Thursday, 22 September 2011

Ngorongoro

We started our day with a great breakfast from Hamisi. What a great cook. Eggs, pancakes, beef sausages the lot. He packed a lunch for us too and off we went. It was an hour to Ngorongoro and another hour to descend in to the crater. On the way, we passed Lake Manyara. I did want to go there too but it was not on our schedule and from the viewpoint it was apparent why. The current lake was just a tiny representation of it's former self. The 2 years of drought have taken it's toll on this majestic lake which looked pitiful now.

Ngorongoro is a volcanic formation. The 23 km wide crater was formed when the magma chamber collapsed thus sinking the caldera (volcanic crater).
It's absolutely teeming with wildlife because it is almost a closed ecosystem and animals rarely migrate out of it. Thus it is one of the few places where you can get to see all of the big 5 (Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Rhino and Elephant).
As we ascended the crater side, 2 things became apparent to me. 1: I was hurting badly from the day before and 2: I had underestimated the weather in Ngorongoro. Yesterdays decent had left my legs feeling completely battered. My back was hurting and I was cold. The roads here also jolted us around quite a bit and I had little energy to brace myself. Sarahs words echoed in my ears "you'll be too tired after Kili to care about the Safari" but I was here now and we were bouncing our way to the crater floor.
On our way, baboons littered the road, it felt like the West Midlands Safari Park but you knew this was the real deal. These guys were wild and this was their natural habitat.
On our way down, we caught sight of some Giraffes though they were quite a way off.
Finally we got to the crater floor and it was immediately obvious why this was the safari to go on. Herds of wilderbeast, antelope and zebras walked the plain. A short while later, we caught sight of a cheetah hiding amongst the bushes. There were wilderbeast close by so we waited with excruciating patience for a kill but it lay lethargic as big cats do so we moved on. We caught sight of a lion wandering on his own. He seemed quite an old chap and not too far away from him was a whole pride. A couple of elephants were spotted in the distance; hyenas and jackals crossed in front of our car and we saw herds of African Buffalo. Before the morning was out, we had seen three of the big 5 and a cheetah amongst the many other animals. We moved towards the lake where we caught the beautiful pink of flamingos and the blubberous mass of the hippos. Here we stopped for lunch and kites hovered above. I had taken some pain killers and so by afternoon I was feeling a lot chirpier and it was warm enough to remove my fleece. We drove on, saw a multitude of other birds and animals including ostriches. It must be stressed, though safari is all about the big game, I witnessed some of the best bird and plant life I've ever seen.
Michael was an exceptional guide. He knew all the quirky little facts, where to find animals and all the etiquette's of safari.
We finished up in the late afternoon and headed back to the campsite where we rested and then had an evening meal of quiche fried potatoes and coleslaw. We sat with Michael chatting about all sorts and lit up our cigars... We needed to celebrate...


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We're going on Safari!

Mohammed at MEM had arranged our safari so that that we drive to the campsite the night before, which was close to Ngorongoro. That way we would have a longer game drive there rather then setting off in the morning.

We met our driver and guide Michael a skinny chap of around 60 years old who seems like he has seen a lot in his time. Our cooks name was Hamisi. A bigger chap, as cooks usually are. Both very pleasant people. We had a long drive to our campsite in which we chatted, watched the sunset and dozed a little.

We got to Twigga Lodges and Campsite where the doorman opened the huge iron gates to let us through. They obviously took security seriously. In all honestly, it was the best campsite I have ever seen. It had a recreation room with a good bar, very plush restaurant, toilet/shower block, and even swimming pool. It was lush with greenery. The grass was amazing and it had an army of people hovering around keeping things clean. We stopped at the bar for a coke and the found top gear on the TV the episode where they take three 4x4's to South America. We had an evening meal of spagetti bolognese and then packed in to quite a comfortable nights sleep.


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Back to Marangu Gate

Today was going to be a very long day. We were to descend from Horombo Hut, past Mandara Hut and all the way back to Marangu gate. That’s two days worth of ascent decent in one. We made an early start. Breakfast was at 0730 at we were off at 0800. I took the lead and set the pace. It was a quick one and relentless. With Sab and Ray on my tail followed by the rest, we were determined to make our way down in less then the Guides predicted time of 5 hours. It was 3 hours back to Mandara and a further 2 back to the gate.

With food in our stomachs and the sun beaming some quality heat down, our spirits were very high. We hopped, skipped and even jumped over the rock strewn path, tearing our way down the slope. My knees were feeling good, my heels were feeling good, and my ITB was feeling good. I did fear the decent more then the ascent to be honest because your body takes such a pounding from it. The continual shock takes its toll and my knees especially start aching after not too long. Here however, they seemed mostly fine. Only when the path became steeper did I have to rely highly on the support of my walking poles to brace my step. It had rained the night before and so this very path that was dry and dusty a few days earlier was now moist and slightly muddy in places. We had to take care with foot placements and each of us had the scary ‘slip of the foot’ and so we had to keep our focus tight.

At one point, a porter passed me. I was intrigued at the exceptionally high pace that the porters move at so insisted on keeping on his tail for a while; firstly to experience this incredible movement on the mountain and secondly to play with the porter a little and let him know that a walker is keeping up with him. However, after only half a mile or so (it might have been less) I was spent. Try as I might, I could not keep up with his formidable pace and I backed off. 1-0 to the porter!

