One of the reasons I have enjoyed my venture into the world of business is because it has allowed me to encounter people along the way that on my previous little path through the world of the pharmaceutical industry I would never (ever) have met. Some people have become my sort of virtual friends as I haven’t met them in real life but we have an e-thing going. Sarah Salway is one of them. Sarah is a writer, she has written 3 novels and 2 books of short stories…she is also one of life’s adventurers (and likes to take her Travelwrap with her whether writing or adventuring!). There is a lovely part of Sarah’s website where she lists 10 things about herself as a good way to get to know someone. I liked no 4: No 4: Instead of revising for my A’levels, I read Jean Paul Sartre. I wrote about prawns instead of pawns in an essay on ancient history. I used to shake with excitement when I got a new copy of Vogue. Not surprisingly, I didn’t go to university but to the London College of Fashion to do fashion journalism. BUT for the last ten years, I’ve worked in four different universities and am now the RLF writer-in-residence at the London School of Economics. I think we all find our own way to where we’re supposed to go.
My Favourite Place by Sarah Salway, :
Is it possible to say your favourite place is somewhere you never want to physically go back to?
I go back to the Moir Hut campsite
on the North Route of Kilimanjaro often in my daydreams though. Three days into our hike and sleeping at 4250 metres high, it was the first time we came to the conclusion that we might all actually manage to climb the mountain that loomed over our tiny tents. It was a heady feeling in nearly every way. It was my older sister who first came up with the idea that we should climb Kilimanjaro. In the same way that, as kids, she would insist that it was a good idea for me to cut my hair myself, I knew there was only one answer she would accept. A year later, we were in Tanzania. Pole pole.
These are the two words you hear the most often up Kilimanjaro. The first few days at the bottom of the mountain, wearing shorts and t-shirts, it can feel you are walking painfully slowly. As the altitude hit us though, we forgot about almost everything else but getting from one place to another. I say almost everything else because while a search about climbing Kili brings up horror stories of altitude sickness, painful injuries, cold conditions, tears – believe me I read them all several times – what it doesn’t often mention is how extraordinary the landscape is. We went round the North Route, taking eight days going up and down the mountain, and over that time, we went from bounding through fairly lush flower strewn meadows, to tramping over almost desert conditions, to crawling past ice caps, and back down to rainforests. We woke up to views right across the wide flats of Kenya and even some town lights in the distance, one night we opened our tent flaps to find that we had been sleeping above the clouds. It was every bit as exciting as all those times you have wanted to climb out of the aeroplane just to see what it’s really like up there, except the clouds are less like cotton wool than cool vapour that settles on your skin.
The sun shining on the top of Kilimanjaro was something that even our experienced guides would stop and wonder at. Put it down to tiredness if you will, but on the summit day, having been walking with only head lamps to show the way, the sight of the sun rising across Africa made us all cry with something I can only describe as primal. ‘So that’s what a new day looks like’, said one of our travelling partners, forgetting his normal cynicism. Because it really did feel as if achieving our dream of getting to the summit meant that we could somehow start again. For eight days, we had concentrated on only one thing – getting to the top. We hadn’t washed, we slept in our clothes, we took only what we needed with us, life was really reduced down to a minimal, but the most important thing was how we emptied our minds too of all the petty problems that mine, for sure, is normally loaded with. Pole pole. One step at a time.
It would be tempting to say that this meant we had deep discussions about the meaning of life, but to be honest, within our little party and the other walkers we met, the conversations tended to be about medicines, fears, sickness and blisters. However, in our mess tent at Moir Hut campsite, after eight hours of walking, we finally relaxed. After we had watched the sun set, and agreed that yes, the African sky at night really does feel like a blanket, we taught our guides how to play card games such as Sevens and Strip Jack Naked. We laughed until we cried as we all joined in together with silly jokes and made up songs. Before going to bed, we hugged each other with a different kind of meaning than any normal London social kiss.
And in the morning, as we watched the sun hit the ice caps on the top of Kilimanjaro, I realised I had stopped looking at the mountain as the enemy that had to be conquered. Instead, for the first time, I thought what a privilege it was to be there. Whatever would happen in the future, no one could ever take away from me the fact that yes, I had climbed Kilimanjaro.
WebPurity Admin - Thursday, January 06, 2011