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…
If there is one thing that will make me go back to Mt Kenya, it is not Lenana, not Batian not Nelion, it will be to see this beautiful and breathtaking sunrise on #LakeMichaelson again and catch trout for breakfast. Nothing else, everything else will be details…. For those fifteen minutes of absolute peace and serenity, all noise blocked out, you are just floating in your own world for those moments albeit few. Orgasmic #Breathtaking #Sunrise #MtKenyaChallenge2017 #MtKenya2017 #TeamXtrym #Hiking #MagicalKenya #Kenya #Adventure
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.
The 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.
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!
And like that the #MtKenyaChallenge2017 came to an end. Until the next mountain you have not heard the last of this mountain/ experience.
Also published on Medium.