The Joy of Trekking

Day 3 on Mt. Kilimanjaro

After dinner last night, I spent a long time looking at the stars. The Milky Way spills out over where we are tenting more than I’ve ever seen before—including the Badlands this summer. None of the constellations looked familiar early in the evening, and I tried to find the Southern Cross. I went to bed filled with anticipation for Day 3 which includes a gentler hike across the Shira Plateau.

Group of 7 near Moir Camp. (c) Julianne Walker, 2007.

Noah woke feeling much, much better. He had a huge smile, and we joked around as we prepared for the day. Trekking clothes on, day packs filled, sleeping bags put away, duffles closed up, and then off to breakfast.

Tusker feeds us well. Fresh brewed coffee greets you at the wake up call. For the meal, always some sort of hot cereal, followed by eggs of some kind (an omelet, scrambled, fried), toast, peanut butter, jam, some breakfast meat, and fruit. And then a final chance to grab water and lace up the boots and off we went.

The day included a 4.5 mile hike across the Plateau before lunch. We slowly gained elevation, and there was nothing too difficult or steep. So we talked along the way about baseball (Noah’s favorite), geography, football (American), politics and movies. Out of the seven in our group, four are from Canada including Gary, a retired CFO. He and Noah matched wits over capitals both in the US and international countries. When they couldn’t guess, the rest of us jumped in. Barry, who turned 70 on our trip and working in New York’s clothing industry, would be our final stop.

For the life of our group, we couldn’t remember the capital of South Dakota. Noah and I had driven through South Dakota earlier this summer and still, nada. We landed on Sioux Falls, but I knew that wasn’t right. “It’s close enough here in the Tanzanian bush away from the internet and everything else,” someone said, and we all agreed. (Our first night back at dinner we looked it up. Sorry, Pierre, SD!)

As we walked and talked about loads of things, I realized this was one of the greatest joys of hiking. Far too often we d0n’t get time away from electronics or the busy details of our life just to talk with our companions. Out on a trail you have the opportunity. For the seven of us and our three guides, we could learn about each other, favorite Star Wars characters, for example, and laugh when Julianne—celebrating her 3rd anniversary with Mike while on our trek, 20 something and employed by a large tech company—said her favorite were the Ewoks.

Perhaps it’s just the connections made. I’ve had the same experience over coffee. But I do think a long hike gets the juices flowing too. Add to that the trek aspect—you’re with these same people for a week and doing a tremendous thing together—and conversations grow. To me, the people were the great joy on this trek. Gary and his good friend Craig (also in his 50s, retired finance guy from Ontario doing a lot of charitable work), Mike and Julianne, Barry, Noah and Me. Add in Kombe, Stamford and Guadance our guides, who have all been to the summit of Kilimanjaro over 100 times.

People. Connections. Conversations about our lives. Hiking in the vast, gorgeous scenery of Africa.

We made it to Fisher Camp for a hot lunch, and then on to Moir Camp for the evening. As we hiked up to Moir, we stopped at shallow cave along the path carved into the lava wall that we had come upon. We stopped for a chance to see green grass—the shade and damp conditions allowed the grass to grow even in the dry season—and snap a few photos.

And so I am once again so very grateful for the gift of this sabbatical and the opportunity for this amazing trek.

Daily Totals: 6.3 miles and ~2100 feet of gain.

Trek Totals: 15.8 miles and ~6900 feet of gain.

Elevation: 13,650 feet.