Taking Life by the Horns, My Kilimanjaro Ascent - My Family Travels

I've never met anyone who says they don't want to have an extraordinary life, or great experiences or stories to tell. But few people actually aspire to make their lives extraordinary and memorable. These are individuals who relentlessly pursue a life of achievement and wonder. This is exactly what I did last winter, and encourage you to do.

A couple years ago my dad told me that for my 15th Birthday I was entitled to a special Father Son trip to "prove my manhood". It was a joke of course, and he offered the options of bird hunting in Texas, to deep sea fishing in the Caribbean. My ultimate decision put the joke on him however, as he was obligated to come with me. I decided to go to Tanzania, Africa, and climb the famous Mt. Kilimanjaro.

â–º  Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship

We flew in to Kilimanjaro airport a day after school break began. The jet lag was disorientating, and I would hardly remember the drive to the Impala Hotel in if it wasn’t for the adrenaline already coursing through my body. Three days after arriving in Tanzania, we met with our tour guide from Destination Africa Tours and embarked on our adventure. We began our climb following the Machame route up the mountain, the most scenic. 

On day 1 we traversed through thick muddy vegetation, much of it in pouring rain. As the youngest person in our group, I had by far the most stamina and was often reminded to slow down and conserve energy for the days to come. 
By day two Vegetation was becoming scant. Bushes, shrubs, and other small plants were all that inhabited the landscape. At this point you start to become aware of the absence of creature comforts, like daily showers and a warm bed. On the 3rd day the temperature began to noticeably drop past freezing, and most plant life disappeared. 
Day 5 was an ominous precursor of things to come. The day began almost immediately with a massive obstacle, the Barancco wall. It’s popularly nicknamed the “Breakfast wall” because climbers have a habit of regurgitating the days first meal on it, as our fellow Canadian climber soon experienced. The wall is a 800ft vertical and labor intensive climb, and breathing soon becomes challenging due to the altitude. 

We awoke at on day 6, in pitch darkness, and began the final ascent. A task so physically demanding I saw other climbers break down in tears from the effort. It was in this perpetual darkness that I began to realize what the meaning of cold really was. Back home if I got cold I'd just go inside. Here there was no shelter from mother nature, no respite from the brutal conditions. It was a cold that penetrated to your very core, and then some. 
7 hours into the final ascent, we made it to Stella Point, just 100 meters from the summit. Here we rested, just as the sun began rising. I had my iPod on shuffle, and as if on cue the song “Here comes the sun” by the Beatles began playing. No picture, video, or words can capture that sunrise. I came to realize that without even knowing it, this was the reason I had come to Kilimanjaro, to experience this moment of awe. Reaching the summit no longer remained a priority, I had already reached my previously unknown goal. A goal I can’t even properly define. I could have walked away right then without reaching the summit and have been happy, but nevertheless our entire group went on to summit that day.

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