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)

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How many rolls?

With 48 hours from now until LDL and I will be getting on the plane in Durban and slightly less time until the OAC boards in Hong Kong we are definitely in the final countdown – the last minute items on the ‘To Do’ list are underway.

One of these items was the pharmacy visit, the one where you stock up on everything you think you might need and will probably find in the back of your cupboard in 4 years time when you are moving house and wondering why you never knew that was there and try to remember why you have it.

The pharmacy haul

Its your standard conversation with the pharmacist when you pick up your prescription for Diamox, you debate the pros and cons of the generic brand Immodium vs the real thing and so on down the list for a range of medications designed to relieve symptoms of diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramping, vomiting, headaches, insect stings and various other aches and pains you anticipate you could encounter during the climb.

When you finish your exchange, exhausting the list of items you have and the extras they have added the conversation finishes by them wishing you an ‘amazing trip’ – and to have a ‘fabulous time’. The thought running through my mind at that point was ‘Only if I don’t have to use any of this stuff.’

You then cruise the aisles for band aids, baby powder (no shower for a week remember) and wet wipes (the no shower thing again) and ponder the big question –
How many toilet rolls will I really need to take with me?
One imagines it will have something to do with whether you need to delve into your pharmacy treasure chest for that generic brand Immodium you decided on after all…..

14 Sleeps to go

Nerves & excitement – check

Blisters – check (new ones yesterday – must stop trying different sock combinations)

Water purification tablets – not yet

Beanie – still none to be found in Durban and less likely every day summer hits

Bank accounts – still frozen

Nerves & vomit like feeling – check

Manual for care of children for two weeks – underway, includes schedules, feeding and watering activities, birthday parties to attend, medication, proposed menu plans (someone had better read it)

Childcare arrangements for same two weeks – under negotiations with husband and various other parties

Nerves & sleeplessness – check

Training – never enough – am a little bit tired of saying ‘I’m slightly fitter than I look’ – What if I’m not?

Carbo loading – too early? Lets say I never stopped and it may not be entirely balanced…

Diamox trial (for side effects) – not yet

Post climb Game Park jaunt with OAC – still in research mode – needs to move immediately to booking mode

Fundraising – slow and steady, hoping for final surge – along the lines of expected fitness surge

Mum’s latest PET scan results – positive!!!

Shopping!

Today my on again off again love affair with all things Africa hit another sour note – when the bank froze our accounts because of our visas being ‘in progress’ for renewal rather than fully renewed. That’s a whole other story that I will probably blog about elsewhere – but when you have no money what is the absolute best thing you can do???

Go Shopping……

I had arranged (before the bank that shall not be named froze all our money) to meet the LDL at Cape Union Mart at our local shopping centre.  For those of you in the know this is apparently ‘South Africa’s favourite outdoor store’ and offers a whole line of ‘K-way’ equipment for you to choose from. K- of course being Kilimanjaro.  You can even get a brochure with a tick list of all the items you ‘need’ to complete a successful Kili summit attempt. Of course if you buy everything on it from said store you will spend several times the cost of your trip – so we’ve taken the approach of treating it as a suggestion more than a ‘must have’ list. It is with this heavily marked item (ticks and crosses) that the LDL and I entered the store.

Of course we didn’t require everything on the tick list due to our ‘slide night‘ hosts generous equipment and clothing loan – but there were still a few things we had to source.

Such as a sleeping mat for those rocky mountain hillsides to cushion our tired and sore muscles, bones and bodies after a long day hiking.

The LDL trying out one of the sleeping mats *note the colour* (hint she's Dutch)

Even though she loved the colour – this was not the final one we settled on. We ended up going with another style in a lovely shade of green which can better camouflage vomit stains (maybe).

The LDL put hers into the shopping basket and I put mine into the ‘reserved for later when the bank unfreezes my funds’ pile.

We were whipping ourselves into a frenzy of headlamps, long underwear, sunhats, metal water bottles (so you can fill with boiling water at night and use as a warmer in your sleeping bag), sock lining socks and beanies – when we had to stop. There were no more beanies – out of stock.

