Well, I’ve only gone and done it again; that’s twice now in under 12 months that I’ve managed to successfully scale Mount Kilimanjaro. Anyone who knows me will know what a huge feat this is for me – I’m not well known for my athleticism, and I’m entirely un-designed aerodynamically for this type of physical challenge. Furthermore, I have a huge penchant for large Toblerone and slabs of Galaxy Chocolate. Still, I digress. When I stood on the top of the world, having this time successfully led 11 out of 13 of my crew to the top of Kilimanjaro, the sense of relief was immense.
I hadn’t expected it, but doing the climb for the second time was actually harder than the first. Well, physically it was surprising much easier this time, despite significantly less training as my muscle memory kicked into gear and off I went each day walking with good strength, cutting my own time to Gilman’s Point by almost 2 hours.
The problem was that I knew what was coming around the corner each day. Mentally I was aware of what was about to be presented to us as the next challenge of the day, and that made it incredibly difficult mentally.
There were certainly times when I thought I couldn’t go on.
For a start, my whole reason for going up there in the first place was to get Sukhi Wahiwala, my dear friend and Living Big business partner’s arse to the top. Sadly, he fell and grazed his knee within the first 90 minutes of the trek, and by day three we knew he had to go down. By the evening of day four as he arrived at the hospital it was turning gangrenous and we knew he’d made the right decision to send him down.
So, unfortunately, once Sukhi went down, my whole reason for getting to the top had changed. Getting Sukhi to the top was my whole reason for my organising the trip to begin with. And so once it had became evident that he wasn’t going to make it, my motivation to continue struggled and wavered. I needed a new spark – I found that spark by reminding myself and focusing upon the fact that I was the leader and putting myself in the mindset that I had to lead by example.
For me, this year was all about learning how to lead and be the person in charge. That was my challenge, because I’m not comfortable being at the front. I’m comfortable leading from behind and leading by example with my enthusiasm and motivation. But here I found I had to be the logistical leader as well and the Commander in Chief; that was not something that I was comfortable with.
I found it incredibly challenging having people lean on me for support and direction, but that was the role I’d moved into.
Fortunately all the feedback I got was very positive indeed, despite what my own head told me.
I was lucky enough to be with some incredibly inspiring people – Mala Shah, for one, who was the person who actually inspired me to go up Kilimanjaro back in 2011 in the first place. It was like full circle leading her up this time.
And a special mention must go out to a brilliant guy and wingman named Rajan, who was part of the successful team from my previous trip too.
It was thanks to these folks, and everyone else on the team who bought their energy and played a massive part of maintaining my mindset and managing to keep my morale so high. A particular round of applause for the first ever clown to successfully summit Kilimanjaro in full costume. In fact Bubblz the Clown remained in “clown” persona for the whole trip, including the Safari and both flights there and back.
Another thing I hadn’t expected was to be so impressed with some of the guides this time around. In fact, there was one senior guide in particular that enthralled me so much with his positivity, his attitude and his desire to improve his life that I’ve taken him on under my scholarship plan (FOC) as a mentee. We started working together last week; our phone chats have begun with talking about what he wants from life – and I guess partly what I think he would benefit from, because he may not have been exposed to too many Western business ideas in his life previously, and his limiting belief is that he just needs money thrown at him. Such is the culture of education that time and time again I meet people who just believe that money will save them, when ultimately ideas and the courage to take action are much more useful to long term growth and development.
So we’re discussing what it looks like for him to be the go-to man for safaris and Kilimanjaro climbing in Tanzania. Its such a great feeling when you can do something so deserving for someone who could really do with a break in life, just because you can.
So whist climbing Kilimanjaro was something I myself got so much out of personally, of course, it all comes down to doing something good for others. The charity that I dedicated my trek to for the second time was Fairtunes. www.fairtunes.org.
Fairtunes brings music to underdeveloped and undernourished communities around the world. So rather than just chucking money at people and saying go and feed yourselves, it’s giving them a hobby or a love or something that they can enjoy in life. It’s about giving them a thrill and a reason to get up in the morning. With around four or five projects around the world currently, they’re always looking to set up new ones. I’m hoping the £1500 or so that I’ve raised this time around (half as much as last year) will go some way to helping them do that.
Everyone else on the trek raised well-earned funds too for various charities, and some have signed up to do it again next year – including Sukhi, who is determined to make it to the top next time.
For me, though, I’m hoping to take a rest next year and lead from the hotel resort at sea level. While my muscle memory was great, and my body understood what was happening enough for me to get through it, climbing Kilimanjaro is such hard work. It’s a battle against altitude and fatigue and exhaustion. Once is a challenge, twice turned out to be unnecessary, aside from the beautiful relationships I built with the team members. I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead. Now I hope you’ll excuse me while I put my feet up and indulge in a much-deserved Toblerone… Well, unless someone changes my mind!!!
This is a story that needs to be told. Well, at least I need to tell it. I’m bound by my commitment to return the favour that the Spirit of the Universe deemed appropriate for me to recover, to then pass it on.