Saying Goodbye, Broken Camera’s and Emotions Running Wild, we were on our way to Base Camp ~ A Journey to the Top of Kilimanjaro

Day Five

Thursday, 12th July 2012

From:  Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp (Base Camp)

Altitude: From 3930m up to 4800m and back down to 4640m again

Habitat: Alpine Desert

Hiking Time: 4 – 5 hours

Distance: 4 km’s

The night times were not getting any better. In fact they were just plain bad and I was lucky if I was managing to get three hours sleep each night. The time I slept the longest would always come once I had been through the ritual of getting snug enough in my sleeping bag with all my layers of clothes and finally catching my breath again, I would fall asleep from pure exhaustion.  Sadly, the sleep never lasted long and as we headed toward midnight and the temperatures began to drop rapidly, I would wake up again lying there listening to the silence around me, longing for the sun to rise so we could get up again and get warm.

As usual Dickson and Moses came knocking on our tent flap around 6am with the welcome tea/coffee or hot chocolate on offer. Now matter how bad the sleepless night had been this early morning ritual was always so worth it and so very welcome and soon the air would be filled with the laughter emanating from Judi and Simon’s tent and I would know my day was beginning.

We woke to a beautiful but chilly Day Five.  Today was going to be a big day, we were heading to Base Camp and tonight we would push for the summit. I was beyond excited. This was the moment I had waited for a long, long time.

Everything I did at this stage had me out of me breath and although my breath was short I was hugely grateful I was still feeling fantastic. I had no headaches and I had no nauseousness and although I was coughing quite badly from the dust, I felt strong.  On a mountain as high as this, these were huge blessings!

As we climbed out of our tent high up above the rest of the world, we found a blanket of cloud covering everything below us.  I imagined this is what Emma must see from up above and I playfully imagined her bouncing lightly over the fluffy white clouds, feeling so close I could hear her laughter ring out in my ears. I smiled as I took a deep breath in and took in the beautiful view that spread out before me.

We woke up to Day 5 with the world below covered in a sheet of soft, fluffy white cloud. Photo by Simon Bates

No doubt celebrating the fact she was climbing Kilimanjaro! I am still puzzled as to where she got all the air! Photo by Simon Bates

It didn’t matter that we were high up on a mountain…. Simon had seen clean hair and wanted some for himself… Step in Dry Shampoo…! Photo by Judi Kurgan

Off to side, Simon was sprucing up his looks.  He had no doubt spent the whole of yesterday checking out Judi’s newly “dry shampoo’d” fresh and clean-looking hair and knew he wanted some for himself! Armed with Judi’s spray can of dry shampoo and with Thomas standing ready with the camera in hand he began “cleaning” up.  If there is one thing for sure, life on the mountain with this group was never dull.

Breakfast was hot and welcomed, starting with my 2nd cup of tea for the day. Steaming hot porridge was served first by our waiter Hilary and then eggs and sausage and tomato and a whole host of other foods to fuel our bodies.  As we chatted over breakfast, Thomas took our pulse and oxygen level readings. I was finally getting the hang of this and I was much more relaxed as my turn came up, without my pulse racing to new levels in anticipation of the results! The realisation that tonight we would be leaving for the summit sent my body swirling into what can only be described as an excited frenzy! Although my resting pulse was high, my blood was working hard to give me oxygen and there had only been a slight drop of my oxygen levels since we had started. My body was working hard and supporting me every step of the way.  My readings done, I was fit to go!

Two team members down but the rest of us were still fit to continue and at least today I was back to having a pulse, unlike the day before!

