Intrepid 7 climb Kilimanjaro for us

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Huge thanks to Denise Martin-Laurie leading her team of 7 undertaking the massive challenge to climb Kilimanjaro in October this year.

Denise has been a long time supporter of ours – attending several events over the years and I am so pleased that she wants to support us again.

Having tackled Kilimanjaro myself a few years back I tip my hat to them!  It is a tough climb.

All the very best to you Denise, Steven, Dave, Claire, Grant, Alison and Sandy – take it slow and steady and enjoy the views.

Their fundraising page can be found here

Meet the team

Review of 2013

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Every year has highs and lows and 2013 was no different.

I am going to stick with telling you about the highs!  And one of them was very high indeed – the tallest freestanding mountain in the world – and we climbed it.  31 intrepid folk raised over £120,000 for It’s Good 2 Give and 24 of them got to the top. While I was one of the 7 who didn’t get that high I am incredibly proud of what I achieved both in terms of fundraising, looking after the group before the trek and ‘trekking’ up That Hill.  Because you see, I did my best.  What more can you ask?

The best way to tell a story about a year is with pictures.  I actually could still give you hundreds more such was the community spirit of our fundraising – I have collected dozens of cheques from all kinds of fundraisers, met some amazing folk, got us a bus (Oh yes, if you know me, you know how I love ‘our’ bus), organised 12 major events (even I couldn’t do that again!) attended dozens more – we have a superb team of Patrons, Trustees, Ambassadors, volunteers and supporters all working hard to help us get to that £1m!

This year we have raised over £300,000 and been gifted a piece of land on which to build our Retreat

Thanks again to you all for supporting us – please watch this space for news of 2014 events.




Day 7 Kilimanjaro

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I was astonished by the number of It’s Good 2 Give Kilimanjaro team who surfaced early on this morning – I expected more to have a lie-in. Kathy was up early letting Aileen get ready on her own.   Susie and I breakfasted then sat with Kathy.  More and more joined us.  Around 0930 Noel called to say he was organising transport to take anyone who wished into Moshi for a shopping excursion.  I spread the word round those who were awake and up.  I was staying behind to try to help Kathy with her insurance company – dealing with insurance companies is hard enough when you are well and this company proved as tricky as any you can imagine.   I couldn’t get through to their office from either of my mobiles so enlisted help from my Ian in Edinburgh.  He managed to get through to them with difficulty and then came all the things we had to do.  Answer 7 questions by email or fax.  Well the hotel didn’t have fax but kindly let me use their computer to send an email.  Oh who remembers the days of dial up broadband?  I had forgotten all about them but was reminded during the following hour and a half it took me to send one small email.  I mean what if you were in a country with worse communications than we had.  Ours were pretty good really. Anyway we got the email sent finally.

It took several calls from Edinburgh and from Africa, from me, Ian, Graham (orthopaedic consultant who wonderfully happened to be in our team ) and from Kathy but finally they agreed to send Kathy home with some of the team returning on friday night.

Meantime, we had arranged a visit in the afternoon to a home for street children – about a dozen of us went along.  The place was clean, the kids seemed happy – we had a very interesting tour and played games with the boys – and let them take photos – They really loved using our cameras and seeing the results.  We had taken out a lot of items of clothing donated by Next clothing, shoes bought by friends of mine, sweets we had spare, and 17kg pencils donated by Derwent Pencil Company.  We kept most of the pencils to give to another charity, The Vine Trust who would distribute them for us.

I was able to fill a suitcase with all the clothes and stationery and shoes for the way out – we had a huge luggage allowance on KLM.   Debbie, one of the team, had sorted all the pencils and bagged them into 1kg bags and most of the team were more than happy to take a bag each so we did pretty well getting all the items out there.  We also took half a dozen Baxterbears – one went right to the top of Kilimanjaro – I don’t have the photo of that yet but it will be a special one for Daisy who ‘is’ Baxterbear.  She is a great supporter of ours and donates little bears for our young guests at our afternoon tea events and arranges that the real Baxterbear visits at those events.  Daisy will be so chuffed about the little Baxterbear who got to the top.

I do still chuckle to think of the games that went out to Africa and came home to Scotland unused.  We gave some of them away to the home for street kids but they were not all appropriate.  The pub quiz for example!

I think many of us are changed by this experience – I know I am.  When I think of how dreadful I felt and how I had a choice, and exercised that choice, to come out of a situation where I felt ill, I think how lucky I was to be able to do that.  The children we support do not have that choice.  When their mouths gets ulcers from treatment, when they throw up constantly from chemo, have no taste of food or desire for it, when they have a stroke because of the treatment they are on, or the many many other side effects that are beyond horrible, they can’t say no thanks I won’t bother with this one.  Their parents have to sit by helpless watching as they suffer.  How must that feel?

