The Meru Mission: To not to try to do it, but to do it

You’re probably all wondering, “did she make it?” You mean did I experience elation after completing a six hour steep incline hike across slabs of rocks with cliffs on both sides waiting for a fallen prey and finally reaching the top where you can take a picture with the flag of sucess? Let’s just say I made it to Little Meru at 3820m.

Actual Meru, not so much. The flag, not so much. I can’t say I can cross summit-ting a mountain off my list just yet. I was going to make it up no matter what. Woops, I was wrong.

The past few days especially during the trek had been an emotional rollercoaster and a battle with not only the mountain itself but battle with a stomach bug. Maybe food poisoning. It must have been the water.

I admit it. I am was devestated. I had waited so many months and worked so hard to just to reach the summit. Not that I would have done anything differently, but you always think about the what if’s. What if…I didn’t drink that water. What if I ate cipro earlier. My body was too weak to continue. I could barely make the 45 minute hike up to Little Meru.

With all that aside, I had an amazing time.

First day consisted of about a 5 hour hike ascending 1000m from Momela Gate to base camp at Miriakamba Hut through the foggy rainforest and into a beautiful open crater field. I had already started to feel nauseous and wasn’t able to eat. Without my friends I wouldn’t have made it; they took my backpack and water for me. It’s funny how often we forget how powerful words of encouragement really are. Occasionally we moved aside for cars to past and spotted zebras and giraffes. It seems silly to have to walk when you can take a car…oh a city girl view.

“How are you feeling?”

“Good!” convincing myself.  Mind over matter.

The second day was much steeper as we climbed up to saddle hut. The ranger slowed down as I huffed and puffed away. I started to learn to breathe; still my lungs struggled and my stomach churned. One foot in front of the other. It was like marching to the rhythm of my lungs. Inhale as you lift your left foot and exhale as you lift the right. I needed fewer stops. Our head guide took my backpack and made sure I was doing fine. His patience was unwavering.

“How are you doing?”

“Okay…”  a tad bit more honest this time.

We were now above the clouds. Over a short mountain spike, the familiar green buildings appeared amongst the free forming trees. ALMOST THERE! Almost…there…Beyond the bend was a shallow dip before ascending again. I better get ready for tonight’s summit I convinced myself. Although in the back of my head, I knew I probably wouldn’t make it.

After lunch which I had trouble eating, we were set for Little Meru. It was supposed to be for us to aclimatize, but soon I realized it was more of a test than anything. If you can’t make Little Meru, you for sure can’t make the real summit. It’s an easy hike. Well supposed to be. I stopped more than ten times as I was trying to keep everything inside my body. My stomach was getting worse. I HAVE to make it to the top. A good guide always knows how you’re feeling. He would stop and tell me about the landscape as soon as he could hear me breathing louder. Everyone else went ahead. I was glad. I didn’t want to slow anyone down.

“10 seconds,” I’d say as I sat down besides thorny bushes careful not to disturb the ants.

“you get 12”

I smiled in defeat knowing that the number of seconds that I waited didn’t matter. This was probably going to be my last hike up for the rest of the trip.

After 1 hour and 20 minutes, I was at the top. I tried to enjoy the view, but all I could think about was how to keep the little food I had eaten in my stomach. I lied down. I couldn’t even get a picture of a tiny sign.

Let’s just end the trip here.  I had felt like shit. (Excuse my language.)

The rest was a mini “rescue” mission down the mountain. Two porters were there to assist me. I learned my favourite support hold for going down the mountain. It wasn’t holding hands or crossing arms, but under the armpit hold.

The rest of the group made that gruelling six hour summit. My failed attempt made me even more proud of the rest of the group. The 9 hour hiatus consisted of vomit, headaches, crawling, and pretty much everything else exhaustion and lack of oxygen brings.

I’ll always remember the food even though I didn’t quite get a chance to eat much of it.  Mr. Mange Mange aka David, made us delicious soups including leek, carrot, and pumpkin.  There was juicy chicken, guacamole, chapatti, fried fish, popcorn and biscuits, spaghetti and more.  The guides were right. The food was amazing!

Without everyone in the group including the guides, I wouldn’t have been able to make it up and down. The last day coming down, I was in tears from being so weak and frustrated.

“You think you’re done, but you’re not,” Job encouraged me.

What I’ve learned through this trip is just how lucky I am. How lucky I am to have such fantastic friends who not only tried to make me laugh, but made me feel okay about not completing the what I had set out to do.

“Your mission is to be healthy.”

I’m grateful. So grateful.  Thank you Pristine Trails.  You’ve been amazing to us!  This just means I need to climb another mountain.  My camera has to come out of my backpack next time.  Sick Joanne = few photos.

Good bye Kilimanjaro.


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