As we ate we received the sad news that Barry and Sean would not continue with us to Base Camp. Sean was really not doing well and at the end of the day life is so much more precious than summiting. Barry was to go back down with Sean too even though he was 100% fine. It humbles me to watch and hear things like that. In hindsight, knowing there may have been other contributing factors to Barry’s decision, but at the end of the day giving up on your dream of summiting to go back down with a friend is a beautiful gift, to anyone.  I replayed in my head a conversation Donna and I had one day while we were sitting together planning our trip. We chatted about the reality that one of us might not make it to the summit and what we would do if that was the case. It was decided and agreed between us that if one of us were not well enough to continue the other must continue on the journey to the summit. The tears were suddenly burning my eyes and my heart-felt like it was breaking as I remembered the chat we had. Barry was making the most incredible sacrifice. I was grateful that both Donna and I were still going strong. Donna had mild headaches but besides that we were doing well.  I was grateful that we didn’t have to make that kind of decision, yet. We had come into this together, I couldn’t even begin to think about how I would feel if one of us was not well enough to continue. Things could change so quickly on this mountain, I hoped it was a decision we would not have to make at all. The emotions unexpectedly churned inside of me.  Sadness suddenly overwhelmed me. I didn’t want to have to say goodbye to any member of our team and suddenly that morning we were faced with not one, but two goodbyes.

Anthony was also struggling with his cold, which wasn’t getting any better.  He had done so well up to this point, his strength and determination incredible in light of what we were facing every day up here on the mountain. Anthony was strong, maybe more mentally than physically at that point and would continue with the push up to Base Camp and then make a decision from there as to whether he would make the summit attempt with us. He was taking it all in his stride.

After breakfast it was time to say our goodbyes. This is the point where things really started falling apart for me and it started with my camera. Taking my camera out of its camera case the batteries fell out.  Thinking the catch had just come loose I picked up the batteries and put them back in and closed the slide casing. It was in that moment that my world literally fell apart.  It wouldn’t close and at first I thought my fingers were just cold, try again. But then I saw it, the catch was broken.  For anyone who knows me, they will know that I value my photos as one of my most prized possessions. They are my memories and suddenly there I was high up on Kilimanjaro, my camera was broken, and not a thing I could do about it. In that moment I wanted to fall to my knees and just cry. Everything was just overwhelming me. It was probably not even 8am by this time and my day was not going so well, first news of losing two team members and then hours before we push for the summit, my camera was broken.

You see the crazy thing was that I had come prepared for moments like this.   This climb was important to me and there were two things I wanted to do:

–    To take photos as a keepsake of something amazing I had done and achieved.

–   To keep people at home updated with my progress, especially for all those who had donated money towards my charity The South Africa Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

I had prepared for this in two ways:  I had brought an old spare camera along ~ just in case. I mean seriously who does that? I didn’t want to miss a moment by something unpredictable happening. My thoughts of something happening had been more along the lines of my camera freezing or something like that (We were warned about things like this before we left) . It was a backup and I thought I would probably not even use it.

The other way I prepared was to ensure that I had a second fully charged cellphone with me in case my phone ran out of battery at some point on the mountain. I had a short list of people to phone when I reached the summit, I wanted to make sure I would be connected.

But Murphy’s Law was up to its usual tricks and it was not to be. On our first night arriving in Tanzania Donna had knocked her camera on the floor and it had broken and was unusable.  I had instantly given her my spare camera, thinking I would never even need it anyway and I was thrilled that I (as crazy as it was) had a spare camera to pull out of my bag to give to her to use.

Donna came from somewhere and asked what was wrong. I told her and instantly she took out my old camera she was using and said “here”. This just made me want to cry more and I replied, “no I gave it to you to use.” I don’t know if it was the altitude or stubbornness from both of us but Donna kept saying “here it’s yours, you use it” while pushing it to me and I would reply “no I gave it to you to use, I won’t take it back.” Neither of us was going to back down.  This is when Simon stepped in and asked what was going on. Fighting so hard to hold back the tears, I told him. He said, “Wait here, I’ve got something that will help.”

In that moment I felt so helpless and frustrated.  Far away from anything there was absolutely nothing I could do.  What I love about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce and a memory that can always be looked at. The reality was hitting me hard just as we were reaching the most important part of our climb.