At one point, I moved out of the way to take a photo as the group all made its way round a bend. I got the picture but lost the front of the group… and never got back there again, those kids on the front were now hard boiled and were sure as hell quick on their feet!

We made our way through the savana, then the scrubland and were now in the lightly forested area. We were passing through climatic zones like courses of a meal and were enjoying every second of it.

Finally we made our way into the Mandara Hut area. 2 hours and 55 minutes later. We were 5 minutes ahead of our schedule. Here the guides had planned a hot meal for us but the cooks had just arrived themselves (maybe it goes to show the speed we were travelling at). The group however had other ideas. We were in good spirits and clearly full of energy. We insisted on a small rest with very light snacks and then were happy to proceed to Marangu gate. As much as we were loving every minute of it. We were now hell bent of finishing it off. We mustered up some snacks from our bags. Little did we know, Safiyah had been carrying a sweetshop full of snacks in her rucksack all the time! I had some chocolate and a packet of Hula Hoops and was ready to push on.

The pace from here back to the gate was a little slower. We were obviously a little beat from the previous three hours of marching. The group also split up a little. We passed a waterfall. Harune and myself decided that we need a picture here. The rest continued on. As we figured it, this was the least stressful part of the journey, there was nothing to worry about “Hakuna Matata!” So along the way, we stopped, took pictures, walked to the river and observed odd bits here and there, and talked to people ascending. Harune advised a couple of lads on taking Diamox and so on.

We then decided to catch up with the rest of the group as we wanted to walk to Marangu gate together. It didn’t take us long before we caught the tail of the group and together we were all heading back on the final leg of this great journey.

As we caught sight of the great triangle structure that marks the entrance point of the Marangu route, we all stopped, regrouped and a camera went on ahead to record this momentous event. We proudly marched our way through the gate with smiles from ear to ear. We started here six days ago, walked our way to the summit and all the way back down again. I was absolutely ecstatic… oh, and exhausted!

The porters signed us out and got our certificates, we insisted on taking photos with them at the gate even though they were blank as yet. Eventually we loaded our stuff back onto the bus and made our way to the MEM Tours office. There we were greeted by Mohammed who congratulated us and provided refreshments. It had to be a Coke for me. I had just completed the ‘Coca-Cola’ route!

Adnaan made a speech thanking Mohammed and all the team that helped us noting special efforts from exceptional guides and porters. We had gathered some money between the group for the customary ‘tip’ which we passed onto Mohammed to distribute amongst the guides, porters and cooks. He is a genuine and fair man so we trusted that he would honour our generosity.

I enquired about our safari and what time we were expected to be ready. This news came as quite a shock. “You have around 40 minutes to an hour and then the driver will come to pick you up”. This was not what we had in mind. Our idea was to get back, have a shower, have a meal with the rest of the team and bid them farewell and then depart sometime in the evening. We were told however that the drive is still quite long. There would be preparations at the campsite and so it would be best to go at the time suggested. We got Jackson at the office to order a couple of pepper steaks at the hotel and we wasted no time in bidding farewell to our guides and Mohammed. We took some more pictures, this time with our signed certificates that were formally presented to us and then piled back into the bus.

Back at the hotel, Harune and myself were not allocated a room as we were not staying and so he hogged Ray’s shower and I Adnaans. A jolly good scrub later we were clean and changed. Our pepper steaks were ready and tasted amazing. We also recorded our final message on camera for Minhaj Welfare Foundation.

Ishtiaq and Fakarul showed up and gave warming congratulations. They looked much better and happier now from the weary guys I last saw on Kili. I don’t think mountains are any places for these guys. It was good to see that they were relaxed and now enjoying themselves. It wasn’t so good to learn that Farkarul, who had reached nowhere near Gilmans Point had managed to lie at the gate and get a certificate. I felt that it insulted the efforts of all the others in the group that had got to a higher altitude them him, but such is life. I guess to some, personal achievement means less then an image.

Our driver showed up and so we bid the rest of the group well and loaded up the car. One journey was well and truly over and another was just about to begin…

The Decent

[this blog will be updated with pictures]

Our time at the top was over. There was only one way to go... Down. This was supposed to be the easy bit. We are supposed to feel better as we decend. The oxygen increases. It's all good. Sounds too good to be true... It was.

As we decended, suddenly the nausea kicked in. Not just me, the whole group. Apparently this is normal. I also think it had something to do with the bare empty stomachs we were running on.
We did as others did to us and wished the ascenders well.

We made our way back to Stella Point, then to Gilmans Point. Then down the scramble section to the scree. We were stopping every few minutes to gather ourselves so as not to hurl everywhere. By this time, Nissar and his porter had shot down the mountain way ahead of us three.
We didn't need to zigzag our way down. The whole lot was scree so we just took great strides that sank into the ground and we descended fast, still stopping occasionally due to the nausea.
Somewhere down the slope, Partick had sent some porters up. They took our backpacks and completely shadowed our descent in case we needed water etc. At one point I looked back and the others had stopped for a rest. I was feeling ok and had a rhythm going and so continued down, my porter Patrick2 was continuously on my tail. As I approachedthe path off the scree to Kibo, something dawned on me: if the others are still at the hut, I didnt want to greet them on my own. The whole journey from the start was a monumental team effort and I wanted to be with the summit team (bar Nissar who had shot ahead). So I found a rock on the side and rested a few minutes until the rest caught up. I didn't have to wait long as the rest were only a little behind me. They got to me and we rested a while. Sab hurled once more and threw up for the first and last time on the descent.