I am so grateful to each and every member of our Kilimanjaro team for undertaking this unbelievably tough challenge and for raising more than £115,000 for It’s Good 2 Give.  Most of us have felt pretty rough this week – today, Friday is the first day I have felt almost back to normal.  I know from our Facebook group how proud the team are of their achievements and so they should be.  Well done everyone and thank you so very much.  We will put the money you helped raise to good use!

Now, if you know anyone who would like baselayers, Icebreaker sweater (never worn), Berhaus base layers, washbags, trek towels send them my way – I have a few items for sale (all proceeds to my fundraising!!)

Hanging up the trekking boots and concentrating on other ways of fundraising!!

Hope you have enjoyed my side of our Kilimanjaro story – I hope to add in some guest blog posts for you in the days ahead.

Thank you for your support too  – we’ve all loved it.


Days 5 and 6 Kilimanjaro

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Around 2am on Day 5 I got a text in from Noel to say that Kathy has been x-rayed, plastered, and is in the hospital.  I reply that I want to see her first thing and will be up and ready.  Fortunately Angela is a nurse with considerable orthopaedic experience and she wants to come along too.  It’s a fitful sleep even though it is on a lovely bed!!  I am concerned for Kathy.  We are up and showered early – not dressed yet when there is a knock on our door.  I think it must be Noel and rush to the door.  It opens outwards, the door.  I nearly floor Kathy!   We cannot believe our eyes – there she is standing in front of us on crutches.   I am so pleased to see her looking not bad.  After quickly dressing we go over to the restaurant for breakfast and she tells us she is to return to the hospital and will be picked up at 0700 – we ask if we can come and she is so pleased.

Off we head to the hospital which is about 30minutes away.   To say that the visit to the hospital is an interesting experience is an understatement.  Noel is amazing – speaks to people to fast track us and we are to move from casualty waiting room to orthopaedic waiting room.  But wait, the doctor comes who has given Kathy the loan of the crutches the night before.  He has to take them back!  We try, we really do to keep them but they probably belong to someone in a ward who is just waking up to wonder where their crutches disappeared to in the night.   Angela and I become Kathy’s human crutches.  It’s not easy maneuvering in a narrow corridor.  We get to the orthopaedic waiting room.  It is incredibly full.  and everyone has  a broken leg.  Someone kindly vacates a seat for Kathy and we hover nearby.  I suddenly need to visit the bathroom (still got gippy tummy) and wonder where it is.  Angela goes off in search and finds the toilets.  I nearly laughed out loud on entering the room.  Remember I said everyone had a broken leg in the waiting room?  Well, the toilet was a long drop.  Not only was it a longdrop it was also up on a concrete plinth you had to step up onto.  Eh??  Fine (though not nice) for me but how on earth was anyone with a broken leg going to manage?   The ‘flush’ was a stainless steel bottle (oh please please don’t tell me it was  a urinal bottle) that you filled with water and errr flushed.   No soap.  Thank goodness we took out shares in Johnson and Johnson before we left and bought extra cases to transport our wetwipes!  (almost true)

Eventually Kathy is called through to see doctor and her human crutches manhandle her through narrow doorways to a seat in a quite small room.  There were at least three other consultations going on in this room and the patient table/bed was being used as a desk – all files laid out neatly.  Goodness knows what they would do if a patient needed to lie on it.  The doctor couldn’t find Kathy’s x-rays so we had to move to back of the room while a search party was sent out to find them.  Just as well we can’t understand much swahili as we were almost right beside folk in their consultations with doctors.  Finally they find them and the doctor calls us over.  We soft shoe shuffle over to near him.  Plonk Kathy on the seat.  He confirms there are two breaks and it needs surgery but could be in Scotland.  This is good news. He will put a backslab plaster on it to keep it safe and that will see her home.  This involves buying all the bits needed for the plaster first though so we are taken to another room to wait.  It is a grim room with a technician sawing off a plaster off an older lady’s leg.  We are in his way and  he gets a bit grumpy and tells us to go into the room next door.  Noel arrives with the box of plaster stuff and the doc arrives and sets to applying the plaster.  Noel is asked to help!  We are still to get crutches.  Have to be paid for before getting them and they need measured – so we go to the OT department for that.

Much later we get Kathy back to the hotel and work out a routine for elevating her leg – in the dining room we get an extra chair and in the bar area there is a settee that is a perfect fit for her.  It is also perfect for Angela and me keeping her company as it is in the wi-fi zone!!

I had asked Noel to keep me informed of the group’s progress and we get regular texts from him – I was delighted to know that 24 of the group got to the summit of Kilimanjaro but I will be honest and say that the best message I got was that they were all back down and heading to the hotel.  (that was on Day 6 of course).

