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She's 50 -- She Climbed Kilimanjaro


Sylvia 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...

I 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.

He patronizes me...

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.





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