Though by some optical illusion, Kibo seemed to be an uphill trek, I knew it was in fact downhill. We made our way into the same camp that we had left some 13 hours earlier but as different people. We left here fresh, strong but uncertain and apprehensive, we returned battered and tattered by the mountain but jubilant and triumphant.
We were met by our cook who After congratulating us and providing some mango juice as a celebratory drink, asked whether we'd like food then rest or rest then food. Though our stomachs were craving some nourishment, we quickly realised that it was imminent that we get rest. I struggled to remove my boots, and equipment and only just made it to my bag on the top bunk. I didn't get as far as zipping my bag up... I was out.

We were awoken about an hour or so later by a familiar voice. It was Patrick! It was so good to see him. He congratulated all of us and immediately brought us some food. Chunky potato soup full of carbs carbs and more carbs. Just what we needed. But of course we were still at Kibo and appetites are challenged here. Most of the group managed a few mouthfuls. My goats stomach didn't see potatoes in the bowl, it saw calories, carbs and energy. I managed most of the plate.
We were being evicted from our abode as others were waiting to pile in. Kibo is not a holiday home, it's a short stay carpark. After a very short rest, you have to descend down to Horombo again. So, thats one days ascending, to the summit and two days worth of descending, all in one day! On the way down, we were protesting to Mahmoud that it was not physically possible for us to descend to Horombo today we were just too exhausted but the rest seemed to give us some new energy. It was all downhill from here so we packed our stuff and faced ourselves down the mountain. An estimated 3 hours walk, we motored back and made it in 2.5 hours. Ascending the same route took us seven hours only a day ago.

The rest of the group would meet us at Horombo bar Ishtiaq and Fakarul. Ishtiaq was sent even lower down and he was stretchered off the mountain and back to the hotel (mostly by choice not necessity). Fakarul decided there was no point being on the mountain and also decended back to the hotel.

Back at Horombo, after visiting the reception desk, we clambered back to our dorm where we met Adnaan, Ray and Nissar who gave us a heartwarming congratulatory hug.

We got out of our equipment, it was meal time. This would be our last and celebratory meal on Kilimanjaro together...

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Day 7: summit day.

We were to be woken at 11pm. By 11:15 we were still in bed. I could see teams of climbers marching out of camp towards the summit. I had meticulously arranged my gear so that there would be no fumbling in the weariness. I had double checked my equipment and taken my last Diamox (altitude sickness preventing) tablet at 6pm. I was as ready as I was ever going to be.

I took no chances. My summit gear consisted of underwear, long johns, trousers and salopettes for the legs and baselayer, powerstretch fleece, normal fleece and down jacket up top. I pulled on my shrunken wool mittens for the first time since Iceland with their goretex covers and had two thick pairs of socks on. I also had a buff for the neck and my ugly hat on the head. I also had three backup hats.

Nine of our group made it to Kibo hut, Ishtiaq was now at Horombo. Most of us went to sleep feeling ok. I had a slight oncoming headache which was quickly beaten to the ground by a couple of tough nut painkillers. However, when we woke up again it was quite a different story. Some of the group were starting to feel a little bad. Adnaan, went to sleep as strong as a ox but woke a different person. The nausea set in and he couldn’t stop vomiting. Ray also had a splitting headache.

We saw more and more groups of people get in line, say a few lines to psyche themselves up and march off with their head torches ablaze onto the moonlit slopes towards the summit. Yet there were still straps to be adjusted, equipment to be organised and leaking water bladders to be sorted in our group.

Finally, the group all mustered in a small and nervous crowd outside our hut. We said a small prayer led by Adnaan, formed a single file with the three girls, Maryam, Safiyah and Sab at the front followed by me, Harune, Ray, Fakarul, Adnaan and Nissar… maybe not in that order.

We marched off pole pole towards the summit.

We quickly realised that the weather conditions were greatly in our favour. There was little wind, it was cold but then it’s always cold and the moon was full, it lit up the whole mountain to the point that we no longer needed out heard torches, in fact, I didn’t use my head torch for the remainder of the walk.

Super pole pole was not quick enough for this ascent; we had a slightly quicker pace, set this time by Patrick our chief guide. As we meandered our way out of the Kibo hut area, the path became noticeably steeper. As the incline continued to increase, the path began to zigzag. The ground also became looser and turned into fine scree. Not only did we now have to put up with tiredness and thinner air, we also had to bear the frustration of the path beneath our feet giving as we tried to step up. It would slip a little each time, slowing our ascent but we pushed on with grimaced faces. Nobody spoke. Every ounce of energy was reserved for making oneself go forward and up. There were no wise cracks and not even one of Fakaruls crazy statements we all grew to love!

Patrick began his song. It was a slow smooth calming song that was very repetitive but it was almost like a marching song that got us into a zone and droned us into hypnotically walking behind him.

After some time, Sab suddenly pulled out of the path from in front of me. The nausea had set in so she stopped to contain it but joined the group somewhere close behind me. Much of the group had started to suffer now. No longer was it still a tight formation, it had spread out somewhat as people stopped to catch breath, fight nausea and probably throw up too. Hydration hoses were also starting to freeze now. Even though we were instructed to blow any water back into the main bladder, any remaining drops would quickly freeze to render the system useless. The electrical tape Harune had wrapped over his hydration hose didn’t work, the water froze. I had invested in a neoprene lined hose for my bladder which was holding off any freezing pretty well. You don’t want to run out of water here.