Day 5 dinner was fun – there was only us to feed I think and Joseph and his staff looked after us well.

Day 6 was a quiet day – we kept Kathy company and sorted pain meds for her via Noel.  But we were all keen to see everyone return.  It was with much joy I saw the bus arrive at the hotel with our adventurers.  They spilled out the bus all desperate for showers and a beer.

Joseph organised champagne for us all and I took great pleasure in writing up the certificates then handing them out with the medals I had made here in Edinburgh.  I wished that they were made of gold such was my admiration of every single member of our team.  I can assure you we have all ‘earned’ our sponsorship money!

It was good to meet up again with my tent buddy Susie – she had been pretty poorly up that hill and done amazingly well – we had lots to catch up on.  By this time I had sorted my luggage and had a pile of items to leave for the porters – rucksack, boots, socks, some other kit.  I won’t be needing it again.  Fortunately as I had brought two extra cases with me – more on that in tomorrow’s blog – I was able to help Susie and Elaine out – their cases were damaged beyond use on the way out so I could give each of them a case to come home with. I just had to get all my gear into one case and my on board bag. Leaving some kit behind worked out well with that then. I can relate to how the team enjoyed those first showers – you are so dirty after a few days up the mountain.

I have a few photos from the hospital but not many from these two days.  Again, I will try to get a guest blog post from one of the team for you to read about their experience of summiting Kilimanjaro!

Days 3 and 4 Kilimanjaro challenge

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Another early start to Day 3  – 0530 wake up.  Not that it mattered as not many of us managed sleep.  Susie and I were frozen and vowed to wear more or somehow do better in our tent for following night! It is still pitch black at  0530 and the sky is stunning – I honestly cannot tell you how fabulous the stars are when there is no light pollution to spoil your view.

Usual brekkie – lovely cup of Kilimanjaro tea and bit of bread and omelette and my Stoats bar.  I made myself eat but couldn’t taste a thing.   One of the team expressed a wish to go down – the guide and others encouraged her to stay, to give this day a go.  My plans before we went were quite simple.  Any member of the team goes down early, then I (or Lee as co-group leader) go down with them.  So I said, fine, I will go down with her.  We would have a guide too.  Bless Lee. He offered to go down.  The way I felt about altitude sickness at this point I knew I was not going to get to the top and he had every chance plus he would be way more use to the team than me!  A good decision, it turned out.

All of a sudden though my co-climber decided she would give Day 3 a go and off we went to join the rest of the team.

This was to be a slow and long day as we climbed to 4600m to a point called Lava Tower then descended to Baranco Camp at 3950m to spend the night.  To be honest there isn’t much I can tell you about this day. I felt dreadful.  I barely saw anything other than the square metre in front of me.  Head down, plod on.  Upset tummy meant a few unscheduled stops.  The landscape was impressive with huge boulders (made of lava, I assume) so quite good for those pitstops!  However this was also a very busy route and you were never alone – there were a few groups doing same climb as us and we passed each other often that day.  One moment of note was when the Aussies and Kiwis were above us and stood in line along a ledge which looked down to us and did the Haka.  Ooh, that was a goosebumps moment.   (especially for me as my dad was born a Kiwi)

I kept stopping for a rest and saying I couldn’t go on.  Julius and Super Ali, our guides, kept encouraging me.  Come on, Mama Simba, you can do it. And funnily enough, Mama Simba could do it.  I was relieved later to hear from the team how tough they found this day too.   Our breathing was getting more and more laboured the higher we got.  I remember Angela asking how far it was to Lava Tower and being told half an hour and my already faster beating heart sinking as we realised it was more likely to be nearer two hours away!  (African time again).  We passed a sign saying Lava Tower with an arrow pointing up.  Still couldn’t see it.  Over a wee ridge and hoped to see it. Nope!  Julius says oh there are some of our group ahead and we can see little figures away in the distance.

We meet a Russian family of five who, we are told, has taken 10 hours to get where we were.  The mum is feeling altitude sickness.  I think wow its only taken us five hours!  Five hours of steady plodding. My legs felt great. Strong. But I was also seeing things.  I saw a black cat then some butterflies.  At first I thought I really had seen them! Then I thought I was going mad.  I decided not to mention any of this.  I heard sheep and cows – looked around and ‘saw’ these sheep in the distance.   Folk have suggested that the Malarone, anti-malarial drug I was on, can make you see things and perhaps it was a combination of both.  I do know it felt weird.

finally we see the immense rock that is Lava Tower – I don’t know how far away it is but it looks far.  Julius says we can go down a path to our right which is a ‘shortcut’.  Angela and I jump (well ok not literally) at this opportunity.  We are at 4550m at this point. The rest of the team have had their lunch at Lava Tower.  Two climbers later told me they got to Lava Tower and almost collapsed with altitude effects.  They swayed, then sat down and couldn’t get up again for a good while.  Incredibly, the cook had made them fresh chips and chicken curry!

