And we’re off….

OAC's last shot of HK as she boarded the plane

By the time you read this it is likely we will be off on our adventure – one happy camper aka the OAC has already left her home and is winging her way across the skies in her Cathay business class bed, nice for some – but it is a 12 hour flight and her ‘0’ birthday pressie so we don’t begrudge her too much. We also expect her to travel a 15 hour day with us once she arrives so – she can have a lie down for a little while first.

At 8am Durban time the LDL and I will leave to join her in Jozi for a few hours before taking off for Moshi via Nairobi (where we have several hours waiting time – be prepared for many airport photos at a later date).

The confirmation phone call came today from our travel organiser, as well as the list of the other members of our group – 8 more. With the three of us there will be 11 altogether – not sure how many porters and guides that translates to but I imagine you won’t be able to miss us as we traverse the slopes.

As all the other travelers are South African – I joked with the organiser – ‘I hope they don’t mind traveling with foreigners…’ in all seriousness she said to me ‘I’m sure they won’t but please call me if you have any concerns and I can arrange something’ – …………. moving on……. I was joking but am now thinking we may have to tone our ‘Aussie-ness’ down a little, although it will be too early in the Rugby World Cup for any fixtures that may cause fisticuffs. I’m sure the LDL can smooth it all over, although she has found amusement in the surname of two of our travelling companions which means ‘scary monster’ or something similar in Dutch. We may need to make that phone call after all.

As I am avoiding packing I will just include a quick itinerary so those of you who are interested can follow our projected path as we do the up and down thing.

Day 1 – Thursday 8th September – From Machame Park Gate at @1500m 18km to the Machame camp at @2980m (approx 7 hours)

Day 2 – From @2980 9kms to the Shira camp at @3840m (approx 6 hours)
Hmm already half the distance but nearly the same amount of estimated time

Day 3 – From @3840 up to the Lava Tower @4600m and then to Barranco camp @3950m +/- 15kms (approx 7 hours)

Day 4 – From @3950 to Karanga Valley camp at @4100m – not a lot of metres gained but it will be about 7kms and 4 hours.
Apparently a lot of the time is spent getting across the scarily named Great Barranco Wall.

Day 5 – From @4100 to Barafu camp at @4600 about 5km and 4 hours.
Leave early, get to camp early and get ready for summit night

Day 6 -Tuesday 13th September (starting midnight) This has it all – loose gravel, altitude, cold, dark & possibly vomiting.
7 hours from camp @4600 to Stella Point at @5250m
Then another hour to Uhuru Peak @5895m – the highest point in Africa
Photos, high fives and then straight back down to @3100m to Mweka Camp.

Day 7 – Wednesday 14th September about 15kms straight downhill and out – the itinerary says something about enjoying the scenery through the rainforest but am thinking my thoughts will be firmly on the shower ahead (after drawing straws with my roomies to see who gets to go last – longest shower)

I have spent so much of today receiving good wishes and support for the trip – I am so thankful to all my family and friends new and old, online and IRL who are supporting me in this climb. Your support makes me really believe I can do it!

Will give the last word tonight to my gorgeous children and the card they made me for my trip – presented this afternoon.

My good luck card - by 8yo son and 4yo daughter (WAFYO)


Dancing Queen 17, Get up and run 31-‘Bingo Night’

That’s correct – Saturday night was a flash back, or forward as the case may be to our ‘future past’ where the Springboks win rugby matches (sorry couldn’t resist) and we played Bingo!

Some amazing friends here in South Africa arranged a Bingo Night in support of the Jodi Lee Foundation and our climb up Kilimanjaro. It was a fabulous old school family affair where everyone arrived with ‘a plate’ and an esky (or cool box as they call them here) and their various family members.

Of course Saturday was a rugby night – sacred in South Africa (regardless of the fact there was actually only one real life South African male attending) so the invite time was for 4.30pm a good half an hour before kick off, enabling all the rugby watchers to have at least two advance drinks and then settle in a chair before the match.