A minute later, Simon returned with a small black roll of insulation tape in his hand. He took my camera from me and began working on fixing it. Now if you remember back to Day 2 I posted a photo of Simon with his rehydration pack that he had insulated with an old towel and black insulation tape.  In that moment, he became my hero. I could hardly speak, the tears burned and it took every bit of strength I had to hold them back, but I thanked him, at least I hope I did! The camera was working again and we had a temporary solution to hold my batteries in. We didn’t know how well it would hold or how long it would last but everyone reassured me that we would all share photos and that if I wanted them to take some photos for me I must just say. Their kindness made the tears sting my eyes and all I could do was nod my head, try my best at smiling a thank you and then I had to walk away before I completely broke down.  I was falling apart on the inside. My emotions were running wild and I had almost no control over them and I knew I just had to let them wash over me.

Our last group photo together before Sean and Barry headed back down the mountain ~ This was Day 5. Photo by Simon Bates

Today we would leave for Base Camp ~ It really was all up to us…. Photo by Donna McTaggart

Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to Barry and Sean. Photo by Judi Kurgan

One last photo with Barry and Sean before we hugged goodbye and watched them walk away. Behind the smile, my heart was breaking for them. Photo by Simon Bates

The time had come to say goodbye to Sean and Barry, we took some last photos with them and hugged each of them goodbye.  Watching Sean and Barry walk in the opposite direction with a guide to lead them back down the mountain, broke my heart. We waved and watched them get smaller as they descended, fighting the tears with each passing second.

I don’t think anyway wants to turn back when you climbing a mountain like this but at the end of the day one’s health is more important.  You can always come back and try again but if you die up here there is no coming back, ever.  Knowing this, my heart still broke.  The dream was over for them and if it left me feeling crushed like it did, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for the two of them.

With a deep breath, I turned to gather up the last of my things and prepare for departure.

Soon we were on our way to base camp, I was so close, my dream within reach. I wanted this more than anything in the world. For myself. For Emma. For my friends and family back home and every single person that had donated funds to the South Africa Cystic Fibrosis Trust and who was watching my journey.  I had to make it to the top. I had come this far and I knew deep within my soul that there was no way I was turning back. I just had to make it to the top.

Leaving Karanga Camp, the path was dry and dusty and as always a constant upward climb. Photo by Donna McTaggart

Leaving Karanga Camp and the world below covered in clouds behind us ~ we were on our way to Base Camp. Me with brothers Anthony & Simon who we met in transit at the airport ~ It’s funny how random moments can change an entire journey! Photo by Donna Mc Taggart

Walking above the clouds, porters beginning the journey to Base Camp, loaded with camp supplies. Photo by Judi Kurgan

The day hadn’t started out great, my emotions were everywhere and as we began to walk any thought that came into my mind was making me want to weep. I took a deep breath, as deep as I could, anything to try and starve off the tears that were threatening to spill over and not stop!

This is the hard part they don’t tell you about.  The emotions that you have no control over. The air is thin, you are not thinking straight anymore, your support is your hiking team that are doing this with you and you are far from any home comforts and loved ones. Your body, mind and emotions take on a life of their own and when it hits you have no control over it; you just have to let it ride over you like a wave crashing to the shore.  My day was just beginning and it was an emotionally hard one. I could only hope and pray that it got better as we went along.

Simon, Judi and Dons showing us the peak of Mawenzi, one of the three dormant volcanic cones of Kilimanjaro. Photo by Donna McTaggart

Although we had a short 4km’s to walk to base camp, it was a slow and steady climb up. Pole Pole the porters would shout out to us as we they raced past us. Pole Pole we would reply as if to remind ourselves to go slow.  One foot in front of the other we climbed slowly forward and up. There was a cold wind blowing, the summit ever-present to our left, reminding us constantly why we were there.

