2 Feb 2015: Day One
It’s 6:39 a.m. on the first day of our climb.
I’ve been wide awake since 2 a.m.
No idea what woke me up originally but intermittent panics about what I may have forgotten, punctuated by a chorus of crickets, a pack of wild dogs howling in the distance and even a rooster that evidently conspired to keep me awake. It didn’t help that the only “light” reading I packed was a murder mystery.
Not sure how I will survive today. I’m sure I will fall apart later today. Let’s just pray that happens once we make it to camp.
I got sick. Really sick. As in, “I really don’t think I’m going to make it” sick.
Probably a combination of dehydration, lack of sleep, lack of caffeine, being completely off routine and a bumpy van ride to the base of the mountain contributed to it.
I was fine until lunch. When we stopped for our third break, I could tell I looked bad by everyone’s reaction to me. I was trying to drink as much water as possible, but it was hard to drink and breathe.
I’ve wanted to quit a lot of things before, but at this moment, I wanted to lay down on a log and die there.
Miraculously, with the steady help of my porters and the workout mantras from my awesome personal trainer Errick McAdams on repeat in my head, I made it to our camp.
“If it was easy, everyone would do it.”
“You got this. You’ve got guts in spades.”
I’ll save you from what happened next, but suffice it to say I became quite ill.
After the others had dinner, the porters and guides put on an amazing performance of traditional song and dance. It was a “call and repeat” interspersed with speeches from the climbers. Noah was the most eloquent; I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something like:
“Today was a difficult day. But you motivated me to keep going, because I watched you carrying twice as much stuff. Watching you, I knew I could make it.”
Our lead guide “Whitey” appeared at the door of my tent. I was crying.
“Do you think I should quit?” I asked him, choking back tears.
“Absolutely not – you will finish this climb, Simba Dada,” Whitey replied. He told me he had seen climbers worse off than me complete the course. (Note: I have no idea whether this is true, but he had me convinced).
In the middle of the night, my sickness dissipated and I felt miraculously better. I was able to drink a thermos of ginger tea and eat some plain white bread.
I left my tent and found my friend Adam sleeping under the most glorious night sky, so full of stars.
I comfortably fell back to sleep, resolute to start again.