Thursday, September 26, 2013

Climbing Kilimanjaro

Well I'm back & am still digesting everything about this amazing trip. 
Thought it was time i shared my experience with you all. You may want to grab a coffee - this is a long post!
It was hard. Bloody hard. But also bloody amazing, rewarding and I'm so grateful to have been asked to be part of such an inspiring group! There were 16 of us (including the 2 camera crew who were instantly 'part of the gang') The group just 'worked' so well. 
No egos, no heroes - just a fun, happy supportive & encouraging group who all looked out for each other. 

Ive tried to narrow down my photos to give you an idea of what the 7 days of the climb was like. 

The day before we all arrived from different flights coming from all over the world at a hotel in Arusha {Tanzania.
It was so exciting to finally meet everyone! Despite the language barriers we all managed to communicate just fine. 
We received out team jackets & lots of photos like the one below followed! (thats me second from the left) 
and set up equipment like our satellite wifi to post updates from the group to twitter each night.

Prior to leaving we were told we were actually only allowed 9kg of luggage not 15kg...
Cue the mayhem of trying to shed 6kgs from your already lightly packed bag of essentials only!
Here we are crammed into the bus for the 3 hour drive to the start point - Macamhe gate.
There were smiles, a lot of nerves & a bit of gastro happening at this point in time!
2 Brazillions, 4 Canadians, 4 French, 1 girl from Barbados, 1 guy from Belgium, 1 from America and me from Australia!

At Macahme gate...a tad nervous but eager to get going!

Good advice! 
(that monkey also stole some of our lunch)

The first day was a 5hr walk in the rainforest where we caught our first look at the mountain.
To think we had to be on top of that in 5 days was intimidating to say the least!

Every afternoon when you got to camp you were required to sign in at the rangers hut.

Some of the group happy to arrive at camp 2 (It was freezing here!)

Sunsets & cloud formations from camp each night were amazing

The days routine was up at 6:30am, hot drink in your tent while packing up, breakfast at 7:30, on the train by 8:30.
Between 4-9 hours of walking, After the first day we were out of the tree line & very exposed.
The sun was intense with daytime temperatures around 30 & below 0 at night.
Tea (with popcorn & cookies!) around 4pm, dinner about 6:30 & usually in bed by 9.
Then multiple toilet (behind a rock) trips during the night to wee thanks to the 5-7L of water a day we were drinking!

Me on the trail with Lava tower behind.

Arriving into Baranco camp on day 3. Amazing cactus like trees with snow in the distance - surreal!

That near vertical cliff looking face behind us known as the Baranco Wall was to be climbed first thing in the morning....
Most were a little nervous about this!

Turned out to be really exhilarating! 
While there were some pretty hairy parts we all had fun doing it!
There was a lot of high 5'ing at the top! 

And as always the poor camera guys had to be well ahead of us to catch the action!

Here i am with Camera man Dan! 
We discovered he was a great 'hugger' so he was forced to give out plenty of hugs during the week :)
It was extremely dusty, so my scarf (despite looking rather stylish here) spent most of the day wrapped around my face to cover my mouth & nose (a bit like i was going to rob a servo in animal print!) and also helped protect your neck & ears from the sun. 

Afternoon filming. Here we were having a discussion about living with Type 1 Diabetes in our different countries. I was quite shocked to find out how expensive supplies are in places like America & Brazil. Despite my pump supplies being quite expensive here in Australia, things like blood testing strips & insulin are subsidised by the government - in other countries they cost up to 5 times what i pay for them! It left me feeling much more aware of how lucky i am to have a chronic illness in a country where i can afford the treatment required.

 Spectacular {albeit cold & sloping} camp sites

Camp 4 at 4000m - well above the cloud line!

Not so spectacular toilets!
(and this one was hanging off a cliff - a tad unnerving!)

The team mucking around on a 'sippy sippy' break 
{the guides phrase for reminding us to keep drinking!}

Arriving into Base Camp around lunch on day 5. 
As you can see there was still a hell of a lot of mountain to climb that night.
1300m in elevation and around 8 hours up & 4 hours down.

Having a chat about what layers to wear that night with 2 of my French team mates.
We spent the afternoon packing our packs, organising what clothes we would wear. 
Mine looked like this;
Feet - 2 pairs of wool hiking socks & boots
Legs - 2 pairs of merino wool thermals + fleece pants + goretex snow/rain pants
Top - Long sleeve thermal + heavier merino wool top + fleece + down jacket + goretex jacket
Hands - Light gloves + fleece gloves + goretex gloves
Head - Fleece lined woollen beanie + goretex hood + balaclava + headlamp
Also in my pockets to keep them warm;
 Spare pump & blood tester batteries, blood tester, insulin pen incase my pump stopped working, a tonne of lollies for low blood sugars.
In our packs - 3L camelback with gatorade powder in it, food, down jacket to put on as it got colder.

Dinner at 5pm was very quiet tonight - a lot of nervous people in this tent. 
We were back in our tents by 6pm to sleep till we were woken at 11pm.
Summit attempt starts at Midnight. I didn't sleep a wink. 

