Today, exactly one year ago, I started climbing Kilimanjaro. I'd been planning the trip for six months and to say that taking those first steps up the first hill was exciting, would be the understatement of the year!
Climbing that mountain was the hardest thing I've ever done and altitude sickness almost stopped me in my tracks that first night. I am so glad though that I decided to carry on! Standing on the summit after hours of climbing and months of planning felt like a million dollars.
I could not have asked for more special people outside of my family to have joined me on this adventure. My young friend Yolanda and I still hike together on Thursdays and sharing a tent with her was a blessing beyond words. We laughed so much, I felt like a teenager again at times! We can write the book about staying warm on Kili - at night our sleeping bags were filled with about half a dozen hand warmers from top to bottom - it actually felt as if I had an electric blanket switched on in there at times!
Yolanda also taught me how to pack for an overnight hiking trip. She got stuck into my bag at the hotel before we left and removed almost half the contents! Even I had to admit that I probably didn't need the full bottle of shampoo, the lotions etc.etc that made my bag weigh a ton! Talk about wet-wipes - I had a specific bags of wipes designed for every part of the body, including a 80-wipe baby pack!!
The other girl in our party, Sandra, came from Namibia and she climbed the mountain to celebrate her 50th birthday on the 24th of July. The three of us just 'clicked' from the first time we met for coffee in Cape Town a few weeks before the trip. I'll never forget the magical evening (albeit with a hurricane strength wind blowing outside the tent!) we had at Baranco, celebrating her birthday with a mash potato cake the porters had baked for her!
But most of all, I remember the special conversations I had with God on Kilimanjaro. There I discovered for the first time how to listen for the messages that are sent to me. Not only how to listen, but also how to actually hear! The first night I was so ill, I was ready to turn back the next morning. At one stage it was so bad that I actually ripped the zipper open, just to get fresh air. I can't remember ever feeling so ill and claustrophobic at the same time - it was was not a good place to be. Then, somewhere in the early morning hours, I started praying. Like I've never prayed before. I made all the emergency promises that we make when we shoot up those 'I'm -in-trouble' prayers to God. This time there was just one difference, I really meant to keep each and every one of them! :)
Words can't describe the feeling of utter peace that came over me in those early hours of the morning. It literally felt as if it was poured over me and washed over my body in slow motion. I knew, there and then - my life could never be the same again.
A few nights later, at the camp on the photograph below, I opened my little Bible randomly and it fell open at Psalm 61. I had never, to my knowledge, read Psalm 61 and to understand why it made such an impact on me, you have to go and read it for yourself.
I say again - on Kilimanjaro I learnt to listen to God. His messages are SO clear, all one has to do is open your heart, tilt your head and LISTEN. And trust me - you don't have to climb Kilimanjaro to get full reception! :)
And if you're still reading my blog this time next year, I hope to share pages full of Camino memories and miracles with you as well!