When I set off to film this episode I’d never set foot in Africa, let alone attempt to climb one of the most challenging mountains in the world and the tallest in Africa. Just to give you glimpse to how unprepared I was… three days before I left I realized that I was was going to need a snow jacket and professional hiking boots.
I owned neither. I shared on Facebook that I was attempting the Kilimanjaro hike and if anyone had advice: “snow boots and proper gear”. Snow boots? I thought I was climbing it in a tang top! In my mind everything Africa must be done in cargo shorts and would require some type of jungle trek (which we did have to do at the very beginning by the way) but I was about to realize how ignorant I was about African geography.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that challenges by their very definition tend to be surprising because of how little we know about the world, life and ourselves.. Sure, we can expect an uphill climb (no pun intended), but it turns out that how we prepare before we face them is of almost of equal importance as to what we’ll face during the challenge.
I hadn’t planned with the right equipment, but I had been training in the gym on that beautifully torturous stair master for roughly an hour a day for the previous nine months. I didn’t train with the intention to hike Kili… heck, all this trip came together in two weeks because I met an amazing company during a trade show called Zara Tours and the sister of the owner believed in the vision for Global Child and they really wanted to bring exposure to their Masai school! Turns out that thanks to that cardio work that I’d been hammering into my daily routine for almost a year I was equipping myself for a future challenge that I’d face.
How much of life is like that? It’s not really survival of the fittest… it’s survival of the wisest. Grammatically incorrect? You know what I mean. The most wise understand that the cliche is true: when the student is ready the teacher appears. So, what I’m trying to say is that whatever challenges you’re in the middle of, perhaps they’re preparing you for great challenges in the future. If the sea of your life is calm, then conversely realize that storms hit us all and that while others rest on their laurel’s perhaps it’s a respite you’ve been given by God to develop muscles, habits or skills that you might need in the future. When in doubt always choose to make yourself better.
We all have unique paths, lives, strengths and destinies but rest assured we’ll all have challenges to face. Some challenges we willingly take on, like I did during that insane 16 hour final ascent. Oh, did I mention that in order to get that climb on camera for Global Child I had to combine what most people would typically do in two days into one? The climb from 12,000 ft to basecamp at 15,000 ft is typically done in day 4 of the hike, it takes 4 hours and then you arrive to camp at 11am and rest till midnight. At midnight you set out for another 6:30 hours almost straight up to Uhuru Peak at 19,366ft which most reach at sunrise. Take your conquering pics so you can prove it to your unborn grandchildren and then you head back down for another 4 hours quad killing rubble sliding trekking. Not only does your heart have to pump almost twice as hard to keep you alive, but there is also less oxygen to breath.
The other problem is that after 15,000 ft helicopters can’t go rescue you because there’s not enough atmospheric pressure… so you really are a bit at risk if something goes wrong. All in all it’s tough and it can easily cause altitude sickness which just is no fun. In my case, my guide Freddy told me that the only way to be able to film it during the day was combining both days into one! Roughly 16 hours in a single day. Insane. So before I took on this crazy challenge I took a moment to myself and in true Simba fashion I walked beneath the stars and prayed. I told God I really wanted to film it during the day but that I didn’t want to die so if he could let me know if I’d be able to make it. I felt these goosebumps all over and a still voice inside (sounds like me by the way, but it’s not) said: “I will be with you”.
Long story short… it was the toughest experience of my life but I somehow (grace) made it there and back. I had the right gear because my friend wrote on my facebook wall and I had the right heart and lung capacity because I’d been training all my life for this without even knowing. So how do we conquer challenge? Sure… first we must believe that we can, but the second part of it is wisdom. Learning to improve ourselves in every possible area of our lives so we can be prepared to face anything that might come our way with a confident smile and a heart full of faith.