Meantime, Angela and I were plodding on along this ‘shortcut’ – we went down into this valley but then had to climb again – two smaller hills taking us to the height of Lava Tower.  I saw a porter behind us and said does he want past?  No, said Julius – I asked him to bring you two some lunch.  Honestly, we cannot praise the guides and porters more highly. Their kindness was very welcome.  Only problem was – for us it was cold chips and chicken curry!   With no appetite anyway I tried to force a chip but couldn’t.  I tried to eat a mini Mars bar and couldn’t.  I think we managed a bit of toasted bread each and a cup of tea. We were joined by these massive Ravens with the biggest beaks you have ever seen.  They were kinda  scarey but waited till thrown some scraps by Julius.   At least Julius and Super Ali got fed.

Hours passed as we slowly made our way along paths.  We had long since stopped asking how far.  We’d get there when we got there.  Hopefully before dark.

All of a sudden we came to this valley – a long valley.  It was so pretty.  Flowers to see (easy even for me as they were in my one square metre ahead of me vision), a little stripey mouse (I thought I was seeing things again but no, it was real.  A four stripe mouse), birds. Well, I heard them but was too tired to lift my head to look at them.  It was hard going down.  Slippy mud and very slippy scree.  You had to dig your poles hard into the ground to stop yourself slipping. I nearly came a cropper as I went flying on one particularly slippy bit but Julius and Ali caught me.  I escaped with a few more bruises to add to the list of ‘war wounds’.

We could see the last of the team just ahead of us and finally caught sight of the camp.  It was almost 6pm and sun was going down.  The strangest thing happened.  I had gone into the previous two camps exhausted and tearful.  This one though I felt like a victor – euphoric, laughing, done in yes but mentally different!   I was looking for Susie and shouting on her but no one knew where our tent was. I had worried about her all day, with good reason it turns out.  She had been sick most of the way.  Jo, her guide, rubbing her back as she was sick.  How she did that walk I do not know.  Well, I do actually.  She thought of what her little girl had to go through on chemo and how often she was sick.  She dug as deep as was humanly possible and walked on. Amazing woman.  Very proud of her.

I met Lee and he highfived me saying well done.  I said yep for sure well done!  I was so proud of myself for getting to that height.  I also knew that I was going down after this night – I hated the altitude sickness, the breathlessness, headache, hallucinations.  We were all adults and had choices – maybe, pre-Andrew’s incident, I might have gone on but since 5 January 2012 our lives are different and I had several very important to me people not wanting me to take even small risks.  Pre-Andrew’s incident I would have been disappointed not to get to the top.  But all I felt then (and every moment since) was pride in how high I had got and how strong my legs still felt.  Shouting on Susie I heard this little voice from a tent near the mess tent saying I am in here.  Given how sick she had been all day she looked remarkably well. We hugged and chatted (that was an improvement – the night before she couldn’t chat she was so sick), went to mess tent for some soup then back to bed.  Oh boy, here we go again.  After last night’s freezing cold we were layering up.  I took off my trousers for first time in days and donned my thermal leggings, put trousers back on top.  changed my t shirt for a thermal top and added another on top then my fleece.  kept my hat on and didn’t take my socks off for five days! climbed into my fleece sleeping bag liner then into the sleeping bag.  huffing and puffing.  Then I heard the laughter from next door’s tent.  Anne and Catherine were poorless at me and wanting to know what was going on with the noises.  In the end I had to get Susie to zip me up .  We all did a Walton’s goodnight then.  You lay there and your heart was thumping in your chest from the mild exertion of getting in your sleeping bag.  Surely surely as we were so done in and tired we would sleep.  Well, we did.  A little.  But not enough.  Nowhere near enough.

0530 start – pack up – something hard to do at this height – you get out of breath so easily and quickly.  I walk to look at the Baranco Wall – the part of the challenge that had scared me the most.  Turns out most of the thought the Baranco Wall was the best bit!  Everyone I have spoken to loved it. Go figure. Looked incredible to me. However me and Angela were heading down so went off with our guide, KP to start the descent.  We had been told 2-3 hours to get down.  Even by African time standards, that was a stretch.  It took us 7 hours. They took us down the toughest ascent route.  Glad they didn’t tell us that at the start.  So while our team-mates were heading up the Baranco Wall we were doing our own rock climbing and we weren’t slow either. Every day of this challenge took me outside my comfort zone and this day was no different.  I hate heights and we found ourselves on ledges, clambering down high boulders, hanging onto tree trunks, roots to slide down, hoping there were no serious creepy crawlies also hanging onto said roots!! We had no food with us (2-3hour walk remember?) so only had a wee pack of iced gem biscuits for fuel and our water. Coming down gave me a black toenail and a bump on my second toe and a massive blister on other big toe but as we came down further and further (through the clouds) our breathing became easier, the headache eased and that made you feel much better.  Our guide was always miles ahead of us and we tried very hard to keep up.   For hours we were just us three. In itself that was noteworthy as the Machame Route was seriously busy.  But that was when the guide told us this was a less used route as it was so tough for the ascent.  Tough for the descent too.