Up at 11pm, trip to the toilet, snow gear on!
We had a light breakfast of porridge & a quick last minute briefing by our guides who reminded us;
 the mountain isn't going anywhere but you only have one life, so to respect that tonight. Wise words!
We got straight onto the trail which was incredibly steep. I decided early on it wasn't wise to look up, what you thought were stars were other peoples head lamps almost vertically above you! Despite the fact it was around -10 when we set off i was feeling pretty good, my hands were cold but warmed up quickly. I had one ear of my i pod in & was listening to some music which was a great distraction! We had made the choice to all stop together when someone needed to treat themselves for low blood sugar. This turned out not to be the best idea as around 4am after constant stopping we were all freezing. It was also down to about -18 now. 
One of the guys was suffering from pure exhaustion and decided to turn back at around 4:30am. 
He was also one of the most experienced mountaineers in the group so you never know who the altitude is going to effect!

This was when i started to go from feeling good (considering!) to not great at all. I was feeling quite dizzy, kept tripping & couldn't walk in a straight line. I had chest & back pain & was finding it extremely hard to get my breath back meaning i had to stop every 5 mins to sit down & recover. As soon as i stood up again i was back to feeling terrible. I also hadn't been able to feel my toes for about an hour. They went from being cold, to numb & at this point i couldn't feel or move them which as worrying me!

This is where this story gets slightly bitter sweet I'm sad to say! 
At 5:30am I decided that in this condition, with the summit 2.5hrs away, needing to stop every 5 minutes, it wasn't realistic or safe for me, or my team mates, for me to continue. And if i managed to get there i don't think i would have been in any state to get down! As the guides had told us, the mountain isn't going anywhere but you only have one life. I work so hard at looking after my health that at that point i made the decision that the safest thing & best thing for my health, was to head back to base camp. 
After feeling so great for most of the climb it was disappointing. 
A lot of that night is a bit of a blur, but I clearly remember sitting on a rock sobbing into my balaclava for a few minutes before pulling myself together & starting the long trip back to camp with one of my favourite guides. 

As the sun came up the two of us sat on a rock & watched - It was really quite beautiful. 
Although I was disappointed, it was the right decision & I'm proud of myself for knowing my limits & respecting my health.

As the sun came up i could see what we had walked up in the dark. 
This picture doesn't really show how steep it was - i had turned back close to the peak in this photo.
You cant see it but the mountain continues on over this!

Around 8am these guys {+ a hoard of guides & porters} made it to the summit! So proud of them! 

2 Days later with Loshi, the guide who helped me back down from the summit attempt.

At the exit gate. 
Both feet covered in blisters (that only appeared that day thank god!) 
Knees, ankles & quads on the verge of collapse & the most tired & dirty ive ever felt! 

After the 3 hour drive & probably about the same amount of time in the shower & patching up blisters! 
Time to relax around the fire & enjoy our last night together - there were a few Kilimanjaro's consumed!

The entire team {including the film crew!}
I am so grateful to have been asked to be a part of this team by our organisers/sponsors World Diabetes Tour & Sanofi. 
Although i didn't make it to the very top, i hope i have shown others with Type 1 Diabetes, chronic illness or no illness at all, that the whole point is to give everything you want to do a go! Just try! The adventure, the amazing times & memories you will have aren't purely based on the end goal  {although it would have been nice} just get out there & live your life - don't let anything hold you back! 

Wow that was a long one. 
So whos's inspired to go & climb Kilimanjaro then?? :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wednesday Wisdom

Tomorrow I'm going to share my story of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro so i thought this was appropriate for today!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Random Girlyness

Sometimes i just feel the need to look at a random bunch of pretty things......

Thursday, September 19, 2013

IDH Magazine - My Paris Travel Guide

Issue 2 of IDH Magazine is now Live & is looking even better than the first!
 You can check out my travel guide to Paris on page 57!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

African Safari!

Hi everyone, after a month off I'm back from my African adventures! 
I had an amazing trip, Africa is definitely a land that provides many contrasts & puts a lot into perspective in life. I thought i would share some of my photos across a few posts. Before the climb of Kilimanjaro, a few of us did a 3 day safari through the Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire National Park & Ngorongoro Crater {all in northern Tanzania}. We saw almost every animal you would expect to see except for a leopard & a cheetah. It was quite hard to get your head around the fact that the animals were actually in the wild! We were also really lucky to see lion cubs - they are usually born around november so it was rare to see them at this time of year. They were extremely cute & were actually making meowing noises! We stayed in different lodges every night but by far our favourite was the Maramboi tented camp {which is in the images below}. It was exactly what i imagined a safari lodge to be like - so much atmosphere... Id stay there again in a flash! The animals weren't bothered by the trucks at all & when we came across an animal we would slow down or stop & turn the engine off & just let them do their thing - we had lions & elephants literally 30cm away from us! 
I have tried to narrow down my 100's of animal photos to give you  same of what it was like :)


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