Countdown to Kili: A Garden Trowel? Seriously?

“(1) Garden trowel or small shovel (ablutions)”

Somehow, I had missed this item (optional) on my earlier Kili packing list. Nothing gets you thinking like a clear visual of things to come. I had not thought about the toilet situation on Mount Kilimanjaro, I admit. But this, together with (1) Toilet Paper has me now thinking of nothing else.

I couldn’t help mentioning it to Zax, who also hadn’t thought of the toilet situation up until then, and it clearly was a mistake. There is no one in our family more meticulous about washing hands than Zax, and the mere thought of not having a toilet, let alone his very own private toilet, was enough to make him want to drop out.

Looking at the calendar, I realize we have six more months to contemplate the use of a garden trowel for our ablutions. The date – September 1-9 – is on the calendar, the deposit is made, and I am now oscillating between euphoria about this event destined to make history – family history, that is – and dread at how hard it will be.

And I’m not just talking about the hard work of scaling 5,895 meters (19340 ft) in seven days. Walking 7-8 hours every day, sometimes even longer. Sleeping on a thin mat, because anything thicker would be too heavy (15 kg allowed). Making do without a shower. Having blisters on my feet. Battling with altitude sickness (50% of hikers never make it to the top, although that probably includes all the crazy ones not preparing properly). Being extremely hot, and being extremely cold.

No, what I’m talking about are my personal demons. How can I possibly survive without a cappuccino for a whole week? And the Kindle with my New York Times? I don’t suppose there will be a connection up there. But just on the odd chance, I might tote it up anyway. You will see pictures of me waving my Kindle in this direction and that, trying to get a signal. I suppose I’ll be happy with no email for a week, but I won’t be happy with the idea of three hundred messages waiting for me when I get back. So, please don’t write to me in the first week of September! Oh, and how can I be away from my blog for a week? Maybe what I really need for my packing list is a super-light netbook running on solar power and thin air.

Can I survive without this for a week?

Zax – who, at the latest, was still coming – will have his own demons to battle with. How to survive without a sink and soap to wash his hands every time a speck of dirt lands on them? No xBox for an entire week? No reading up on soccer league scores? No alone time, for that matter?

Another thing I absolutely know I will battle with is speed. No, I’m not worried about not being fast enough, rather the opposite: slowing myself down enough to beat altitude sickness. Everything I do, I do fast. Really. I rush through dinner prep. I type like there is no tomorrow. I speak fast. It drives me absolutely crazy when people walk super-slow in front of me and blocking the way, something that happens here quite often. Don’t they have any place they want to get to? Anything on their to-do list to check off? Isn’t there always something better to do with your time than walk? So – you can see right there that hiking up Kili as slowly as I possibly can will not be easy. Yet this is the single most important thing you can do to make it all the way up. The slower you go, the better your chances.

Maybe this is precisely what we need. Leave behind our comfort zone and live without the things we seem to cherish so much, and slow down our hectic lives. Just for a week. One thing I loved about the packing list (other than the fact that someone else will do the cooking!) was that there were absolutely no electronics on it. Life is so much easier if you don’t have to worry about chargers galore. I will be taking a camera, because I couldn’t imagine not chronicling this most adventurous of adventures in pictures, and I might bring a second one just in case, but that will be it.

The biggest thrill about this whole venture, without a doubt, is that I will undertake it together with Zax. Who, as I promised, will get a new blog name afterwards. I  just have no idea yet what it will be.



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