To Climb or Not to Climb Kili?

Ever since the subject of moving to South Africa came up, I’ve been harboring this secret idea of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro while we’re here. Before I even looked at houses or schools or even the crime rate, I was googling the different ascent routes up this legendary (in my mind at least) mountain.

I figured it’s the perfect mountain for me. I’m afraid of heights, so any vertical drops are out for me, and I’m almost as afraid of the cold, so a mountain that is situated in Africa has a certain appeal. Even though I’ve yet to find a really hot place in Africa, to be honest. I’ve been cold here more than anywhere else, so that last leg up to the summit wouldn’t be very pleasant, given that you typically climb it at night, if I’d even make it, considering the altitude that has forced many a traveler back downhill. Which gets me to another reason of doing it while we live here: Joburg is at such an altitude that you might get a teensy benefit from being acclimated just a little bit, instead of starting from sea level. Let alone saving on the flight to get us to Africa in the first place.

Somehow up until now there have always been other travel destinations beckoning, ones that offered more comfort and less need of preparation, so Kilimanjaro was put on the backburner. However, the other day I realized with a bit of a shock that we’re rapidly approaching our 2-year mark here in South Africa, and that if you assume the ever-so-common 2-to-3-year expat average, there won’t be very much time left.

Hiking trail above Franschhoek
At least I’ve achieved clarity about one aspect. When I originally shared my dream with Noisette, he sounded pleased with the idea, if not overly excited. It would be a great bonding experience for us and Zax (the other kids are too young, or too prone to altitude sickness, or too prone, frankly, to incessant whining when confronted with the slightest incline to be conquered on foot). However, when Noisette and I recently took a hike – I’d rather call it a stroll – around Franschhoek Pass, he was soon complaining about the uneven path, strewn with rocks, making it hard to look anywhere but the ground ahead of you, while I got more and more excited bounding uphill. We shared stories about our childhood, and it turns out he liked the Sunday strolls his family took, on wide paved roads, flat as a pancake (there are no hills around Hannover, Germany), breathing in the fresh air. Whereas I absolutely hated such strolls, even if they just lasted an hour, leading me to whine about it without end (I hope my kids don’t read that). But if you gave me a day-long hike into the Swiss Alps, going up grueling slopes, crossing a glacier, stopping at a sparkling stream where dams could be built, I was in heaven (my brothers might now feel compelled to correct my rose-tinted vision and remind you that I was whining on those hikes as well). But the point is, I love a good challenge, while I hate walking just for the sake of walking. I mean, if there is a paved road, why not take a bike at least to get there faster?
So it was decided during our half-hour “hike” that if I want do climb Kilimanjaro, I’ll have to do it without Noisette. Maybe he’ll take the younger kikds on a diving trip instead, meeting up afterwards in Dar es Salaam. Zax, I think, will want to come, even if that means leaving the xBox behind for over a week. He hates to leave the house, but like me he’ll like the challenge. He once raced me up to the 21st floor of a hotel in New York, losing me after three flights of stairs and greeting me nonchalantly and with a big smile when I finally dragged myself after my tongue into the room. And I’ll promise right here that he will get a new blog name from me if we conquer Mount Kilimanjaro together.

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