“If I have to swim across the sea to get what I want, I will learn how to swim, then I’ll swim it. If I have to climb the highest mountain to get what I want, I will learn how to climb, then I’ll climb it. If I have to dive the deepest ocean to get what I want, I will learn how to dive, then I’ll dive it. If I get disappointed because things did not appear as I wanted, I will learn how to accept it, then I’ll try to accept it. At least now I have experienced how to swim, to climb and to dive and also how to accept everything that came from my effort. Then, I will try again to do better.”
I made a promise to myself a long time ago.
I promised myself I’d climb Mount Kilimanjaro before I turn 50. I have quite a ways to go before my deadline looms, but I’ve decided to start planning now, and bring to life this dream I’ve had since growing up in the long shadow of this mountain. Africa is the continent that held me as a child, the place I grew from toddler to teen, so this voyage will be in some way a return home.
But I don’t want to climb just to climb. And I don’t want to climb to satisfy a curiosity, or conquer something, or to prove myself to the world. I want to climb for one reason and one reason alone. I want to climb for all the little girls everywhere on our planet earth, whether they live in the slums of Asia, the villages of Africa, the favelas of South America or the inner cities of America. These young girls are in my mind every day as I write my stories and my novels. And every day, I wonder how many of them have stood up for their right to learn, their right to play, and to not have their childhoods robbed through forced marriage, modern slavery, bondage, rape or worse. I long to find a way to help them, support them, and inspire them to create a life of their own making, one that is filled with security, health, and happiness as they define it.
Little girls matter to this world, more than any of us realise. To them I say, Rise up. Be brave. Stand strong. They will be what will propel me every step of the way up.
I will be video-documenting this journey from preparation to finish and plan to share with you every step of the way. I also want to share the stories of those brave souls who plan to join me, especially women of all ages who have overcome adversities to create their own destinies. In the coming year, I’ll be adding a blog about each climber who decides to join me on this epic journey, share their story and showcase their talents whether it be in art, music, writing, science, technology, education, design, business or more. My hope is for at least one little girl to view a video or read the story and whisper to herself ‘If she can do that, then so can I.’
But this is not going to be a super solemn or serious journey. It will be a fun one too. Did you know that most Kilimanjaro porters start each day with a Swahili song and a dance, inviting climbers to join them? What a wonderful way to say good morning. So who’d like to join me and sing and dance all the way to the top in January 2018?
To whet your appetite, here’s a documentary of the mountain and the surrounding park. Enjoy!
- Mount Kilimanjaro which lies along the border of Tanzania and Kenya, is a giant snow-capped volcano formed a million years ago when lava spilled from the Rift Valley zone.
- At 19,341 feet above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
- There are three volcanic cones on the mountain: the extinct Mawenzi at 16,893 feet, the extinct Shira 13,000 feet and the dormant Kibo at 19,341 feet which could erupt at any time. The last major eruption was 360,000 years ago and the most recent activity was 200 years ago, so I’m not too worried.
- The youngest person to climb Kilimanjaro was Jordan Romero of California, USA who climbed in 2006 at 10 years of age.
- The oldest man and oldest woman to climb are Martin and Esther Kafer from Vancouver, Canada, who achieved their feat in 2012, aged 85 and 84 respectively.
- Anne-Marie Flammersfeld, a 37-year-old German, was the fastest woman to climb the mountain and broke the record at 8 hours and 32 minutes.
- Bernard Goosen scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in 2007, taking six days in his wheelchair.
- Kyle Maynard, a true and inspiring hero in every way, the first quadruple amputee to ascent unassisted to the top of Kilimanjaro in 2012. Click here to watch this incredible video of his climb: Kyle Maynard
Live your life as you would climb a mountain. Climb steadily, slowly and surely. Every so often glance at the peak. Enjoy the scenery at every vantage point on the way up. Be prepared for all circumstances. Know that there is more than one way to the top. The magnificent view from the top is well worth the determination, perseverance and effort of the journey.
Harold B. Melchart
Cover photo from Muhammad Mahdi Karim