Donna, Anthony and I making our way to Base Camp, ever closer to the Kibo Cone and our ultimate goal. Photo by Simon Bates

A porter carrying incredible loads of luggage and supplies up to Base Camp. Photo by Donna McTaggart

I hardly took any photos, even though Simon had fixed my camera up for me. I’m ever grateful to my fellow team mates for the pics they did take of Day 5, to fill in the blanks of the photo’s I didn’t have the energy or inclination to take.

Despite Anthony being under the weather, it was two thumbs up on one of our breaks. Photo by Simon Bates.

Up until this point, this was by far the hardest day for me. Although our group was always ringing out with laughter, today the silent moments were probably filled with all of us contemplating what lay ahead of us that night.  I was grateful for my team, for the laughs, for the smiles, for the arms around my shoulders ever reminding me where we were and what we were doing. Thoughts of Emma filled my mind although I tried hard to push thoughts of her away for they only made me want to cry even more.

Simon showing us the way. Photo by Donna McTaggart

There was only one way and it was up all the way to Base Camp. Here’s Dons and I with our lead guide Dickson stopping for a photo. Photo by Simon Bates

No chance of Milton getting bored as he waited for us during our photo shoots for he had his radio and music to keep him occupied! Photo by Donna McTaggart

The landscape was dry and even more arid than before. The dry sand was being blow around by the wind and kicked up from the feet of my fellow hikers walking in front of me.  Everything was covered in dust.  As I walked I coughed, a dry nagging cough, full of dust.  Despite this and my emotions something deep within my core continued to push me forward.  I was tired and no doubt this was a huge contributing factor to how I was feeling, yet I was filled with excitement ~ summit was close.

For those wondering what we are doing here ~ 4400 metres (14435 ft) above sea level. We had to mark the event! But something was missing…. Photo by Judi Kurgan

We were at 4400 metres above sea level, of course we needed an exclamation mark !! Thanks Ant! Photo by Judi Kurgan

Looking ahead we could see where we still had to go. Thomas informed us that camp was at the end of the path we could see, just a little bit further on from the top. We were close.

Exciting news, see where the path leads and that last hill up, Base Camp is up there! Here Donna and Judi show us the way. Photo by Simon Bates

At 4400m we just had another 273 metres to climb but first a long and dusty path to follow. Photo by Judi Kurgan

Making our way along the dusty path, Base Camp was close. Photo by Thomas Schrick

As was becoming the norm on this mountain, we had to work to get to base camp and we had one last steep climb to the top before reaching our destination for the day. But first we would rest for five minutes.

With one last push ahead of us to Base Camp, we stopped for a short break to catch our breath before making the final climb up ~ this time even various porters stopped for a break before heading up.  Photo by Thomas Schrick

Making our way up to the top. Photo by Thomas Schrick

One foot in front of the other, it was ‘pole pole’ to the top. Photo by Simon Bates

Led by Dickson, Donna and I were almost, almost at the top! Photo by Simon Bates

Dickson, Donna and I finally at the top, next stop Base Camp! Photo by Simon Bates

After one last long steep climb up, we were greeted with the sight of Base Camp. The smiles break out instantly and the excitement just oozes out of everyone around you. It’s a beautiful moment. We stopped for a snack and a bit of a breather on top before heading towards the tents in the distance. Soon we would rest in preparation for our big night ahead.

At the top, Milton taking some time out while we do the photo thing! Photo by Simon Bates

With the long dusty path behind us and Base Camp up ahead this was four happy climbers! Had it not been for Donna’s cousin and Simon’s mom meeting in a chemist on the day we left, our paths would never have crossed. Grateful they did. Photo by Simon Bates

Milton, one of our guides, taking it easy and full of peace and love as always! Photo by Donna McTaggart

Not sure if Simon was taking a photo of Base Camp, which was now finally in sight, or of the summit but either way it was a beautiful sight. Of Base Camp that is, not Simon!

