As many of you know, in early July, I was part of a multinational team that traveled to Africa as part of the Blair Singer Mountain Leadership Experience.
The four of us Canadians, Shane, Mike, Trevor and I, flew out of Edmonton late on June 28 and arrived in Amsterdam the following morning. There we met up with our 3 travel mates from Mexico, Jezuz, and his awesome teenagers, Jezuz Jr. and Perla. We all stayed in the same apartment that Shane found for us and spent the next 3 days in Amsterdam, where we explored the streets, alleys, restaurants, shops, bars and even the canals of the historic downtown.
We even went on a walking tour that took us through the famous red light district. Let’s say it’s an interesting place that I think everyone should check out at least once in their life time. And of course there was that interesting aroma that drifted out of the “coffee shops” in the area, which sent me on a few sentimental flash backs to my youth. So, being the sensible, mature and upstanding Canadians that we ware, we only made it to that part of town about 3 times. What happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam.
Seriously, Amsterdam is a truly beautiful European city, well worth a visit if you’re ever near there. The buildings and architecture are amazing, the food and drink was great and the people we met were fantastic. English is spoken everywhere so we had no trouble communicating and finding what we needed. And if you’re into bicycles, here’s a bit of trivia. There are more bicycles in Amsterdam that there are people.
We flew out of Amsterdam early on the 2nd and arrived at our lodge in Moshi, Tanzania late that evening. It was great to meet up with Blair, and Kevin, Kristen, Kelly and Kaki with K2 Adventure Travel, and of course all the other team members, some I’d met before and many I only knew through email, and FB. I’m always amazed by the interesting, diverse, and quality human beings I’ve meet at these types of adventures or events.
The next 2 days were spent at the Mwereni Integrated School for the Blind in Moshi where we were able to interact with the orphans, day school students and staff. It’s amazing to see how happy and full of life children can be that have nothing more than the bare necessities of life. I’ll never forget the hundreds of children, all wearing their blue uniforms, clapping and cheering when we arrived on day 2.
I’m having an emotional flash back as I’m writing this. Take a deep breath Harv….! Now that was a neat experience. I briefly went back to about 9:30 am, July 4, in Moshi. Cool! The time we spent with those children was truly amazing.
The K2 Adventure Foundation has been supporting this school for the last 10 years and the difference that has been made in the lives of the students, community and undoubtedly the country in future years in amazing and I’m proud to have been part of the 2016 teams that raised funds for the new kitchen facility that is now nearing completion. I Love K2 Adventure Travel and K2 Adventure Foundation. If you’re looking for an adventure tourism experience that allows you to make significant difference in the communities you travel to, I can’t imagine there is a better group anywhere than K2 Adventures. Check them out.
On July 5, our team of 26 climbers and 95 porters left for our 7 day hike up Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. I could go on and on for hours about the climb and all the experiences I and we had over those 7 days. From waking early to hot coffee in our tents, hiking through hot and humid tropical rain forest, going to bed on day 2 with frost on our tent, experiencing the sharing, emotion and human spirit in our daily debrief, the lows and highs as we shared and worked through what came up physically and emotionally for each of us, waking up at 3:30 on summit day and experiencing the Earth’s rotation as we watched the sun rise during our summit ascent, to standing at that summit with all the others that we shared this experience with. And what was so special for me was the experience of climbing that mountain with the spirit of my business partner Brian and also my brother in law Brian, 2 influential men in my life that passed away earlier this year. They were there with me every step of the way and we had some interesting talks along the way. That might sound a little strange but they were definitely there to give me strength when I needed it and I know a bit of their spirit will always be on Mount Kilimanjaro. And to top it all off, receiving that beautiful letter from Colleen that Shane brought to the summit for me. I’m such a lucky man!
I had been a bit apprehensive about the climb as we got into the month of June. I’d started my training off great early this year. I was doing my Bowflex exercises 3 times a week and was really feeling strong by the beginning of March. I was walking every day, either inside or outside and had lost about 16 pounds by then as well. My hip and knees were feeling much younger and I knew I was on the right track for success.
In early March I learned that my partner had passed away and a month later my brother in law also died. I participated in both their services, which I was honored to do, and thought I had processed it all fairly well. When I think back and realized that I wasn’t able to get back on track with my fitness goals before I left for Africa, I realized that their death impacted me more than I would have thought. Having them with me on my journey on Mount Kilimanjaro was really good for me. Life is all borrowed time, make the most of it along the way to whatever your journey and summit happens to be.
I was also sidelined with my eye surgery and the back and knee injuries I had in April and May. That’s why I was so apprehensive as the trip drew near. Would I be able to make it to the summit?
This has been a really good lesson for me. I’m quite prone to putting things off for the last minute and always being able to pull it off in the end. I’m sure there are lots of you that work that way as well sometimes and it’s certainly a good quality to have. In this occasion I know that if I hadn’t started my training early and made the significant gains I did, the events that came my way in March, April and May that really threw me for a loop would have resulted in that mountain kicking my ass. As it was, with the endurance and strength training I did early on, and the great team I was part of on that mountain, I had absolutely no issues, either physically or mentally. It was absolutely fantastic and I don’t know how it could have been better.