Six weeks from today we’ll be on our way. We’ve been ramping up the preparations: lots of weight lifting, hiking, and shopping. We’ll be getting our shots on Monday. It’s starting to feel like we’re really going to go to Africa.
Today we met with Glenn Schulke from GoSolarLife to discuss portable solar options for our trek. John and I will be charging several devices: a Garmin 305, a Garmin 305 xt, an iPhone, an iPad, Nikon lithium batteries, and Canon lithium batteries.
Glenn left us several products to test out, including:
The trip to Africa is getting so close. We feel nearly ready. Seven weeks from today we’ll be boarding a flight to Atlanta where we’ll then board a flight to Amsterdam. We will spend two nights in the NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky in Amsterdam recovering from jet lag (it’s a 10 hour time difference) and touring around the city. John has never been to Amsterdam and I have not been there since 1991.
From Amsterdam we have a direct flight to Kilamanjaro airport. Our guide will pick us up and take us to our home for another 2 nights, the Dikdik Hotel. We’ll have 3 nights total at the Dikdik, 2 before the hike and 1 after the hike. I wonder how we’ll feel before and after.
Our climb starts on Thursday June 14. I give specifics about that in another post. The short version is we will be walking for 8 days and sleeping for 7 nights on the mountain.
John is in Mexico and I’m filling his absence with books. Right now I’m reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I’m writing a memoir, and as part of that process I have read about 100 memoirs. Some are good. Some are really not. I’ve been looking forward to this book because I read several glowing reviews.
I’m also particularly interested in Strayed’s account of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail because I’ve been reading a lot of books about hiking Kilimanjaro. So far, my favorite piece of writing about Kili has been the private journal of our friend Chris, who inspired us to take the trip in the first place. Some of the Kili books are tedious first-person diaries of how much an individual suffered on the hike (most often told with painfully repetitive & simple subject-verb sentence structure: I ached, I wheezed, I blah blah blah).
Would Wild make some more profound observations about humans vs. nature? Why yes, yes it would. Plus, it is finely crafted prose. I’m about 75% finished, and I have alternately laughed, wept, and hurried to my writer’s journal to record some inspirational thought. My favorite moment so far has been this phrase: “the wilderness had a clarity that included me.” Yes. I understand that. It’s why I love hiking and backpacking. And trail running and biking for that matter. Wilderness is my meditation.
Last night I stayed up reading. Blew past my 8:30 pm bedtime. The Vizslas got really angry about that and kept whining, their expressive eyebrows pointing towards the stairs begging for “bed!” But I sat in my garden until 10:30 pm and I could not put the book down. Strayed has crafted the hike as a narrative thread, using events on the trail as triggers for back-story. It’s something I’ve been implementing with my own book: imposing a narrative thread that creates depth through contrast. The bulk of my book now takes place in the forward action of the 5 months between my mother’s death and my father’s death. But I’m only halfway finished imposing that structure to my book. Please, please, let this reading be the impetus for finishing it.
So now there are only 60 days left before our group of 7 hikers sets off for 8 days on the mountain and 5 days on safari. Reading Wild while thinking about the details of our trip has given me the ability to re-frame my feelings. For the past 3 months now we have obsessed over preparations: Agonizing over missed work-outs, ordering perfectly good gear then exchanging it for perfectly good different gear, waking in our soft beds worrying about waking up on the hard ground in sub-zero cold. I’ve been having a recurring dream that slices the night air about once a week: I jolt awake after I have plummeted off the side of a cliff. But in reality there aren’t even many cliff-y sections on the Kili hike. These are insidious anxieties.
In Wild, Strayed describes her inexperience with backpacking in contrast to the people she meets on the trail. I am more like those experienced hikers than I am like Strayed. And yet I think I’ve gotten carried away by fears. I remember telling an acquaintance that I was planning to hike Kilimanjaro. “People die there!” he said. “Yes.” I nodded. People die there. Or people fail to summit. Or people get AMS and vomit all day. Or people get dirty and tired and grumpy and cold and sore. I am, I admit, afraid of all of those things.