Walking into Base Camp with the summit in the background. Photo by Donna McTaggart

Tourist Toilets at Base Camp. The “Tourist” sign made me laugh every time. They look pretty decent from here, but trust me you never want to go in there. Once again I was glad we had our own porta-loo with us! Photo by Donna McTaggart

Arriving at Base Camp, there was an electric buzz all around.  The entire camp was spaced close together leaving us to constantly climb over guy ropes and make our way around a maze of tents. The Kibo cone of Kilimanjaro loomed large and white with snow to our left.  Our tents had been set up right at the end of camp, closest to the summit.

Us girls had arrived! Photo by Judi Kurgan

I wish I could have shown more excitement at this point, but I was tired, completely exhausted and emotionally drained. Although I don’t look ecstatically happy, I was dancing on the inside! Photo by Donna McTaggart

As we walked past this structure, the porters were buzzing around. I hoped they were not about to weigh our bags again….! Photo by Donna McTaggart

Our options for the rest of the day was to have lunch and then have a sleep and do an acclimatization walk in the afternoon then back for supper and some more sleep before getting up for our summit attempt.  Or we could do lunch and go on the acclimatisation walk straight away and then come back and sleep before supper. We all opted for lunch and then the acclimatization walk leaving us to come back and sleep before supper.

It was a good feeling to be in Base Camp. Here we are in our camp site, right at the edge closest to where people leave for the summit. Kibo looms large in the background. In just a few hours we would be heading up there. The feeling of both excitement and nerves filled the air around camp ~ the buzz was electrifying. We were in Base Camp and it was Day 5!     Photo by Simon Bates

4673 metres above sea level. Our highest camp and just 1222 metres away from summit. Photo by Donna McTaggart

From Base Camp we had beautiful views of two peaks of Kilimanjaro, Mawenzi and Kibo, the summit of Kilimanjaro.  We seemed to be on this ridge high above the ground, our tents closely together and each hiker all with one goal in mind.

A rare photo taken my me on Day 5 of the Mawenzi cone. One of Kilimanjaro’s three dormant volcanic cones.

Before we headed to the tent for lunch, I switched on my phone to send Natalie my next “Dispatch from the Slopes of Kilimanjaro.”  As I turned it on it beeped with messages from my mom and Natalie. Receiving these messages from home were always a highlight of my day, encouraging words and flooded with support.

Natalie had sent a message earlier in the day and this is how they went:

12/7/2012 11:01


Hi La. Thinking of you while you’re on your hiking to Barafu today.  I know it’s a long slow one and I am thinking of you and Dons every step of the way!! Keep your eye on the goal.. It is going to be SO WORTH IT!!!  Wish I was there too!!! <hugz galore!. Love u more!

12/7/2012 12:59


Dispatches from the slopes of Kilimanjaro: “We have arrived at Base Camp a few hours ago but very sadly two members short. Sean had water on lungs so Barry took him down. Sad to see them go. Been thinking of Emma lots today, I am so close now. Icy cold wind blowing here but sun is divine! We leave for summit at 11pm tonight (10PM your time), this is the final leg!”

12/7/2012 13:04


One phone dead so saving this battery now. Last favour please? Any new donations come in and if so what is the final amount and new names. Feeling emotional today. Nearly there. Pls keep us in your prayers. Love you xxx

12/7/2012 13:10


I just knew it somehow.. Guess that just comes from knowing your friend hey. Your new total is R19841 :) People are STILL donating! Desiree Inderal made the R200 donation. You’re going to raise at LEAST R20000 angel!! What an achievement!! ~ Wish I was there to give you a great BIG hug right now!! Pole pole all the way!! You CAN do it!!!!! In my prayers every step of the way. xxxx

12/7/2012 14:07


That just made me cry! I hope I reach R20K. Will add new donation to my sign.  Wish you were here to. Love you millions.

