New Year’s Day 2016: Yesterday I decided to not climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was not an easy decision and, of course, there were and are strong and conflicting emotions running that familiar fire drill in my head. A bit of background: In 1999 Barbara and I discussed special ways to ring in the turn of the century, celebrate New Century’s Eve, as it were. We took a quick look at Mount Fuji. Yuk. Even at 12,388 feet Fuji-san is covered with crowds above the clouds after the snow has melted. I guess the density of the surrounding population, the July-August window of opportunity and pilgrimages by Japanese from Hokkaido to Kyushu contribute to the congestion of the trails. So, we took a peek at another peak, the highest point on the African continent. At 5,895 feet, Kili seemed like a good choice. We had never been to Africa and I had already conquered the 5,270 foot Mt. Katahdin in Maine and the 6,288 foot Mt. Washington. Thanksgiving was now upon us and we had not made any plans for New Century’s Eve, but watching the sun set atop Kilimanjaro on December 31, 1999 and then seeing the sun rise in the new century was very appealing. We thought about time, costs, seasons etc. I mentioned the idea to a friend who responded, “Wow. That’s quite a challenge.” I assumed he meant the travel time and costs. No, he was referring to the height. Big OOPS! Another peek proved him correct: that’s meters, not feet, Mr. Link. Oh…er…of course it is…19,341 feet to be exact…duh. Well people still do it all the time, right? Well…we did not. We had not yet retired, our budget was strained, and the whole project morphed into a common pipe dream.
So fifteen years later we find ourselves in southern Africa planning a vacation in Zanzibar. That’s right! In the same country and just 1 hr 20 min by air to Mt. Kilimanjaro. Barbara has no interest in the climb, but is willing and encouraging for me to do it either before or after our beach holiday on the Tanzanian archipelago.
Yesterday morning I made the decision. The night before we watched a video of the trek that left me with two impressions: first, much of the climb would not be a discovery or adventure because I had seen the video. This happens to me often. Second, it seemed a bit boring. If I had some good friends who wanted to join me, my decision might have been different. But even so, after 11,000 feet no one wants to talk much when they could be breathing thin air instead. A reasonable choice.
Being so close money was not an issue, but time was a factor. A week in Zanzibar plus over a week trekking up and down Kili? I am in Africa primarily to help others, specifically in Namibia. I would not feel right about using my time in that way. Challenge? After watching the video I was more convinced than ever that the physical challenge would not be an obstacle…or do I mean it would not be so interesting?
To my many friends who have had the pleasure, Congratulations and Happy New Year. I hope to get a glimpse of her to the north as we fly into Zanzibar.
NB: In this century we have enjoyed new personal highs in Peru:
Machu Picchu, 7,972 feet
Cusco, Peru, 11,251 feet
Biking in the Andes, 13,000 feet