A young man and two guides passed us at one point.   We were to meet up again a couple of hours later.  He too had altitude sickness at Baranco camp and had to leave his friends to come down.  Eugene from Germany.  I know where he worked, lived, his holidays, his family – because we had to wait for an hour on the Park vehicle to come get us. He too talked about African time!  If they say a time you can treble it he said. Yeah, we know.  Our guide, KP had gone off to find the vehicle and been away an hour worryingly.  However he came back very cross – the Park vehicle was a bus and it couldn’t get up the road and we had to walk to it.  Another hour.  More alarmingly though he gave me his phone to speak with Noel from the Moshi office of Really Wild Challenges.  Another member of our team had slipped and probably broken her leg.  They were trying to get a helicopter to get her to hospital.  Thanking him for telling me I asked him to keep me in the loop.  I was extra thankful to be down – or almost down.  The road to the vehicle was superslippy and I was conscious I didn’t want to join Kathy in the hospital so slowed down.  We all got safely to the vehicle, after doing the paperwork and signed out of the camp we were dropped off at the Weru Weru Lodge.  Fortunately they were quiet and we got a room for the following two nights.  I had taken enough dollars to pay cash for the room thank goodness.  After calling Ian and showering we had dinner and waited on updates about Kathy.

From her own account to us later – she had got up the Baranco Wall, loved it, was walking along some scree and slipped.  She knew it was broken right away.  Luckily for her, Lee and Rhona were near her.  Lee, as well as participating in and running challenges for Breaking Strain Events is also a trained fire and rescue person and Rhona is an intensive care nurse who, in her spare time, is part of Borders Mountain Rescue team.  They went into action, making her splints and bandaging her up for transport.  Also on our team was an orthopaedic consultant – he came back to see her and wrote down his diagnosis for her to take to the hospital.  (He was spot on. )   The helicopter was no use as the weather had changed and so four guides and porters carried her down in a stretcher. As I was already down the team knew that I would do any looking after necessary and no one else had to come down.

She told Angela and I about the ten hours it took to get her off the mountain.  How she went through the clouds, high above the porters heads or when they went through the lava fields and had to turn the stretcher on its side to get in between the massive boulders of lava, she almost felt her nose brush the stones! She has much admiration for the guys carrying her – remembers hearing their huffing and puffing and realising how hard they were working to get her to safety.  From time to time they would stop to check on her and give her a drink and make sure she was warm enough. How relieved she was to get to the car and then to the hospital.  After x-rays and a temporary bandage she was to come back to the hotel and return to the hospital next morning for a consultation.  How she asked for crutches and was told that department was shut!  Kathy is strong though and said she needed them – how was she going to get to the bathroom or anywhere for that matter on her own.  Finally the doctor went to a ward and ‘borrowed’ a pair for her.

I’ll ask her when she is better to write a guest blog about that day for you.  Meantime all you have is what I remember her telling us.

Same goes for the rest of the team who went over the Baranco Wall and onwards – we shall see if one of them will write a guest blog about their day.

For now, though that is all about days 3 and 4.

Hardly any photos from me but I hope to add some from the others in time.


Days 1 and 2 of Kilimanjaro Challenge

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I’ve long since stopped describing it as a Trek!  Very very far from being a Trek.  We saw that from the moment we set out.

So, we get up at 0630 and take our luggage over to reception at Weru Weru Lodge – head to breakfast which is served outside as the weather is so gorgeous.  Porridge which is red (eh?) and runny.  Never touch the stuff so am happy to avoid.  Boiled eggs sadly cooked every single time so that there is a black mark round the yolk, fried potatoes, tomatoes and beans.  The girl managing the toaster is being challenged by it – we seem to get warm bread rather than toast! It still goes well with the peanut butter or local honey.   Gorgeous rosa or passion juice.  Tea and Coffee.  We fuel up and head out to bus and jeep. Our kit bags are weighed by Head Guide Julius.  We all watch this process with fear!   However we all seem to have done ok as no one is asked to take stuff out.  Phew.

On the bus, Louise gets out her video camera and we do a short lively rendition of When the Going gets tough, the tough get going.  We hope we continue to live up to that.