We all made it to the memorial plaque for the Alpine club member and then to the 5000 metre marker. Then it all turned pear shaped.

Fakarul started to get very cold fingers and toes. He complained that they may be frozen and frost bitten. Though it seemed a little far fetched, he decided to turn around and abandon his summit attempt. It was a shame considering he was climbing so strongly. A short while later, Saf really wasn’t looking too great. She began suffering quite a bit. Though it seemed to me that Maryam looked okay, she had obviously also been affected as both were turned around and escorted back to safety (we later found out from Patrick that they are incredibly well trained to spot any signs of acute mountain sickness which is why they spotted the effects in Maryam before we did!). The mountain was also taking its toll on Ray. His condition was deteriorating as we ascended and at one point he fell to the ground. Our guides didn’t take any chances, when he woke, the ground was rushing past beneath him. He was held aloft by a guide who was literally running down the mountain side! That to me sounds scarier then the toilets at Kibo Hut! Probably the saddest news I learnt on the mountain was the turn around of our group leader Adnaan. He was formidably strong on all the previous days and up until we went to sleep at Kibo, but since waking his condition had deteriorated and continued to do so. He put up a monumental fight, as did all of the others but alas the mountain claimed another victim. I wasn’t even sure when this was as I always assumed he was somewhere behind me. We were now down to four: Nissar, Harune, Sab and myself.

We pushed on relentlessly up the zigzagging path. The time was pushing on, I could see first light at the horizon but similarly, I could also see Gilman’s point where most stop to see the sunrise. I could also hear some cheering and wailing coming from that direction, probably from the crowd as another mortal stepped onto the small landing from the rock below. As we made our way up, the top didn’t seem to get any closer. The sky behind us got redder and brighter. The ground beneath us changed from the zigzagging scree path to a rocky muddle that took effort from both hands and feet to negotiate. Each step was an effort of gargantuan proportions that left us gasping for breath. At this point, it was getting ridiculous; surely humans are not meant to be at this place, we were not designed for this.

The sky got lighter still and as we got very close to Gilmans Point, we stopped for a break and faced the horizon. The sun finally burst its light forth and produced a dazzling spectacle for the many climbers perched on their respective rocks hither and thither. All the previous suffering vanished into a moment of pure delight as we soaked up this very special moment.


Our work was not yet complete though. The four climbers, guide and assistant pushed further on. We each used the progress of the one in front to push our own selves forward. To fall behind here meant many minutes would pass before you caught up. Finally at somewhere close to 7am we met with the sign that read “You are now at Gilmans Point, 5681m AMSL”.

We had done the hardest part of our journey. Many stop at this point and call it a day. We were shattered beyond comprehension and our remaining guide Mahmoud didn’t look much better either. He hadn’t climbed in weeks and so the altitude seemed to be affecting him also. It seemed to us that Mahmoud did not want us to continue further, he pointed out that the summit was a further 2 hours trek around the crater rim. This was greatly undulating and so we needed to be very sure that we were able to continue and also make a return journey.

Personally, I didn’t know how I made it this far, whether I could make it there or even make it back. All I did know is that I had dragged myself this far and that I didn’t come here to see Gilmans point. I had an appointment with a few planks that read “Uhuru Peak” and that was where I was heading. Fortunately for me, I was with some fully loaded sons of guns that were as determined and stubborn as myself. We found some new energy from the deepest darkest corners of our souls and turned to the summit.

As we peered across, it was possible to follow the trail along the crater rim to the very end where a massive crowd of people were gathered around what was the summit sign. This massive crowd appeared as a tiny dot amongst the vastness of the crater!
We made good speed on the downhill sections and then back to pole pole on the uphills. The views became incredibly good into the crater and we also caught sight of the first of the summit glaciers. As we moved closer, we passed decending parties whom we congratulated and who wished us well. After an hour or so of trekking, we reached Stella Point, the sunrise viewpoint of all the other routes. There was a hustle and bustle of people climbing up, resting and climbing downwards. Here we removed our down jackets as the sun was starting to warm us up considerably and I added on my waterproof, just to keep the wind off.

We set off on the final push to the summit.

We passed many a descending climber, each was wishing us well, some already congratulating our efforts. It seemed that most people were on their way down and by 0830, this was very true. We were heading to the summit quite late. However, the weather was so good, it didn’t seem to make a blind bit of difference and to us, we were past caring. To think that we were now almost there was good enough for us.

Finally, at around 0900, we caught sight of the Summit sign. There was a very small crowd now… it was the Irish group that we walked up with, taking pictures with the sign. We walked up to the people and absorbed the majestic view that surrounded us. The summit sign, the glaciers on all sides, the rising sun, the horizon on all sides, it was a sight beyond description. As a climber, to say that the emotion got to me would be an understatement. Tears were streaming down my face as I stood on the summit of my first high altitude peak, the first of the seven summits. The culmination of months of planning, training and preparation. We congratulated each other with a triumphant hug and proceeded to the sign armed with cameras ready to fire. Needless to say, as we had the luxury of time, we took group shots with and without guides,



family shots,


shots with flags,



shots with cigars


and even shots with Superman T-shirts! (see above) We also met Alex, the Romanian climber whom we met at the previous huts. It was good to catch him here so we took a picture with him…


and the glaciers.


