman’s “Kilimanjaro: The trekking guide to Africa’s highest mountain“. The book provided lots of information about how I was going to plan my Kili trek from budgeting, selecting a route, deciding when to go, selecting a trekking agency, gear/equipment needed for the trek, climbing preparations, dealing with AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness) and many others.

I inquired about the prices of the trekking package provided by the different trekking agencies so I have a rough idea about the budget. Booking directly through a travel agent in Tanzania would definitely be cheaper as basically I’m cutting the middleman however, I had some concerns. If I select a travel agency in Singapore where I was based, I can be sure that they’re not going to run away with my hard-earned money and if I had any questions or issues about the climb it would be easier to contact and ask them.

I didn’t really told anyone about my plans except for a few close friends as I wanted to keep a low profile. I know that not all people share the same passion and dream with me. Some expressed interest in climbing Kili but they told me they have no budget for it as it’s too expensive. One friend expressed real interest but initial planning already indicated differences about certain choices.

There were plenty of important decisions to be made. Choosing a travel agency and trekking companion or going on my own can make or break the success of the trek. One thing I was already decided was the route I was going to take in Kili. Pretty much I was decided in taking the Machame route (also known as the “Whiskey Route”) as I have read this route is quite scenic and offers good acclimatization which will increase my chances of summiting.

Initially I was targeting to do the trek end of 2011 or early 2012 however, it was a very challenging and tumultuous year for me. I got laid off plus I had to deal with personal issues. I found a new job in 2012 and there was no way to squeeze in the Kili trek.

I kept wondering how long I must wait more to fulfill this dream. There came to a point each time I was on the bus on my way to work I kept thinking about the purpose of my life. If my life is just all about earning more money to have a more secure future. I was getting frustrated that I have become a coward and have become afraid to take risks. Then, I started to think again how I risked everything a few years ago to take my first step in accomplishing my Kili dream. I made a vow to myself that I was going to do the Kili trek before the year ends in 2013 no matter what happens. No more excuses.

In September 2012 I received a message in Facebook from one of my Malaysian friends.

“I remember a few years back you told me that you wanted to climb Kilimanjaro. I have a team here who will be going in February 2013. The cost is about SGD7,000. Let me know if you are interested. If you are, you are still subjected to “approval” from the team leader AND the rest of the team. Let me know soon, ok?”

My heart was pounding with excitement however, it was only short-lived. It was not possible for me to do the trek on February 2013 due to vacation leave constraints. I also thought based on my research I can get a cheaper price than this.

At the start of the second quarter of 2013 I made a life-changing decision. I quit my job and committed myself to pursue my Kili dream. By then I was decided to do trek on my own as I didn’t want to wait any longer who will go with me. I have done solo backpacking many times before but it was all in Southeast Asia. The thought of going to Africa and climbing Kili on my own was quite scary but I tried to keep positive thoughts and motivated myself that it’s all part of the adventure.

 

*This post is part of my Kilimanjaro Diary:
En Route to Kilimanjaro
Planning and Preparing for Kilimanjaro

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