In 2018 Kingsmead Parish Council provided grants to 3 young residents. Lauren Owers has just returned from Kilimanjaro and has provided the following report and photos:
This September I was lucky enough to have the chance to travel to Tanzania in East Africa to take part in a sponsored climb up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for Dig Deep, a charity working to provide schools and communities in Kenya with clean drinking water and safe toilets. Our group of 38 climbers was made up of university students from all over the UK and most of us only met for the first time on arrival at Heathrow airport to catch our flight – luckily we all got on well! There are seven main routes up Kilimanjaro. We took the Machame route which promises the most spectacular views but is also often referred to as the “Whiskey Route” due to its reputation for being a tough climb. We weren’t going to be facing the mountain alone, however. Climbing with us was a team of 132 porters, guides and cooks to support us along the way. Dig Deep are also partnered with KPAP, the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project, who ensured fair and ethical treatment of all the porters on our climb, providing them with the correct clothing, wages and proper meals. Our guides were brilliant at making sure we were all kept well fed and hydrated, and encouraging us to keep going at times when we found it tough.
We spent six days on the mountain altogether, five of which it took to reach the summit. At night we slept in tents pitched at campsites on the side of the mountain. Breakfast was at 5am and consisted of a bowl of ugali (a type of maize porridge) and a cup of Milo hot chocolate. We were out walking by sunrise and spent between six to fifteen hours each day trekking through expanses of the most incredible landscapes, ranging from dense montane rainforest to barren stretches of rock and ice that made us feel almost as if we’d been placed on another planet. Each day was different and revealed a different aspect of the mountain. The higher we got, the more the altitude began to take its toll. Its effects include dizziness, headaches, vomiting and sometimes even memory loss. Our guides constantly reminded us to walk “pole pole”, meaning “slowly slowly”, the lack of oxygen making even the most menial tasks hard labour.
On summit night we set out from camp at 3am. It was still pitch black and the temperature was well into the minus figures. We walked pole pole in the dark for about three hours, stopping only occasionally for a quick snack before moving on. This was by far the toughest part of the trek, both physically and mentally. After three hours of walking we were rewarded by the warmth of the sunrise giving us the small boost we needed. Now we could see the first of Kili’s three peaks in the distance, but we still had over halfway to go. We reached Stella point on the rim of the equator after another 3 hours, and barely rested before we had to continue on to the summit at Uhuru point. At 11:20am we finally made it to the top, sharing hugs and tears of joy at what we had achieved.
Altogether as a group we raised over £50,000 for Dig Deep, and I would like to say a huge thank you to Kingsmead Parish for helping make this trip possible for me.