This is it.
All is packed, and Zax and I are getting on a plane (at some ungodly hour – did I tell you we opted for the budget flights?) tomorrow to take us closer (but not really any closer) to our goal. First to Nairobi, then to the foot of the big mountain. To some nondescript hotel, actually, also of the budget variety I’m sure. Except then it does what all Kilimanjaro base camp hotels do. Within the space of seven days, it will magically transform itself from a dump into a 5-star luxury resort. It will entail such wonders as hot running water and, even more amazing, a toilet. Electric lights. And a bar with a cold beverage. What more can you ask for in life?
Just two days ago, I thought I’d never make it. I’m blaming Namibia and South Africa for my stress. Namibia for encroaching into my prep time by taking me away to distant moonscapes and skeletons and flying tents and hissing tires just as I should have started packing, and South Africa for being the world capital of shops that are chronically out of things. That may or may not be restocked this season. Or ever.
I was running around like crazy for several days trying to gather the last needed items. Mainly warm clothing, to be honest, because have I told you what I fear most in life? Other than peering down from great heights, that is? Yep, being cold. I’m horrified of it. Which is why I’ve packed the entire Costco box of hand and toe warmers that so serendipitously traveled to our garage here in South Africa. If they put me over the 15 kg weight limit, I”m willing to dump anything from my stash to make room. Hairbrush, toothpaste, underwear, fresh socks, you name it.
Because warm always trumps clean.
Also, I was getting last minute medicines, like Diamox for altitude sickness, which you may or may not have to take, depending on who you talk to. And Immodium, just in case. Although maybe I could save myself the trouble of lugging that around by taking a mouthful right now. Because surely being constipated for seven days is much preferable to the alternative.
I got such obscure things as emergency foil blankets and biodegradable soap that comes in little sheets.
I invested in a headlamp because unlike a South African, I didn’t come out of the womb with one already installed on my forehead.
I bought a mechanical toothbrush, something I haven’t used in decades. Not because I’m afraid my trusted Braun electric one won’t work on Kili – it holds a charge forever – but because I’m scared shitless that someone will make fun of me if I show up with that at the community washing spot the first day.
And I resisted the overpowering urge to buy zip-off pants. For they are the sure sign of the uninitiated tourist, this much I have learned from my Kili research so far. I may not know what country we are flying to, when those flights might leave, what route we are climbing, or whether there will be a full moon during our ascent, but I did take care to read up on the fashion situation.
And zip-off pants are definitely SO yesterday.
Then there was the small matter of getting my hands on US dollars, for tips for the porters and such. Really, I think I never mentioned that the number one item you should pack when leaving America for a new life in Africa is a big wad of dollars. Because finding them here always involves a bit of a Welcome to Africa errand, which luckily I was prepared for this time.
When I had gathered every last item from my packing list, I dumped everything into my bedroom.
Not a pretty sight, I’m sure you’ll agree. I almost despaired at the magnitude of it all. Especially because at the last moment, everybody and their brother seemed to suddenly have something to say about what should be packed and how and in which bag, so that I ended up rearranging everything fifteen times. Things like “toilet paper not in a roll but in individual packs” and “gear you’ll summit in not in the bag you’re checking in case it gets lost.”
What the hell? I spent the better part of the last month buying stuff and reading lists and borrowing things all in the name of winnowing down my life so that it fits into a 10-kg duffel bag, and now there is a chance I will not even have that bag with me climbing the mountain?
And that is why I don’t like to plan, I”m telling you.
Zax, meanwhile, hasn’t done a thing, and I’m sure he’ll throw everything together in ten minutes just before we leave. Oh the blessings of having a mother to rely on who’ll make sure you have everything you need even if you tell her to leave you alone.
Somehow I managed to wrest it all under control and get it organized. How, you ask?
That’s right. Ziploc bags. A wise woman once said to me, there is not much in life you can’t organize into a Ziploc bag to make you feel better. And she was right. It’s one of America’s greatest inventions. And something you really have to search for here in South Africa. Because not all Ziploc bags are created equal.
As you can see, I did fit my whole life into a bunch of Ziploc bags. Or at least the next seven days of it.
I think I’m ready.
Let the hike begin.