Yes, this is a time to capture moments and so every opportunity was milked.

Our time at the summit had come to an end. It’s a great place to be, but not a great place to stay. We turned to the way we came there was only one way to go now… down…


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Saturday, 17 September 2011

Day 6: Kibo... We're coming

This day would take us to Kibo hut. It lies at 4750 metres above sea level and is known as a godforsaken place. It's a high altitude hut where people's summit attempts are fulfilled or shattered. We were all scared of Kibo and what it could possibly mean for us. The people who were stretchered down from it and the people at Horombo who warned us of it only confirmed our fears but our journey only led us in one direction... to it's front door...

For our climb to Kibo hut, we knew one thing for sure, the group was gonna be slow and so we conjured up a strategy. We would get all our water the night before, pack our gear wear our warmer clothes and so all that would be needed in the morning was breakfast.
However that was easier said then done as a combination of nerves and altitude meant that some of us nibbled a little and others nothing at all. It was going to be a long day.
Ishtiaq being incredibly slow due to his suffering at altitude started a least half an hour before the rest of the group. We all got ready, got in line, I was to set the pace today... "super pole pole" as we coined it. We kept in line and made baby steps onward continuously reminding reach other to drink water. This was a total team effort. After not too long, we passed Ishtiaq. However, the Irish passed us, the aged Japanese passed us, but we plodded on. We got to the saddle area and the weather changed somewhat.



It's more exposed as there is a change in the ecosystem to 'desert' from the savana of the previous day. We put on jackets and hats for the first time and continued to our lunch stop. Walking, drinking, drinking, walking but then suddenly, I sucked on my Camelbak tube and disaster, I was out of water! I had been through three litres in only half a day! Patrick, our chief guide assured us that we could refill at our lunch stop and so I took some water from Harune and Nissar and we continued to our lunch stop.
We were spewed across some rocks this time rather then the usual feeding stations. The place was crawling with mice but otherwise fine. Our cooks brought out soup, then the usual mix of chicken, boiled egg, and banana but this time added a bread and jam sandwich that had been battered and fried; sound crazy? It taste awesome! Some time later Ishtiaq arrived. After having a rest, Patrick came to speak with him. There was little point in him carrying on to Kibo as he would only have to turn around again as his condition was deteriorating. Though he protested or suggested that he be wheeled to Kibo, Patrick insisted on him walking to Horombo. Patrick ushered a porter to take Ishtiaqs duffle back down. It occurred to me that all the other bags were already enroute to Kibo and so Patrick had decided earlier to turn Ishtiaq around. It made sense as conditions only deteriorate at higher altitude and so it was more important to get Ishtiaq to a safe place... Horombo.

We refilled our water, loaded bags and continued to Kibo. The last stretch was tough going. It got steeper and though the hut came into sight a long way back, it never seemed to get any closer. Eventually we stepped foot in the high mountain base they call Kibo hut.



It, as with all the others, is not a single hut but a group of huts. Here there were two and a third was being built. The place was crawling with porters all huddled in various groups hawking the newly arrived climbers. Probably assessing our worth.
We signed in as usual and were shown the only dorm left. Our late arrival meant that the better accommodation has been taken. The hut was simple, very simple. We'd obviously been spoilt at Horombo. End to end lower and higher tier of bunks with not much space for anything else. We set the matresses out and waited for food. In the meantime, we ventured out to visit the famed Kibo toilets.

KIBO LOO HELL
These toilets are special. We were warned about them but now it was time to experience them. There were five cubicles in all, three for climbers and two for porters. As I stepped in, one thing became immediately apparent: these were litterally the worst smelling toilets ever. I kid you not, I have a tough stomach and I was hurling in there. The cubicle consisted of nothing but an elongated hole in the ground. Once straddling the hole, all thoughts were answered. The toilet block is built over the end of a cliff, looking down, not only can you see your defacation splat on the rocks below, you can also see it join 30 years of climbers faeces... And that's the fun part! What isn't fun is the updraft of air that carries the stench of putrid crap from the cliffs below and it's that wind that gives this toilet block it's famed loathing. The boys made it fun to stand and watch the pitiful faces of people as they exited these torturous loos.

After all that excitement, it was dinner time. Soup and bread followed by spagetti bolognese. We struggled to stomach the food, not because it tasted bad. It was actually delicious, rather it was the altitude and our nerves. Very quickly after, we tucked into bed for a few hours as we were to awake at 11pm for our summit climb. We all seemed in pretty good health. I didnt sleep a wink though. A million thoughts were running through my head all about the climb. It was a long few hours...





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Day 5: Resting with zebras

The days have since lapsed and I am now sitting in a campsite near Tarangire national park, so the memory is getting vague...

The day after getting to Horombo was a rest day, otherwise known as an acclimatisation day. this day we climb to a higher altitude and then decent back to Horombo again.
We started the day a little later with breakfast at 0800 and we started walking at 0900. We all set off as usual but paid paticular attention to the pole pole rule of going slowly. It was a relatively short and uneventful walk till we got to zebra rocks.