We decided to call it a day and re-group once we re-check the check list – we even had to procure a new brochure due to rippage of our existing one from over consultation. I also had to make about 65 phone calls to the bank and immigration consultants so we declared it a success and decided to come again one day soon ……..very soon because there is only 25 sleeps to go…….

OAC update – I know you’re dying for one. I am too! But currently the OAC is road tripping in China where the mobile and 3G coverage is not always what it should be. So I will just relay her last text message with more to come soon
‘Boots being worn every day for approx 10 hours, being worn in nicely….on track xxx’

What to pack, what to pack?

Obviously my iphone, ipad, chargers, plug adaptors, camera batteries and charger, hair dryer and straightening iron first.
Oh, wait. That might take up too much room, or worse, weigh too much. Maybe I can live without straight hair for a week – but I worry going without anything else on the list will plunge me into severe withdrawal. Thinking that the hair dryer, if only there were magical electrical outlets, could serve as quite a good blow heater as a dual purpose device.
Am still investigating how far up the mountain you can get 3G signal for my Twitter addiction.

Seriously our family is a sucker for electronic equipment, we can’t go for a weekend away without taking a powerboard and several adaptor plugs with us in order to ensure there are enough outlets to charge our ‘essentials’. Sad but true, and there go all our weekend away offers by people deadly afraid of their power bill post a Moffitt day or two in their company.

Last Thursday it was so exciting to go to a ‘Kili slide night’ at a friend’s house – where of the five occupants, three have completed and successfully summited the highest peak in Africa putting of course no pressure on the remaining two family members to do so at some time in the future.

The LDL and I went along with our significant others to hear words of wisdom, view pictorial records and listen to Tanzanian porter chanting as background music as well as discuss the important questions.

Which included such gems as

What did you take that you wish you hadn’t?
Not really a definitive answer on this one, so no reason I shouldn’t pack everything on my list.

What didn’t you take that you wish you had?
Little magic hand warmer things that go in your gloves, a blow up pillow, an under mattress thing for the sleeping bag (able to be hired but a little bit manky – best to take your own or borrow before we go)

What to pack?
Too long to list but they very generously handed most of what they had taken x2 over to the LDL and I for our own packing pleasure

How did you go to the toilet?
There were pictures of the Toilet hut with some basic explanations for us.

When did you start vomiting?
Here, here and here (see relevant pictures)

What did you eat for breakfast/lunch/dinner?
Stuff – cannot remember but LDL’s husband and mine now think we are going 4 star as there were photos of morning tea and coffee being delivered to the tents and tables and chairs for meals, including a mess tent. They were thinking we were going to be camped on our haunches around a fire we started with sticks gnawing on chunks of raw meat I think. Much disappointment from them and much relief for the LDL and me. We are going with the same organisation that they went with so its good to know the ins and outs of how it all worked.

When did you start taking Diamox (the drug for high altitude sickness)?
Not soon enough – in some cases, not all.

What was the hardest part?
Going up and coming down apparently – so glad we asked.

I took along my pre-prepared printed lists from the wonderful world of the internet which included such suggestions to pack as
– a ruler (we couldn’t decide what we would be measuring so crossed that off)
– a compass (way too low tech these days – Our host Jono the intrepid adventurer, post Kili bought himself a fabulous amazing technical masterpiece of a watch so should he ever climb another mountain he would be able to tell which way he was facing and at what altitude he was doing it – we are honoured that he told the LDL and I that one of us could wear it for our trip)
– pee bottle for in the tent (doesn’t help the ladies so much – but boys don’t mix up your water bottle and your pee bottles now)
– fingernail brush (no idea)
– toilet paper (you don’t say)
– baby wipes (the only shower you’re going to get)
– walking sticks or poles (pol-e pol-e)
etc
etc
etc

At the end of the night we traveled home with a backpack and day pack each, overflowing with generously shared items for the duration of the trip.

I was very glad the next morning as I was wearing my dug up ex-ski gear long underwear (practice pyjamas) a ski jacket and wriggling into the borrowed sleeping bag on the floor of my bedroom that our housekeeper didn’t wander in and wonder just what this crazy lady was doing – I would have had to explain I was avoiding my training run to ‘test the equipment’.

33 sleeps to go