It’s about 40minutes to the entrance to the National Park so there is time to take in the surrounding area.  Plenty of coffee plants, you see young children with their herds of goats to manage, or with big plastic containers of water to carry.  The children look no more than 10 years old. Tough life. We think about the fact we can turn on a tap at home and drink the water straight from it. Here, they queue up for the ‘water’ van to come.   And have miles to walk before getting home with their heavy loads. The soil we see is rich red and dry.  Our bags, boots, clothes are covered in this red dust.  We see oxen pulling carts, houses made of sticks, mud, dung.  So many houses started and not finished. A butcher’s shop that is barely more than a shed with huge cuts of meat hanging in the open.  People lay out fruit and veg on tables at the end of their paths/houses selling to passers-by.  Boys cycling along the road with massive loads of bananas straight from the tree (actually looks like the tree is still attached), quite steady but goodness knows how.  To my horror I see young cyclists hanging onto the back of lorries to get up the hill (lorries here are beyond slow and struggle with the merest hint of hill).  The others beside me are taking photos and chuckling at him but I will be honest and say I found this one of the hardest things to look at – cyclist/back of lorry – too close to home to watch.

As we approach the gates to the National Park the bus falters, shudders – finds it impossible to go any further without some of us getting off.  I scoot off with a few others and am immediately surrounded by guys wanting to sell me the Tanzanian flag, hats, scarves, footballs (what?  to play footie up the mountain??) and goodness knows what else.   We get through the gate – they aren’t allowed through.  The bus manages to get going again.  Ursula, the driver, has her work cut out with that vehicle!   Next stop, passport control.  Yep, you need to show your passport to get into the Kilimanjaro National Park.   Once that’s done, we all rush to get to the loo as this is last stop with a ‘proper’ loo.  In the ladies, there are two cubicles, but one is a long drop toilet and one an ordinary toilet.  (though I accept that in Africa, long drop is more the ordinary toilet).  Long drop toilets are err, interesting.  Good for your upper leg muscles!

Onto collecting our packed lunch boxes.  Dodging the monkeys who would like to have your lunch box too – we also collect our water.  Fill up our camelbaks, bottles.  This bit didn’t go as smoothly as we were led to believe but I’ll gloss over that for time being.

African time again – we have to wait and wait till all bags are weighed again and porters loaded up.

Finally it is time to head off and we quickly get right into the jungle/foresty part of the climb.  Everyone says to admire the scenery, to stop and look around you.  Truthfully, there isn’t much time for that – and the paths are so rough that you need to watch where you are walking so most of the time you are seeing one square metre in front of you!   We had a few stops this day and it was truly stunning to find ourselves quite quickly above the clouds.  That was a wowzer moment.   Our first toilet stops were just moments of pure hilarity as we avoided the purpose built long drop toilets in tiny sheds that were pitch black and went behind them only to find evidence that others had done the same and you REALLY had to be careful where you put your feet. Thank goodness for wetwipes.

Our lunch stop was a wee clearing in the forest and we opened our boxes with excitement and hunger.  What was going to be inside?  Well, it was a toasted honey sandwich.  A banana or apple, an inedible chicken leg, a carton of juice and a mini Mars bar.  Ooh, chocolate.  Yum.  Nope.  Must be made differently to withstand the African heat or something but every single Mars bar we had tasted the same. weird.  You quickly got used to the toasted honey sandwich – it was after all fuel!

I am not sure how long we walked but it was about 5ish when we got to first camp.  One thing we did note that the path was like Piccadilly Circus – other climbers, porters and guides constantly passing us.   Camp was made up of several groups of climbers.  Our tent was near some bushes (came in handy during the night) so we set about getting settled in.  Most, if not all of us, never want to camp again!!!  Tiny wee tents and we had to get us and all our bags into them – leave nothing outside we were told.

Then we had a lovely ceremony with the guides and porters – we had to introduce ourselves and they sang songs for us and with us.  I had brought some glowsticks and this seemed a lovely opportunity to use them.  The porters loved them – waving them about as we danced and sang. It got dark suddenly and I was blown away by the sight of the stars.  The Milky Way was clear as anything to see.  If you have never seen it, it is so worth seeking out.   I saw bright stars that signified for me the young people no longer with us.  It was an emotional night.  Catchphrase about porters and guides is to say Maximum Respect to them.  They do deserve it.  The stuff they carry on their heads is unbelievable.   You’d see them going past with a table and chair on their heads or a gas canister for cooking and our kit bags.

We had two mess tents – necessary for the size of our group.   In the tent I was in, Cameron was being soup daddy serving out – a role he maintained for the entire trip.  Darned good at it he was too!  I had a wee moment when I put my head torch on to check the soup to see I had a fly in it.  Fussy besom that I am normally, I just removed it and ate the soup.  I have no idea what we had to eat most nights.  My appetite was already disappearing.  We weren’t even that high up yet.  I still laugh at the effort I made to get us games – got Fiona and Sarah Games Crew hats for goodness sake.  Bought scrabble, cards, organised a pub quiz and score sheets.  And brought them all home unused!  We had no energy or inclination for games.  It was straight to bed after dinner.