I remember so clearly the look on Donna’s face as I told her that I was close to reaching the R20 000 mark. The gratitude filled me up and spilled out of my eye lids as the tears rolled down my cheeks.  No words could ever convey what I felt in that moment, for the support and love from back home and around the world with all the donations that had come in for Cystics Fibrosis. I wasn’t only doing this climb for myself anymore, or solely in memory of Emma.  I was doing this climb for each and every person who had offered me support and who gave so generously towards a charity that is close to my heart.  There was no two ways about it, there was only one way and that was to push tonight as hard as I could to make it all the way to top. For me. For Emma and for all of you.

A short while later we were sitting in the mess tent waiting for lunch, it was warm and cozy and sheltered us from the icy cold wind that was blowing outside.  The laughter ringed out inside the tent and the chatter was excited, although no doubt everyone was starting to feel the nerves of what we were about to do. The anticipation is indescribable!

It was while enjoying lunch together that Thomas pulled out his camera, turned it to video and said he would like to do a pre-summit chat with each of us. He started with Donna, who was sitting opposite me, then it was my turn, then Simon, then Anthony and then Judi.  Writing this post (as with all the other posts I have written) brings back the moments on Kilimanjaro like I am there again, my body fills with the feelings of the moments and I get taken on a journey from laughter to tears right back to laughter again. This video is no different. It transports me back into that mess tent, feeling the feelings all over again, filling my body with the pure excitement for what lay ahead. This is what we all had to say merely hours before we left for the summit….

After lunch we headed out for our acclimatisation walk.  It was steep and we climbed over rocks and then walked on scree, Dickson our lead guide, lending a helping hand as we made our way over the rocks.  The scree, which is loose rock debris and soft sand left us taking a step up and then sliding back slightly with each step.  Anthony, who was still full of flu (there really is no other way to describe it) had decided to stay at Base Camp and rest/sleep, a decision that could make all the difference for his summit bid in just a few hours. The incline was steep and I for one was grateful  our backpacks were light with only the essentials of what we might need, leaving us free to deal mostly only the weight of our own bodies. In just a few hours we would be walking this very path again, but the next time would be in the dark. The thought gave me goosebumps and little did I know that in a few hours’ time I would be so grateful I couldn’t see further than my headlamp light in the dark.  But that’s another story that will be told for summit night….

On our acclimatisation walk, looking back gave us a view of Base Camp on a ridge in the distance below. Photo by Judi Kurgan.

On the acclimatisation walk, I took my broken camera out and managed to capture this ~ Looking back I took this photo of Base Camp and the landscape to the side, clearly showing the path we had walked earlier that morning. It was like I was in a fantasy land, I had to pinch myself to remind myself that this was in fact very real!

Donna walking in front of me on the acclimatisation walk ~ I love this pic showing us getting ever closer to the snow covered slopes of Kilimanjaro as we climbed part of the route we would climb later that night on our way to the summit.

For some reason, one of which for the life of me I can’t recall now, Judi reminds me that we were up at 5000m so it’s acceptable to be forgetful, but we all had our mobile phones on us, appropriately for our photo with our next sign! We may have been standing at 4800 metres above sea level, the air was thin but there was always time to play silly buggers!

Walking and acclimatising! Anthony stayed back in Base Camp to rest while we headed up higher giving our bodies a taste of the thin air we would encounter that night on our way to the summit. Photo by Judi Kurgan

On Kilimanjaro, about a 1000 metres away from the summit and we were still on our mobile phones! Photo by Simon Bates

Even on our acclimatisation walk, there was still time to play silly buggers! Photo by Donna McTaggart

After a good acclimatisation climb, we were heading back down to Base Camp for some sleep before supper.

