Three years ago I made the decision to not climb a mountain. Instead I flew past it, looking at its snow-capped peak from an airplane seat. I’ve carried that visual with me ever since, and as a result, have made the choice to go back and conquer what I initially had bypassed. Since I made the decision to return to Tanzania, my journey has expanded to one that will carry me through the majority of the continents and to far too many airports.
This Friday I will fly from Calgary to London, and onto Frankfurt, before finally stepping onto the streets of Amsterdam. In this city that actually lies below sea level, I will spend three days visiting friends I made on African soil. It will also offer the opportunity to see how the Dutch do Christmas (because let’s be honest – the Dutch have a unique way of doing pretty much everything). My holiday vacation in Holland will blend ice skating and holiday markets with electronica music and red light districts.
From Amsterdam, I will fly through Vienna to Istanbul. Here, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, I will take in centuries old mosques, and experience how the sultans lived. In my three nights here, I venture to explore not only the sights, but to take in the local culture, including a relaxing hamam and nargileh before the expedition portion of my journey. It is also here in Istanbul that I will meet up with the group of other Canadians that I have joined forces with in order to not only accomplish our personal goals, but also to raise funds and awareness for CARE Canada programs in East Africa and around the world.
A direct flight from Istanbul to Kilimanjaro will put us at the foot of the mountain that the local people call Kilima-Ngiaro, meaning the “journey that has no ending”. After a day of acclimatization and preparation, we will spend the next week climbing one of the planet’s most iconic features. It is a journey that will take us into 2014 and hopefully end with a successful summit, followed by a safe and victorious descent. Our reward at that point is a four day safari through the dramatic Ngorongoro and Serengeti landscapes.
For me, the journey home should allow for ample reflection and contemplation. Kilimanjaro to Mombasa to Istanbul to Frankfurt to San Francisco to Calgary. A total of four continents in 23 days, an elevation change of 6,000 meters, and hopefully more memories than statistics!