Much to Harunes disappointment, there were no Zebras at zebra rocks! Rather we encountered a rock outcrop that was striped black and white. They were quite amazing. Though I knew better, it was the thought of many that the rocks had been painted, in fact they had become striped as a result of minerals running down the face in rain.
We rested. Climbed the face. Nissar climbed a rock... as usual... and we had the mandatory photos in various poses.
Then it was our first attempt at a decent. I was actually quite apprehensive because I didnt know how my knee or iliotibial band (ITB) would behave. It wasn't the wisest idea when I left Zebra rocks with a sprint either! One of the guides walking up the other way up reminded me to save my energy as we still had the hardest days ahead of us. So we stomped our way down and after not too long, we were back at Horombo. My ITB was hurting and I didn't fill me with confidence.
That evening, we met a guy who had just returned from the summit. His advise was stark. "take Diamox... Don't waste any time, take it!" He explained that as an experienced mountaineer, it was the hardest thing he had ever done. "It's unbelievably cold up there, my fingers and feet were absolutely freezing, wear the warmest gloves you can, take it slow, very slow."
In truth, his advise gave me the shivers. I was petrified, petrified that I might not make it. That night I did not sleep well at all. I knew that the next two days were going to be the ultimate test.

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Day 4: out of the forest and into the dust.

Our second day started early as bladders needed to be emptied. We woke around 6am. Got set and headed to breakfast which today consisted of a floury porridge, egg and halal beef sausages with the usual copious helpings of tea.
We packed, loaded up on water and started trekking at around 0830. It was a misty start but after not too long, the vegetation thinned out and eventually we had better visibility too. The picture below shows what's supposed to be our very first view of the summit!


The most notable thing about this day of hiking is that it is very very dusty. The man made path is very dry and loose and so dust gets kicked up everywhere. To the point where it was seriously affecting Sabs asthma. After wrapping a scarf over her mouth she felt much better but for the rest of us, the dust filled our noses and made it very uncomfortable.



Today Ishtiaq, the oldest member of our group set of ahead of the rest of the group as he really struggled with the previous day. We trekked nearly 5 hours before lunch but we stopped at an official feeding station where our cook had prepared a hot lunch for us. It consisted of leek soup, fried chicken, boiled egg, bread, a cup cake and a juice. Very nice.



Here we also experienced a proper hole on the ground latrine too!



Finally after a good break, we plodded on pole pole for a couple of hours the effects of altitude were finally beginning to show as any over exertion got us feeling out of breath. A few people were also feeling the onset of a headache. But, whilst chatting and walking we made good pace and landed at Horombo hut.



None of the huts are just one building by the way; they are a cluster of many buildings including a registration office, a couple of mess tents, toilet blocks and 10 or 15 smaller huts which are all dorms. It's like a small climbers village with a great hustle and bustle of climbers, guides, porters and cooks.

We had the usual popcorn and tea for a refreshment with roasted peanuts as an extra. This was followed by our main meal which consisted of cucumber soup followed by pasta and the nicest beef sauce ever!

Most people pack in quite early. Ishtiaq who has really seen the effects of altitude and exhaustion tucked in very early, even without an evening meal, we all kept an eye on him.

After one final toilet break, I am also planning on hitting the sack... Or should that be bag?...



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Day 3: On the mountain

On the morning of the trek our schedule was strict. Have breakfast and bring luggage down before 0830 as that's when we leave the hotel. We all loaded up and set off. We made a few stops. First at MEM then at a couple of butchers. We drove for quite a while, maybe an hour or so, gradually ascending up and up on narrow winding roads. Finally we parked at Marangu gate which is the starting point of the Marangu (cocacola) route.
We were given our water and lunch box for the day ( beef burger with egg, fried chicken, banana and cake ) which looked delicious. We then headed to the registration office where we spent a good hour registering and waiting whilst our guides sorted stuff out.

Finally we set off and immediately headed into a forest track. It was quite level and had some gentle inclines along the way but was amazingly scenic. Mossy trees towered over the man made path and the whole route was easy going. Along the way, we caught sight of some monkeys in the trees jumping from one to the other and then at lunch time a mongoose and raven. We pressed on and finally reached the Mandara hut in the late afternoon.



It was very cosy and our dorm was above the main mess hall. After settling in, we were provided tea and popcorn... I lurve popcorn!
Not long after we had our meal which consisted of cucumber soup followed by roast potatoes cabbage fish and a vegetable broth. It was actually all very nice. We also met our cooks that evening.
We retired to our dorm for the evening and pondered on how to entertain ourselves. But ultimately we tucked in for an early night. Though it wasn't to be as a group of Irish climbers became very merry and had the loudest of sing songs. Adnaan had to clamber down the stairs and kindly request that they keep the noise down. I think they got the message and pack up for the night. And thus so did we. There was quite an orchestra of snoring in the night but some time in the early morning my bladder was the only cause of my disturbance...


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Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Day 2: There is something wrong

After the mammoth journey yesterday. We were thankful that we had a rest day before the climb. That to me meant sleeping to my hearts content. I woke at around 11.30 and jumped into the shower. I missed breakfast but I remembered the crackers I'd bagged from the flight and made a meal of them.



Luckily we managed to catch a fantastic cup of tea in the restaurant at the hotel. We then organised all our trekking gear and lay it out on the bed so that our guides could inspect it.
We had a meeting with them at around 1.30 in which we were introduced to Patrick, Dawus and Mahmoud, our guides. Our organiser Jackson held the briefing in which he told us just general stuff about the climb, what will be provided etc. The best thing I learnt was that the huts will have powerpoints. My blog might be saved!!



