Mt. Kili Madness

Next month, September, will mark my 2-year anniversary of having reached the summit of Kilimanjaro.

It will also be the 2-year anniversary of handing over the reins of Alexandra Baseball to my wonderful successors, the Irwin family, after I found out my own family was relocating to the United States.

Just like climbing Kili, being involved with a sports team in one of the most impoverished townships in South Africa is incredibly difficult and rewarding at the same time. In both cases progress is very slow. You take one step at a time. Often the route is not direct and you find yourself circling the summit instead. I’m thinking here of the time we wanted to start having league teams playing on our home field in Alexandra, so as to cut down on travel costs as well as building a better community in the league, but running into trouble when the grass was too long. While the township had a lawnmower, there was no petrol. If we wanted the grass mowed and a playable field, we had to go find our own petrol, as well as some spare parts and a driver. What should have been an easy path became obstructed and circuitous, but pole pole, slowly and one step at a time, we got there in the end. And seeing the joy and pride on the kids’ faces for showing off their skill on their own home turf was reward enough.

Kind of like watching the sunrise at Stella Point.

Both Kilimanjaro and Alexandra have played a large role in my life. Wouldn’t it be great to bring those two passions of mine together in one exciting cause?

 

Enter Mt. Kili Madness *. It involves a climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, and it involves township kids playing a sport. In fact, the sport will be played ON Mount Kilimanjaro, which is totally awesome. Though in this case it won’t be baseball that’s being played, but rather cricket, its close cousin.

If you’re now pulling a face and telling me that you hate cricket (as those who don’t actually know it are often wont to do), let me remind you that I used to be one of those cricket doubters but have since come around, mainly by watching my own son play it while in South Africa and learning to understand the game.

So next month, on September 20th, a very special expedition will set forth, along the Machame Route which I took, to conquer the summit of Kili, like so many others have done. But they will also set forth to accomplish something no other has done before: two teams will play the highest cricket match ever right up there in the crater. The previous world record for a cricket match at high altitude was set in 2009 at Everest Base Camp, and this one will be 600 meters higher.

I can’t imagine a more glorious sight. It is bound to be a spectacular undertaking, but I also know how hard it will be.

Part of this group, which includes South African cricket legend Makhaya Ntini as well as some high-profile England players, will be two boys from the Alexandra Township Chiefs Cricket Club. As you can imagine, they’ll need some support to help with equipment, travel expenses, vaccines, visas, and more. It is their dream to scale the heights of Kili and enter their name in the record books, but they are also striving for something bigger – being ambassadors for their community, campaigning against violence, and finding their place in the world.

You can become a sponsor of this dream for as little as $1, or maybe you have a company which you’d like to involve in a community outreach opportunity.

 

I have taken many pictures of exactly the same scene, except with baseball players in the foreground. That’s because the Chiefs and Alexandra Baseball share the same field.

 

Alexandra Township Chiefs vs Ambassadors from India, June 3, 2014. (the Chiefs won the match by 10 runs)

 

Mural of Nelson Mandela House in Alexandra Township. Johannesburg is wonderful showcase of murals and graffiti, and Nelson Mandela features in many!

 

Raymond Lebokana, Captain of Alexandra Township Chiefs, with Vikram Dayal, Captain of Ambassadors of Cricket

I know how scaling a mountain can help you fulfill your dreams. I always wanted to write a book but never quite got around to “just doing it,” until I climbed Kilimanjaro. Going about it one step at a time until I stood on the top and accomplished the seemingly impossible spurred me on to do exactly the same as a writer. It helped in my case that the climb itself provided the story for Kilimanjaro Diaries, but it can help in many other ways too.

I’m so excited for those two boys and the entire expedition of Mt. Kili Madness. Please help spread the word in your social network, so that this dream can get a boost. Every little bit helps, one step at a time.

Pole pole.

 

Skeen Primary School, winners of the Alexandra Township Junior LMS League. It’s pictures like this that make me want to write about Alexandra again and again – so full of hope and  joy, so much potential, and yet so much to overcome.

* All photos courtesy of Aliya Bauer and/or the Alexandra Township Chiefs