There is something pure and lovely and crazy about the human striving to explore. And this graciousness extends to my own incessant drive for adventure.
As a group traveling to mount kilimanjaro, we each chose a word that signified some purpose for taking 6 days to hike the highest free standing mountain in the world. Before we learned about cerebral edema, mountain sickness, or had our rabies education, some little tug inside became loud enough for us to embark on a risky venture.
I selected opportunity.
I joined a group last minute on a trip entirely planne by someone else. I had no agenda beyond just showing up. With no former precedent (I usually plan my own travel wander lusts) I felt a calling to climb something big this season. So in a moment, i clutched onto an invitation most likely given as a mere curtesy; I seized it and called it my dream.
What I got was more than 5,000 meters or 19000 feet of varied terrain, pranks, prizes, huts, bargains, dusty paths, sunburns, cold hands, hot heads, acclimiztion climbs and even a trio of monkeys. I was granted three hours of sleep and one of steep mountain to trek in the middle of the night with oxygen depleted, cold lungs.
I received clarity, held fear, confronted denial, tackled impatience, charmed foreigners and escavated souls.
I did not waver (maybe fluttered, but definitely held steady!) i spearheaded and carried on and sang (a lot!) and did not get sick.
I endured, I rallied, I forgave, I relented, I accepted
I was the best version of myself that I’ve encountered in a long while. Peaceful. As if oriented to y own north star. Stripped down to the essential me-ness that exists beyond my doing and the me that subsides just by being.
So…here are my top five highs of the trip
1) the acclimization hikes…these were smaller loops that were designed to help you pay attention to how your body responds to higher elevations and less oxygen. For some reason, without any specific ground to cover or place to get to, I was pretty playful and relaxed on these jaunts.
2) my sleeping bag and liner. I know this sounds funny, but getting into my sleeping bag felt like heaven. Safe, cocooned, familiar. Truly, what I forgot is how much I resonate wi wilderness and camping. Must de done every year for me. This reconnect, to the elements, to purity, to simplification, I loved the huts, the coldness, the sense that the barrier had thinned between me and “the world”.
3) Frank. This man waited on our group almost six times a day. Bringing buckets of hot water to wash with in the morning and in he afternoon, carting up to 10 bottles 1.5 l of water for the group to remain hydrated, serving three courses meals and ensuring me I got coffee. What I loved about this man was his open and centered nature. That he watched me, and handed me peanut butter, sat me next to the hot water (for said coffee) and easily talked not just about his life but about life in general, about me, about love. On the way down after the summit, he hiked almost 45 minutes just to meet us with glasses of cold mango juice. His face beamed this pride that I have not encountered for the better part of a decade. Have you seen that face? That look that produces this flight in your core, that awareness that you’ve not just accomplished something grand, but you are grand yourself. And some one else sees it.
This is why I loved this man. For reminding me how grand I am. And that we all are, really.
4) Gilliman’ peak. Several minutes slow to hours in the middle of the cold, dark trek. The feet require trotini wind up a path only delineated by beams Of light from our headlamps. You think it’s right there, the peak (which is NOT the summit, another hour walk away from the highest point) but its not. And then you think you’ve lost all understanding of warmth, of rationalization, and you’ve arrived. The whoosh of emotion, like arriving home after a tedious separation, surges through your lungs first and your limbs last. The heart lies somewhere in between. Reaching this peak produced one of the most ask inspiring reactions ive encountered. A once in a lifetime feeling.
5) Reunited with friends at the summit. Our group divided between us four in the front and a trio in the back, and it had been about five hours since our separation. Wed seen and heard that many people had turned back, and after 30 minutes at the summit, in oxygen depleting cold gusts, we believed this fate fell to our comrades. So when we met them just minutes after turning from the summit, this homecoming pride and elation created a happy reunion. Shared pride is the best of all, and of course, we recelebrated with verve.
This is one heck of a climb, and I, I am blessed for the rest of my life for the summit.
I am a hopeless wanderer….I will learn to love the skies I am under….(Mumford and Sons)