Solomon is a teacher and a dedicated traveller. She
turned 50 a couple of years ago. What follows is her
account of how to celebrate half a century, by going
on safari and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro (a journey that
lets you explore the expanses of life as well as its
heights). Sylvia writes...
walked eight hours each day...
For the past four
days I have walked for at least 8 hours each day. I
was undaunted each day as the rest of my group, younger
than me, disappeared into the distance and enjoyed the
company of my tour guide as we walked "polee polee"
(slowly, slowly) on our way to the top. The scenery
was spectacular as we moved from rainforest to alpine
meadow to mountain desert.
By 4:00 o'clock
on day four, I reached the Kibo Huts, the last stop
before the summit climb, where I have been given a few
hours to rest. I don't let the graffiti on the walls
around me influence my determination to make it to the
top, and although most of what is written includes the
word "why?", I focus on the words "I think I can, I
think I can". I set out at midnight, facing hours of
zigzagging back and forth across loose scree. Above
me are more stars that I've ever seen in my life.
Hours pass. My feet
are getting colder as the temperature is now close to
20o below zero. I pause to rest in a cave, where I sit
drinking tea from a thermos and watching shooting stars
flash across the sky. Who's that coming down? It's the
youngest man in our group. I have to contain my enthusiasm
... and sympathetically talk to him about the randomness
of who gets sick on the mountain and who doesn't. Within
an hour another member of our group passes me on his
way back down. He's been the one who has always arrived
first each day at the huts, who has endlessly talked
to me about his experiences mountain climbing and always
had a somewhat patronizing tone in his voice when he
commented on my courage in taking on this challenge.
He, too, gets my sympathetic "too bad you couldn't go
to the top."
My legs ache, my arms are tired...
Two hours later
the scree turns into boulders. I don't look up, because
I know that the sight of endless boulders will be more
than I can face. I focus on each stone in front of me
and get into a new rhythm of lift my foot, push myself
up, sit down and rest. One after another, stone by stone,
polee polee. My legs ache. My arms are tired. My feet,
and hands, and nose are cold. The thought of quitting
doesn't enter my mind, though, and at 7:30 in the morning
I am rewarded. I reach the top, the sun is up, I can
see for miles and miles all around me, and the adrenalin
rushes through my body. The climb isn't over though,
because the summit still looms ahead of me.