With all my heart I wish I could convey to you getting ready for ‘bed’ – the cold, the toilets, getting your sleeping bag out, not changing – just climbing in wearing the same clothes you had on.  Shivering.  Feeling like you are trussed up inside the bag and as for turning over, you were breathless for minutes after that maneuver.  Susie, my lovely pal and tent partner, and me just laughed.  We decided to read one of our messages from home.  Bad move.  Sobbing ensued. Not just in our tent – the next tent held Louise and sister Lindsay – they could hear every word (well it is a tent and it was close so you would hear every breath never mind word) and they started crying too!!   It did turn to laughter at that point.  Susie’s daughter, Sammi, had written her a beautiful letter and had put lipstick on and kissed the back – one kiss for each day Susie was away from her.  Makes me well up even describing it to you.

We were really tired so expected to sleep at least a bit.  Ha.  No chance.  We tossed and turned and huffed and puffed.

Got a few hours sleep I suppose but got up at 0530 feeling exhausted.  Breakfast of porridge (not for me, see above. never eat the stuff.  Stoats bars to the rescue), bread toasted in the fire I think, jam, tea and bits of omelette.

Off we go at 0700.  Past the purpose built cabins with real beds that we all looked at longingly – told they were built for the Comic Relief trek but no idea if that is true or not.

One of our climbers has woken up feeling very sick.   She battles on but is feeling really rough.  The terrain today is challenging – you must look where you are going at all times.  There is a fair bit of rock climbing to do.  Proper rock climbing.  Another of our team has a tummy problem.  (I always get an upset tummy when away and that was bothering me a bit too).   African time again – when we ask how far we are always told 15 minutes, or 30 minutes and it is usually four or five times their estimate.  Maybe they think it is encouraging you to say that but we are all well fed up with it and just want honesty.   Suddenly my tent mate says she feels sick and is sick.  Oh dear, that is three of them poorly.  We walk even more slowly to try to help them.   Get into camp around 3pm I think.   More tears as we arrive.  Tiredness, relief, emotion.   Bit of lunch then we sit and read some of our letters.  Oh boy, oh boy did the tears flow like crazy that afternoon.  Not with sadness though, with love and with thanks for having people who love us and sent us such special messages.    Weather wise it was a weird afternoon – one minute gorgeous blue skies the next foggy then back to  blue skies.  We used our satellite phone to talk to folks at home and it only worked in the blue sky time!

We now had three sick climbers and one who had a migraine causing sickness.  I was definitely feeling the effects of altitude – it isn’t nice.  Even Commander Lee had a bad headache.  Sick bay was full!!

I couldn’t eat dinner properly.  I knew I needed the fuel but just could not eat – it was the strangest thing.  I managed some soup and a few spoonfuls of rice and a cup of tea.  Off we went to bed.  Worst night ever – no sleep, freezing cold – needing to get up in middle of night for comfort break – getting out the sleeping bag, then out the tent, into boots, across to toilet tent, back to tent, out of boots, into sleeping bag.  You get so puffed out and your heart is pounding even doing something as simple as that.

Yep, a very tough adventure and we ‘earned’ every penny of our sponsorship and more.

I have few photos of these two days as didn’t even have energy to get camera out.

Will tell you about day 3 and 4 tomorrow.

We had a few Altitude Stars in our team – Sarah, Fiona,Mary and Elaine coped brilliantly with altitude – in fact Elaine was to be heard saying she should live at altitude she felt so good!


Kilimanjaro Pre-challenge and Acclimatisation day

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Photos speak louder than words sometimes!

so have a look at the gallery and read the captions to get a flavour of these days….

Our acclimatisation walk took us round a very spread out village – saw the school which was lovely – the children were enchanting and excited to see us and sing for us, saw small coffee plantations, walked to a waterfall and a cave (not my thing, I am afraid – dodged that one – it had bats in it).  Stella, our guide, was keen to tell us about the initiatives the women had started in the village – we were all kitted out in our gear and she did the f ull walk in sandals and with her handbag elegantly over her arm. Lunch was taken at a local restaurant – mashed potato, rice, a beef dish, chicken curry and veg.  We were given a display of dancing and singing and saw inside a local hut – was so dark we nearly jumped out of our skins when the goat made whatever you call the goat noise.