The approx 28 kids -aged 2 to 16 powered by sugar (see photo) proceeded to play on the golf course and everywhere else outside and pre-half time and then post Bingo were observed (and heard) to be participating in various activities – including a range of soccer games, truth or dare and what appeared to be a tackle version of ‘Red Rover cross over’ in a bunker on the 18th. No doubt some of the tweens were secreted away doing something they weren’t meant to be at some stage, but they didn’t get busted so their secrets remain intact. I am (almost) confident to say there were no smaller people awake at midnight when I left – just a couple of teenagers watching a bad movie. I hear from their parents that they were definitely asleep by 2.30am when the party music was turned off and the ‘responsible adults’ in the house went to their beds.

Fundraising isn’t my strong point, possibly something I shouldn’t be admitting here after I have publicly declared I am climbing for a cause. I sent a couple of emails, strongly worded ones to my family, a post or two on Facebook and Twitter and sort of let it go. I have been so humbled by the response of those that have made donations under the ‘Kilimanjaro Climb’ section of the Jodi Lee Foundation donation webpage. People I know, family members, friends of those family members and people I have never met in real life before but only know through the internet / Twitter have all donated to the foundation. I know its just because I offered anyone that did a free signed photo of me at the top – but still, amazing!

When my friend Sole called me to ask what I was doing on August 20th I was happy to be invited somewhere – but when she explained she was going to have a Bingo night to raise funds for the climb I was very touched. After all – its hard to turn around in Africa without finding many good causes to support and the Jodi Lee Foundation is an Aussie based organisation although involved in online early bowel cancer awareness development so it will definitely benefit all.

Sole explained to me that I was going to have to say a few words at half time in the rugby about the foundation, what it is doing and why I was fundraising for it. In the end I was so overcome at the pressure of being the ‘half time entertainment’ (my first time) that I started off making sense and then hurried through some kind of half arsed crap – putting myself under pressure so everyone could get a bathroom break and a fresh drink before the second half. For everyone that was there – I suggest reading this – and pretend it is what I said.

Prize table, Mojito stand, Kids dessert buffet

So many people were involved in arranging the night it is hard to thank them all without missing someone out. I will though quickly mention Marga – who by virtue of the expat world arrived in Durban this year from Vietnam and donated some of the prizes and I think was instrumental in the Bingo cards – or perhaps even the actual game. Unsurprisingly (if you are an expat) Marga and Jodi met in Vietnam and were firm friends while living there – small world.

Kids bingo, look at the impressive concentration of the whole group, The LDL, the hosts & some other late number 17's


After an incredible effort – all prizes were donated (thanks to everyone) and R10 a pop for guessing the rugby result (thanks to Demi – the girl with the Kiwi & Sth African passports who won and donated her winnings back) & R25 a Bingo sheet with barely three full games played the night raised R3345 – which will translate into $500 Aussie dollars for the Jodi Lee Foundation.

Thank you so much to everyone that attended, donated and participated on the night. I now have many more names to add to the ‘inspiration list’ for summit day. I promise to curse you all under my breath equally. N x

Who’s coming?

I can’t be doing this kind of thing by myself. I may not make it if I don’t have people to moan to about how hard it is, how my feet hurt, how much I smell, how I lost a sock and now no longer have perfect pairs.
Let alone ask the magic question ‘Are we there yet?’.

When we signed up- the person that will be known from this point as the Other Aussie Chick (OAC), the gorgeous Genevieve and I were offered two options – go it alone with our own set of porters in the manner of honeymooners, or join a group already climbing the same week we wanted to go. Of course we chose option two – we do enjoy each other’s company immensely and do love spending time together but lets face it, more people mean more conversation topics, along the lines of ‘they seem quite weird, nice, superfit, crazy, perfect climbing companions, freaks, why did we decide to climb with them again…..’
You never know they may even have something to contribute to the conversation.