Mahmoud did our inspection. What a nice guy. He climbs Kili twice a month on average but others like Patrick climb more often. Our gear inspection went great. Mahmoud went through all of it and said "my god you are well prepared... You are ready to kill the Kili!"
Immediately after this. Me and Harune went to the MEM office where we finally met Mohammed O. Shabhay. He is an absolutely amazing chap. So warm hearted. We went to sort out our safari arrangements and Ishtiaq and Nasser joined us as they were also interested. However, they couldn't change their itinerary on flights. We however got our safari so that we drive out the same day we come off the mountain and also spend time in lodges. This way we get more game driving and we stay in better accommodation. Fantastic.

Tahseen and Adnaan had arranged something very special for the afternoon. A visit to an orphanage.

THE ORPHANAGE
We were supposed to meet up at 4pm but with the ridiculously slow service at the hotel restaurant, this got pushed to 5pm... We did order beef steak for lunch! We all set of and drove through some really run down areas till we reached what seemed like an educational compound. It was all well laid out inside with trees, gardens and play areas. We met Sulaiman the head of the orphanage who lead us to a group of girls sitting ouside one of the buildings. We sat down on some benches they set out for us.

We looked at them and they looked at us.

Adnaan who is experienced at visiting orphanages broke the ice. He gave them all salaam then asked various questions like 'do you all like it here?' and 'can anyone recite some Quran for us?' and toyed with them as to reciting long and short verses of the Quran. Then one of the girls started reciting in the most beautiful of voices. We were in awe. Then they sang some nasheeds in english, Arabic and Swahili!
We then went for a tour around the various buildings. On our way back, we spotted some girls playing skipping. The type with two girls swinging the rope and one jumping. We egged each other to go and join in. Eventually we all walked up and asked to join in. Ray was first up. It looked promising but all went tits up when he failed epically and didn't make one jump. Harune was up next and seriously dropped the gauntlet by making something like 50 jumps in a row! Safia was up next and did pretty well too. Then it was my turn. I missed on or two and it was looking pretty bad but then I made it... I was jumping the rope, it didn't last long but long enough for me to keep my credibility. We then decided to teach the a playground game... The hand clapping one. They took to it really well and it was great for bonding with the kids.

By this time, the rest of the group came back and joined in the fun. We gathered all the kids and took pictures. We then went to the car and bought out some books, pens, rice and stuff that we bought for the orphans. They took to the pens particularly well!

Finally we departed from the orphanage and most of us were quite emotional as we had learnt much from the trip. It really bought home the essence of what we were doing the trek for.

We got back freshened up and then went to get some food at the restaurant. All I have to say is that the service in Tanzania is exceptionally slow. But it's something beyond comprehension. We waited over one hour for our food which they cooked from scratch ( one steak for Harune and three spicy chicken wings for Sab, Ray and me) but when the food finally came out, it was cold. How does that happen?? it seemed as if they made the food after 40 minutes and then left it for 20 minutes before serving it.
The restaurant closes at 9 but by the time we finished out our food it was 10pm. Too late for a cup of tea according to the waitress but we got one of the cooks to make us some. She got told off by the waitress but we got out tea !

Some of us then retired to the top floor where there is a swing seat. We sat for quite some time chatting as we knew it was the last night of relaxation for some time. Finally at nearly 1am I am finishing my blog so that I can call it a night. Alarms are on for 7am so that we can start the first day on the mountain.

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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Day 1: Crunch time

The day of days has arrived. I woke for morning prayer and stayed up. I treated myself to fried egg bread n beans and a quality cup of coffee. Then sorted out bits of paperwork. The kids rose for their first day at school so it was uniforms, lunches and breakfast... an old routine I really haven't missed for 6 weeks. I dropped them off, picked up Shaz and headed to her college for her enrolement then Asda for more photos but to no avail, the machine was dead.

I can't believe.. or actually I can. Me and Harune made a last mad dash into town to buy bits from Cotswold outdoors (waterproof bags and energy stuff). We also got money exchanged.

We had to dash back because our bro-in-law Tahir had taken time off work to bid us farewell. That done, I rushed home and finalised packing. Lo, Harunes friend came by around 4pm to pick me up. I bid farewell to my family as they weren't coming over to mumndads. As I got in the car, Ishaaq started his crying. It was heartbreaking to see but we had to go. We filled up with Petrol and checked tyre pressures etc and were off to the parents house.




There all my family awaited us. They weren't too happy about waiting a long tine but hey ho. We said a prayer and said our goodbyes. We were finally on our way... Oh after picking Mo up that is!

Obviously, leaving Birmingham at nearly 5pm meant that it was inevitable that we would get stuck in commuter traffic, but after grinning and bearing it for a while, we were full speed in the direction of Manchester Airport.

We were supposed to be there at 6pm. We got there at 7pm. We met the rest of the team, yes we were last. It was very good to finally put faces to names. Especially Adnaan.



[the rest I have to keep as brief as possible as sooo much happened... if you wanna know more, ask.]

We got through customs fine. Still did last bits of shopping boarded and set off.
Meals on board were great. I had a smoked salmon starter and massive lamb steak. We got to Dubai and went in the hunt for a Maccie D's. We all had a big Mac meal for breakfast.



