Conquering Kilimanjaro

Adventure | By Pfungwa Nyamukachi, Writer | 01 November 2014

I love mountains! I always have. I remember well growing up, when we would go kumusha, our village in Nerwande, Rusape on school holidays I would often stare out at Chamakumbu and Deedzo both mountains near our homestead, wishing I could just climb up. But, with stories told of how mystic mountains were and the many ‘supernatural’ disappearances of people who ‘disrespected the spirits’ by daring to walk on sacred grounded grounds, the stories would scare me put and I wouldn’t dare.

 Conquering Kilimanjaro, Pfungwa Nyamukachi

Then the family moved to Pretoria, South Afrika and at university the mountains would call, yes call me and say ‘Pfungwa! Huya’ (come)! Ok no, not literally and not the Sangoma call either. But I would often be found arranging our hiking outings – Magaliesberg and Drakensberg which remains one of my best holiday retreats. Then 3-years ago I relocated to Cape Town, a pre-midlife crisis sort of move inspired by a need for more. My beloved Johannesburg, for personal reasons I shall not divulge now, just wasn’t cutting it! I knew I wanted more, I wanted to leave, explore the world, new sights, and sounds and live a little.

Conquering Kilimanjaro, Pfungwa Nyamukachi

There were only two other cities I had always wanted to live in, in South Afrika – Durban and Cape Town. Both chosen for their proximity to oceans. Being from landlocked Zimbabwe, I have always been fascinated by these large expanses of water. As God would have it, I got a job in Cape Town. And, I could not have asked for better, I got best of both worlds – mountains on the one side and ocean on the other. It’s an open secret, I love Cape Town. I needed Cape Town. It is my soul’s sanctuary.

Conquering Kilimanjaro, Pfungwa Nyamukachi

 
Trekking began on the 12th of January 2014 and Lions Head and Table Mountain had trained me well. The first five days were, excuse the pun, a walk in the park. Summit day was my hardest. When we got to Stella Point (5 745m) my gentle but rock hard strong guide, George thought I was done with. He hugged me, hi-fived me, told me how Stella Point is a great achievement and that I would still get a certificate of accomplishment. When I told him that we were proceeding on, that I had not come to see Stella, he simply looked at me in disbelief but I am sure weak as I was the resolve unmistakable and all he said was ‘You are one strong Afrikan woman with a strong heart!’. Even with my limbs frozen, giving up was never an option and so I huffed, puffed and I made it to Uhuru Peak (5 895m)! I cried, I had done it!

Conquering Kilimanjaro, Pfungwa Nyamukachi
 
Summiting Kilimanjaro remains the most physically challenging thing I have ever done, as of yet anyway. Seven days of hard trekking and my prayer each day was simple, to sleep well and wake up refreshed, ready to go. God surely answered that prayer and each day, with backpack stocked with just the right amount of food, water supply and a can-do attitude, I was able to do the work for that day and little by little, ‘pole-pole’, day by day, I made it up top. I have since learnt that, on any given day, I/we all have what it takes to do what is needed for that day only – I have the energy, the competence, the wisdom, smarts – I need only focus on just today!

Conquering Kilimanjaro, Pfungwa Nyamukachi

Many of my friends, family and chance encounters have asked me why I did it and why I would do such a crazy thing. What I now know for sure and truly believe is that everyone needs to do crazy things often! Everyone needs a pilgrim, a journey to the core, a Kilimanjaro of sorts of their own and it doesn’t have to be a mountain, it can be anything. For me it just happened to be Kilimanjaro, journey of celebration, of my life’s journey, where it’s taken me, where I found myself as a woman and the woman I want to be. Many have also asked if this pilgrim gave me any revelations and wise insights and the answer is yes. This submission was meant to be a reflection on my long walk to Uhuru, which literally means freedom in Swahili and lessons learnt along the way or as I looked back on it all. So yes, first lesson is that we need to do more crazy things - challenge the body, challenge the mind, challenge the will – something just gets unleashed.

Conquering Kilimanjaro, Pfungwa Nyamukachi

What Kilimanjaro unleashed in me was a can-do attitude and belief in myself! I realised that I was strong! I am a strong woman – physically, emotionally, and mentally! What an amazing epiphany that was! Somehow, I had forgotten that, I had settled for victimhood and stopped dreaming. Aching muscles and all as I sat back at the foot of the giant that is Kilimanjaro, reflecting on the summit, what I knew without a doubt was that I wanted more and that there was more to me, more to life and more adventures to be had! What I know for sure is I can do more and God wants to give and show me more - I need only ask, I need only do!

 Conquering Kilimanjaro, Pfungwa Nyamukachi

On the mountain, the two words you will hear a lot are ‘pole-pole’. Said by fellow hikers and guides alike to encourage each other on. Pole-pole is Swahili, meaning ‘slowly, slowly’. That it is not a race where the fastest one wins but that little by little, with every step each hiker can make it to the top. You soon realise that each hikers ‘slowly, slowly’ is different. What is one hiker’s ‘pole-pole’ might just leave you huffing and panting out of breathe. And I had to find my own pace. The sooner you find it and get in sync with it, the more the hike becomes enjoyable. We each have to pace ourselves lest we tire, lose steam, lose hope, give up and turn back. And so it is in life, I/we each have our own pace and rhythm to our life-song – get comfortable with it, dance and revel in it!

 

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