After a good acclimatisation climb we came back and stopped for some hot tea in the mess tent before heading off to our respective tents in hope that we could all catch a couple of hours of sleep before supper.  Donna and I got our stuff ready for summit. It was time to bring out the really warm clothes. We made a pile of everything we would need and packed our snacks for the journey up into our backpacks.  Once done, we lay back and closed our eyes. So much floated in and out of my mind as I lay in the tent, sleep finally taking over.  I didn’t sleep long, maybe 45 minutes to an hour but I lay still just trying to conserve my energy. I could feel the nerves in the pit of my stomach but the excitement was overwhelming at the same time. I said a prayer for me and my team and I thought of Emma, I could feel her so closely. I knew she was watching over me.

Donna woke and we chatted quietly in our tent and eventually did a double-check on all our items for summit. I turned on my phone again to check if there were any updates from Natalie regarding my fundraising, the light flickered on and a message beeped through.

12/7/2012 16:20


Reminder in case you forget : You can climb your way out of hell ~ one inch at a time. You are going to BEAT that mountain!!! One step at a time!! Wish I was there to help you up but truth is you would probably be the one dragging my heavy ass up there so could it as a small favour that I stayed at home where I’m useful  :)  Inch by inch … that’s all it takes.  Never forget that!!  Reach for the moon! Touch the stars… Fly your banner! Scale … and  r e a c h  :D  It is within you!  Oh, and guess what? I have good news for later… Watch this space :D. Don’t reply .. save your airtime and batt.  Love you!

This message made me both laugh and cry! Damn these emotions today, this was getting a bit much now! I wondered what her good news was… I hoped I didn’t have to wait long and just then my phoned beeped into life again. There waiting in my inbox was another message from Natalie.

12/7/2012 16:20


There are so many good wishes and msg’s for you and Dons.. from the CF Trust FB pg : Carol Furlonger “That is amazing.. well done Lara.. very proud of you!” & Janice Barnard “Very very very proud of you Lara!!!! Yay!!!!” Your friend Gavid Fennessy “All the best good luck” Margie& Dave send ♥ + thinking of u, so many more! + the BEST I saved for LAST…!! Glen and Tracy Dale gave R149 to reach the grand total of R20000!!!

There was no holding back now. The tears flowed freely! R20 000 (In US Dollars that equates to $164 000). There were just no words.

Our last sunset on Kilimanjaro before our summit attempt. Photo by Donna McTaggart

I managed to take this picture of Mawenzi as the light faded and changed colour ~ As I saw the pink sky I knew Emma was close and I for the millionth time in my life repeated what Emma taught me one morning as we rode our bikes to primary school ~ “Pink sky night Shepard’s delight, Pink sky morning Shepard’s warning” ~ I knew she was with me as we prepared for our summit attempt and as she had taught me so many years ago, it was going to be a beautiful blue sky’d morning as we summited! Maybe this was her gift to me.

We sat in silence as we watched the final sunset high up on Kilimanjaro’s slopes. Photo by Donna McTaggart

After watching one final sunset on Kilimanjaro before our summit attempt, just before 6pm, armed with my banner and a black marker we headed to the mess tent again where we were due to have an early supper. As we waited I told everyone I had reached R20 000.  They tent broke out with the sound of applause as the tears (happy ones this time) pushed up again. As we waited for supper, I sat there adding the names of the latest donors to my banner.  I struggled to eat, mostly from lack of appetite thanks to the altitude but I pushed down what I could, reminding myself that my body needed all the energy I could give it.  The conversation over dinner was more subdued than normal, although there were a few bits of laughter here and there, I think we were all thinking about what lay now just 4 ½ hours away….

Anthony had managed to have a good rest while we walked earlier.  He was ready to give it a push to the summit. We were all in this together.  I smiled at Anthony’s strength and determination.  We discussed the plan for later, after supper we would try to get some sleep and then at 10pm Tanzanian time we would wake up, have some tea and biscuits and then at 11pm we would leave for the summit.  Although a quieter “last” supper before summit, there were plenty of smiles exchanged across the table ~ at this point, no words were necessary.