The hotel we stayed at – the Weru Weru lodge was superb – clean and comfortable, food was fine and the staff super friendly.  Joseph the manager introduced himself to us all very quickly and genuinely wanted us to have a great stay.  The pool was interesting – at least two of our trekkers braved swimming in it though I think Catherine got a shock when the camels came for a drink from it!  (she is keen to say that the camel looked surprised too when he noticed her!)

Our transport was a bus and a jeep – the Really Wild Staff in Moshi are brilliant.

To our astonishment, the hotel had wi-fi so we were all busy on our phones on social media/facetime/texting while we were at the hotel!   We are also astonished at how dirty we are already – the soil here is dusty and very red and sticks to you fast.  My boots are covered and already our nails are dirty.  Glad for tip of bringing a nailbrush.  It will get a lot of use!


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Well, I am back!

That was quite the most arduous, tough, horrible and yet also amazing challenge I have done in my entire life.

Right from the very start  – on our acclimatization walk round a village (sounds easy peasy but was a very spread out village and there was plenty to challenge us – I refused to go into a cave for example  – it had bats in it and the screams of a couple of the team could be heard from afar!).  We enjoyed our visit to a local primary school – the children and staff welcomed us with songs and they wanted to see their photos.

Stella, our guide, came with us wearing sandals and carrying a handbag – we were all kitted out in walking boots, rucksacks and camelbaks!  No prizes for guessing that Stella was still the more sure – footed of us, even as we walked down steep slippery paths to a waterfall and had to walk across a log to get over a little stream.  I think that we passed cannabis plants growing.  Though as I have only seen them on TV I cannot be 100% sure!

Over next few blogs I will tell you more about our trip – I just wanted to say hi and glad to be home.

I am extremely proud and chuffed to get as high as I did. A personal best for me to get to 4600m.  It is interesting how altitude affects people in different ways – when I was in Bhutan the effects were less for me than this time.  I felt the altitude at a much lower level this time.  I rarely lose my appetite but could barely put any food in my mouth at all while up the mountain.  I managed the soup but anything else defeated me. Even my snacks held no temptation. It was almost impossible to sleep either and while a bit of that was down to sleeping in a tiny tent on a rocky hillside in subzero temperatures it was also down to altitude.

Everyone is different.

Day 3 was tough. I must have said to the guide 100 times that I could not go on but each time he encouraged me and off we went.  I ‘saw’ things – a black cat, butterflies, sheep and cows – heard them too.  Maybe it was the malarone (anti malaria drug) as someone later said, maybe altitude but it sure was weird. Ten hours later we arrived at the camp and instead of bursting into tears as had been the case on arrival at camp 1 and camp 2 I felt euphoric!  It was really strange.  At camp 2 the day before we  had read letters and emails family had given us – messages from my husband, stepdaughter and parents had all said – so proud of you, but please don’t take any risks.   Susan, my stepdaughter, said she couldn’t cope if anything happened to me.  I thought of all they/we have been through in the past year and a half after Andrew’s death and knew that it was time to come down.  I didn’t want to experience worse symptoms of altitude sickness either.

Everyone is different, as I said earlier.

I didn’t take the decision lightly – my legs felt so strong I knew they could get me to the top but I hated the altitude sickness.  My family mean everything to me and their concerns along with my own meant the decision was made.

The guide told us it would take 2-3hours to walk down.  African time he meant. It took us 7 hours.  Because it was shortest and closest route we were taken down the toughest ascent and it was a pretty horrible descent– I had many moments going down when I thought we would have an accident – boulders so high we had to sit down on them and dreep down or hold onto tree roots/trunks to slide down, paths so steep and slippy.  I was very very glad to get to the bottom.

I can hardly believe I did it but I did and what an amazing achievement.  One day I must write it all down in a proper journal!

We’ve raised over £120,000 too. Jings.

Highlight for me?  The team spirit.  I organised lots of events over past 18months to let trekkers get to know each other, recruited a pal to take them on organised walks if they so wished, and it worked.  The group were superb together and a tremendous support to each other.

Very proud to know each and every one of them.



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Issues with communications  but understand from a brief conversation by satellite that all the trekkers have arrived after what proved to be a lengthly climb, gaining 900m over difficult terrain.  Shira Hut is the current location at 3,840m.  That leaves 2000m to go!


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Tough day – but supportive team.  Weather good.  Dry – way too warm.  We first went to a village school – see photos on Facebook.  Fell in love. Wee gorgeous kids.

Then we were taken to a tiny waterfall that was really hard to get to!!  But folk helped me so that was good. Was v steep and v slippy.  Then they took us to a cave with bats. Three of passed on that experience!!

Then lunch, which was outside.  We had dancers and they got me to join in.  My new nickname is Mama Simba.  Waiting on dinner now: On the menu – Veg Soup and Veg Macaroni (not fancied the goat yet).  Early night with an early start tomorrow for a planned 6 hour hike.