But last night as I was reading I felt suddenly blessed about the Kili trip. And why had that been missing? Because I had been focusing on fear. Wild made me focus on opportunity.
No matter what happens on the mountain, I’ll have people I love at my side. I’ll have a strong and healthy body. And the view certainly won’t suck.
I am making room for my spring garden so I harvested some snap peas, carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes. I had a lot more snap peas but I ate most of them while I was harvesting carrots. Oops! I’m looking forward to eating this lunch.
So I’m on day 21 of a 42 day Vegan Cleanse. The purpose of the cleanse is to feel better, lose weight, and get in great shape for our Kilimanjaro hike in June. I have a lot of friends who are Vegan, one who is battling prostate cancer, and so I’ve had a lot of support from my peer group. John’s being very sweet and is cooking his own food separately. He even took me for “dates” at great nearby restaurants: Pita Jungle (many Vegan offerings) and Pomegranate Cafe & Green (everything is Vegan!).
Beyond that, I’ve been reading a lot of books on plant diets. In January & February I taught a Food Writing class and assigned Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. My friend Kaylee loaned me Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live. I’ve also watched several food documentaries including King of Corn; Food Matters; Ingredients; Forks Over Knives; Deconstructing Supper; and Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. So I guess you can say I drank the organic, animal-free, plant-based Kool-Aid.
I also, just for fun, decided to give up all caffeine, alcohol, salt and sugar. For 6 weeks. I bet you’re thinking, Trish must be pretty damn grumpy.
But the truth is, I feel great. I eat 4 meals a day about 4 hours apart: at 7 am, 11 am, 3 pm and 7 pm. Out of 84 meals so far I have only had 4 cheats. I ate sugar at a Vegan party: an oatmeal raspberry bar that I have to admit was heavenly. I drank 2 glasses of wine and ate shrimp & cheese at the Arizona Governor’s Arts Awards ceremony. I drank 2 cups of coffee one morning after a terrible night’s sleep. And I drank some wine with John on a date night after a long hike. The other 80 meals have been clean and plant-based and simply delicious. I’m enjoying it so much, I might just stay Vegan after the cleanse is over.
Here’s how beautiful and easy a plant-based diet can be. This day’s meals equaled about 1300 calories and I had a hard time eating it all.
With 70 days to go until the start of the Kilimanjaro climb, we’ve done a lot of work to get ready for the big trip. We’ve ordered massive amounts of gear including cold weather clothes and sleeping bags. We’ve lifted major weight at The Bar Fitness in Ahwatukee with our friends Kaylee and Brian. We’ve hiked all over the beautiful trails of South Mountain. We’ve booked flights and lodging for the travel not included with our Climb and Safari package. We’ve renewed passports and taken steps to get visas and vaccinations. We’ve lined up the house sitter and updated all of our documents. We’ve also been reading lots of guidebooks and blogs, and talking to others about their experiences with the hike.
In the coming 70 days there’s still a lot to do, most importantly, getting in the best physical shape possible for the challenges of the mountain. The 3 toughest days on the mountain are going to be:
Day 6, when we take 7 to 9 hours to move 2 miles and 2,397 feet up the Western Breach.
Day 7, when we take 1 to 2 hours to climb 841 vertical feet in 1 mile to the summit at 19,341, then descend 6 miles in 9,041 vertical feet in 6 to 8 hours (oh my knees are killing me just thinking about it)!
Day 8, when we will take 7 to 9 hours to hike 6 miles in 4,722 vertical feet down the rest of the mountain.
My favorite training hike on South Mountain is a 7.4 mile loop that takes about 3 hours. It starts at 1329 feet, tops out at 2550, and offers a net gain of 1450 and a net loss of 1450. Seems I might need to start doing that twice a day. I envy our hiking pals Rich and Lisa who live in Denver, since they have access to some serious elevation. I think we’ll try to get some Humphries hikes in this May so we can challenge ourselves.