After supper as usual we had another cup of tea but after that we didn’t hang around much longer and we bid each other “Lala Salama” (Good night in Swahili).

Heading to our tents, I looked up the magnificent black sky filled with stars shimmering down on us from up above. As it was every night, it was simply breath-taking.  Breathless moments ~ where dreams come alive. As I gazed up I said “this is it”.  I smiled and climbed into my tent.  Donna and I did one last final arranging of our summit night clothes and checked our backpacks one more time. All we needed to do at 10pm was get dressed and get our water for the night.  I took my phone out of my bag and checked it one last time before switching it off for the night. I found another message from Natalie.

12/7/2012 19:26


Rooting for you all the way!!! Waiting for your msg tomorrow morning when u summit .. Don’t care what time!!! We are all waiting for news and praying for a successful rewarding adventure and your safe return home. Love you millions! In all our prayers. Beeeeeeeeg hugz!! xoxo

Before switching off our head lights, I read the messages that I had received before I left home and had printed them out onto a piece of paper to carry with me on my journey. I took it all in and then neatly folded the paper again and put it safely into my backpack. Yes, I carried the messages with me every day, as I did my banner.

We said goodnight, it must have now been just before 8pm, we turned off our head lights and snuggled down for the last couple of hours. You could still hear one or two voices outside but that didn’t last long and soon an almost eerie silence filled the camp. I said another prayer as I lay there. All I wanted now was to fall asleep. I lay there for what seemed like forever, eventually drifting off.  I woke often not daring to look at the time, feeling every passing minute go by. I wondered if anyone in camp was actually sleeping or like me, were they lying awake waiting for the call to get up?

Suddenly, it was 10pm

In just 1 hour we would leave for summit.

It was time to get dressed.

Thermals already on.

We pulled our clothes over.

Layer by layer.

This was it.

Excitement enveloped me.

But the nerves were there too.

I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.

But that was okay.

I didn’t need easy.

I just needed possible.

Thank you to my team members for keeping me sane on this day.

Thank you for sharing your photos and for helping me fix my broken camera.

I honestly could not have made it through this day without all of you walking by my side.

Some pieces of this day might be a bit jumbled up. My notes that I wrote in my book that day were short and scribbled quickly and events may have happened in a slightly different order but all events written above happened on Day Five. Again I remind myself what Judi reminded me, I was at 5000m above sea level and I doubt anyone would really care too much if I got my timing slightly wrong!

~ All photos by my teams mates, except for the rare few by me ~

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lvsrao
    Nov 09, 2012 @ 15:44:38

    Eclat. Errantry. Congratulations for the achievement. The posting of the photos and the brief narration all those are also really appreciable.


  2. Anthony Lloyd
    Nov 09, 2012 @ 17:00:01

    Hi Lara, I’m doing the graveyard shift 3:00pm – 03:00am at Crown Casino in Melbourne as I read your Kilimanjaro Blog. Thanks for your fantasic recollection of the epic trip we did together and congratulations on raising R20,000.
    It’s great to look back on such an amazing unforgetable seven days we had together,
    all the emotions, the phisical hard ships, the friendships we made. Those seven days on Kilimanjaro were very special and ours to keep forevever and no one can take that experince away.
    Its a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll and we did just that.


    • Walking 4 Air
      Nov 10, 2012 @ 12:29:06

      Hey Anthony! Glad I could give you some reading material for the graveyard shift. :) I am thoroughly enjoying writing these posts about our trip, it puts me right back there and I loved going through all those pics too. Such fond memories and amazing friendships like you say. Very special indeed!


  3. linhartb
    Nov 20, 2012 @ 06:57:27

    Great pictures! I hope to climb Kilimanjaro some day!


  4. Trackback: Finally, the end of the story! ~ A Journey to the Top of Kilimanjaro | Walking4Air

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