The stars at night are like fairy dust, there are so many. The vastness of the country, the green and golden plains, the silhouettes of sharp trees against immense, empty can feel your soul expanding. The animals - things you have only seen in the zoo, roaming freely, masters of their own space. Brightly-coloured birds popping out of the bush like confetti. From the tent, lying in your silken sleeping bag, just listening to all the sounds of the natural world - the calls and hoots and thudding of hoofs, the wind through the leaves, the crackle of the campfire. Absolutely magical. - Min

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Letter from our team doc

Dear friends and loved ones

Thank you for your prayers and positive thoughts.

None of our luggage got lost traveling to Arusha from Singapore. Every piece arrived safely.

We had fabulous weather thru out our 5 day climb to the summit. We did have hail on day 3 when we were at Mawenzi Tarn hut, but that was after we had set up camp. It did snow on the night of the 4th day, before the summit assault, but the snow stopped falling in time, when we set off at 4am on the 5th day for the climb to Uhuru. The snow also helped harden the scree so it was less 2-steps-forward-1-step-back than I had pictured.

2 hours on the way up to Gillman Point where i would be about 200 vertical meters from the peak, I could feel my body giving out. I felt so tired in the thin air that I feared if I closed my eyes for a few seconds I would fall asleep and collapse to the ground. I stopped looking up after a while because the looming ridge refused to get any closer.

"the sheer drudgery would dull the most resilient spirit and the sheer exertion meant there was very little spare energy for talking; equally there is nothing in the repetitive nature of the climb to hold your attention, bump your thoughts from the snippets of song on heavy rotation or disturb the incessant reiteration of snatches of conversation in your head"~Alexander Stewart~

It's a mind game, it's a test of wills, I remember our guide James saying. I tried humming different songs in my head but that didn't work. I prayed to the powers that be, who till that point in time had made our paths smooth. I'm faltering, flailing, I said. My feet and my lungs can't last. Can you help me?

Nothing happened.

Then, I pictured all my friends and loved ones who had thought of me or prayed for me on this trip. I pictured all of you, taking turns to walk 10 painful lung-bursting steps with me. As there was a long way to go, and I didn't know that many people, I had to make some of you go more than once :)

As I pictured your smiling and kind faces as you walked beside me, I felt so choked with emotion that I began to tear and heave. Fortunately, no one noticed cos they were all gasping for air too. Leopardi was my porter, who walked behind me and offered several times to take the pack off my back to carry it for me, but I declined. I thought that I'd pass my pack to him, only when I felt I couldn't possibly take another step, but I took another and another till I was at Gillman's Point.

I know they said, Pole Pole or slowly slowy in Swahili, but man, I don't know what phrase they'd have for Asian girl who stops every few steps to lean on her trekking poles and literally gasp and wheeze for air. I was fighting for oxygen in that thin air. I never knew what that would feel like before, and I shed tears of relief and gratitude when my guide offered me his strong hand and hoisted me up the larger boulders and jumbled rocks (that the switchbacks and scree gave way to) to land my feet at Gillman's Point.

I guess man can make plans to summit a mountain, but the mountains hold the final master card. We saw groups who turned away before the peak because of strong winds or hail or snow that made the tough going so much tougher. I learnt from my guide that maybe Asians are genetically more prone to altitude sickness. But I've also learnt how adaptable and intelligent the body can be if we treat it correctly and listen to it.

I just wanted you all to know how the thought of you all, and of your spouses too (who are also my friends) and your children (especially your children),choked me up with good emotion and kept me going. I also thought of the ones I loved who had already passed on but were somehow with me in spirit (like my maternal granny, my old cantonese amah and an aunt who died a few years ago).

I realized what worked for me was being carried by the wave of love and support I felt.

So thank you my friends and loved ones. You cannot imagine what a difference your prayers and thoughts made to our trip.

All 5 of us summitted successfully and safely.

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