In a manoeuvre typical of me (if you knew me in real life you would just assume) the first thing I did was check out the name of the other person / group organiser given to me by our climb operator on Facebook and Google. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t have – you know you would. By as much as I could see (she does have some security savvy, not an open fb profile) she seems like a normal person, no horns, only one head, although I couldn’t tell if she had any extra legs (which could make keeping up with her a bit tricky) – that is if the photo posted on her profile is actually really her. We will only find out in September when we meet to start the big walk –
For now we will have to forget about her and her party of five and hope for the best.

So let me expand on my other companions, OAC and Susan the Leggy Dutch Lady (LDL) as they will be the ones bearing the brunt of my moaning and groaning and fretting for my iphone signal, or at least they will be after their own ipod batteries run out.

The OAC is one of my very bestest friends. I have known her since the second year we moved to Hong Kong and we met just as she was moving to Shanghai (insert sad face here). However as luck would have it for me – Shanghai wasn’t a perfect fit and soon she was back, in the same apartment complex and the same hockey team as me. She was also in Team SNAK-en (long story will try for one sentence – Sarah, Nikki, Amanda & Kerry – only Kerry got pregnant so she couldn’t come that year so Gen stepped in and allowed us to call her Ken for a very short period of time) as I did my first team GreenPower 50km event.

Organising to climb with OAC is testament to how far I will go to spend time with other Australians on this continent. I could digress here and tell you about the time I ran breathless across a rugby pitch to speak to someone in a Waratah’s jersey- but it turned out while he was Australian, he was only visiting – or that’s what he told the crazy Aussie chick who dragged at him from behind and asked if he lived locally. Australians are few and far between here in Durban – they tend to not live in this part of South Africa, as I am told many many times – South Africans move to Australia not the other way around. Anyway its reassuring to be going to do the climb with one of my own tribe and a fab friend in the bargain. My only concern is her super fitness. Gen is a girl who can run a marathon before breakfast, play a game of hockey after lunch and then go out for a few drinks, home by 2am up by 7am to ferry various small ones to mini-rugby, hockey whatever. I only hope she can slow down long enough to make it. Apparently the super fit struggle to slow their pace to those of us with ‘medium’ fitness, bizarre as it sounds. However I don’t believe I have ever met someone so dedicated to achieving goals she sets herself, so if I need to slow her down I will just lasso her from behind and she can use her fitness and super strength to pull me to the top.
She can have a back op when she gets home to sort that out.

Joining us more recently as a climber is Susan, the LDL – although sadly (for me) I recently worked out we are the same height its just that our different- umm builds – that make her look much more ‘leggy’ than I do or ever will. Susan is part of the secret Dutch society – in that there are actually multiple Dutch people who live in Durban and they are very supportive of their own tribe, but not at all in an exclusionary way to those of us who are also expats but not from Holland. So really what I am hoping to get out of this whole exercise is an entree as an honorary Dutch person, which includes access to the secret Dutch phone book so I can have my own tribe here too. It may take a little longer to work on the tribal language though – but who knows, once upon a time I also spoke German – Dutch may not be beyond the realms of possibility.

The LDL also is fairly fit, I would place her in the ‘above average’ fitness category. I say this because when we were discussing the lack of hiking and altitude in our immediate area we talked about the stair machine at the gym and at what setting we use for our sessions. Susan uses setting 12 – run off now, I dare you to do more than 3 minutes on 12 without leaning all over the top of the machine or completely passing out. Respect for level 12. In an effort to rise to those dizzying heights I did two minutes of level 12 in my last stair session – but obviously not consecutively. Susan also has other impressive sporting endeavours – like the most amazing ‘eagle’ I have ever missed (I’d say seen but I didn’t see it) from the fairway of the 10th hole on our local golf course. We looked for that ball for ten minutes after our fairway shots until someone found it – in the hole! Other qualifying characteristics for the climb include ability to drink sufficient amounts of wine and dancing on bars.
Don’t you love her too? Aren’t you glad she’s coming? I am.

52 sleeps to go ladies – start your engines – or at least do a grease and oil change now in preparation for our big adventure!