We also picked up some Monte Christo and Romeo y julieta cigars. Back on track we boarded for Dar es Salaam. It was still Emirates but the plane was slightly older. Our lunch consisted of fish and rice or chicken and rice for Harune. I tried to get as many drinks down me as possible! Water, juice, coffee, tea and more water. Also my hopes for Arabic revision disintegrated as I watched Fast 5, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Greatest Movie Ever Made and some of Toy Story 3. We got to Dar es Salaam and it was amazing. We were finally in Africa! Dar es Salaam is a special one. There was a mad dash for the visas and as much as we planned. We were last in the queue!



We were walking through odd corridors and alley ways. It didn't look anything like an airport. At one point we walked straight into a police interrogation room!

We made our flight on time though. The plane was much much smaller this time on one of Tanzanias own airlines.



We got a can of drink and some cashews but the journey was only an hour or a bit longer.
We arrived in Kilimanjaro airport at night and had Tahseen meet us there. It was more or less a walk through as we didn't need to remove our boots at the check desks like every other time since leaving Manchester. We must have removed our shoes at least 10 times!
The guys at MEM had cars ready. A people carrier and one of their 4x4 safari vehicles. I jumped at the chance of trying one of these out. We got to the hotel and it was very pleasant. Our rooms were clean and massive.



The place is new and modern. But we threw our gear in and jumped back in the cars as we had a meal booked at one of the local restaurants.

I have one work to say... STEAK!

Our meal was meat ball starter, followed by an amazing steak
hat came sizzling and with chips. This was followed by a fruit salad, marble cake and desi cooked tea. We were knocked out.



Back to the hotel, we dipped our toes in the swimming pool and realised it's too cold, then most people retired. Rooni, Sab and Ray were playing blackjack and are now learning speed whilst I sit and update the blog whilst listening to dodgy African music on the television. It's been one long day...



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Sunday, 4 September 2011

It's the final countdown

Well, after leaving Lancaster my week has been jam packed with work and celebrations of all sorts. Most of the last bits of shopping are done.

I went out last Sunday with Harune (and Imran... Other brother) for Eid and Kili shopping but it was the mundane bits like shoe laces and sleeping bag liners.




Oh. That's a picture of all the bargain purchases from Blacks.

The flag is also totally ready. Check this out



I'm very excited. It looks more amazing then I could have hoped. I have a great picture of my boys holding this flag but I might not be able to post it because they are in school uniform.

Wednesday was Eid celebrations and a fantastic day all round. It came at a good time really because I got to spend some quality time with the wider family. It usually spills over on to Thursday too. However, Thursday was my birthday 33rd to be exact. I still went round visiting all the extended relatives. Though I'm not really a big birthday person, I insisted on having a cake... With all 33 candles on it!





I can't even remember which day we went now but me and Harune finally tracked down our malaria tablets for an affordable price. I've seen them sell for nearly £4.00 a tablet but Superdrug were selling them at £2.28 a piece. Hardly a bargain but cheaper then anywhere else. So £54 each for those. I also got hold of Diamox, the altitude sickness tablets but I'm not sure whether I'll take these or not.





I started my Malarone this morning though. It's a good feeling because the trip is fully in motion now!





On Friday the Birmingham climbers all gathered at my parents house to go over equipment, preparations and transport to the airport. It was good to meet everyone, especially Ray and Ishtiaq who I met for the first time.

This weekend I have a list. A very long list and I'm working through it. Fixing satellite dishes and printing photos. I might even get out and celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary!

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Saturday, 27 August 2011

Farewell Lancaster


As I sit here in the waiting room of the Birmingham Eye hospital listening to a phone ringing continuously in the background I think back to yesterday. It was my last day in the office before the trip. I have booked of the next week as there is a bank holiday, Eid, my birthday (yippe!) any anniversary celebration I can muster up and packing for Africa.

It was a seriously action packed day at work. Started off with a non-stop full-on managers meeting, then Jummah at lunch time (the last one of Ramadan so a biggie), back to writing a report and tying up all the loose ends before I go. An enjoyable day all round and it was nicely filled with good banter with Paul (aaahh your first mention) and Sarah (is that three??)

The day carried on for a bit though and I ended up leaving the office at 7:30pm. I Had to flee from the office to get back home so that I could open the fast on time. It was a strange and special feeling enabling my 'out of office' on my email, I guess I'll have 50.000 emails to get through when I get back!

The only snag in the whole day was that my left eye decided to flare up. During the course of the day it became redder and redder then more and more painful. It happens to my eye every now and again so I think this might be gods way of making sure I have a fresh batch of medication to take with me if it flares up in Africa! I have wondered what altitude, low temperature and low pressure would do to my dodgy eyeball.



So, report done and sent, consultation emails sent out, leaving email sent out, out of office on and so it was time to turn off the 'ole faithful machina and cycle home.

The eye? Well it got worse and worse during the evening. At Magrib prayer, my eye and nose were pouring like Niagra falls, during Tarawee prayers, they abated somewhat to make it bearable but I came home, stuck a teabag on my eye (it does work) and knocked out on the sofa. Missed all the benefit of the 27th night... (night of power... Google it).

So this morning I made a plan to get things done. There is a list that lurks in my phone today and I am hellbent on getting all of it completed...

... If I can ever get out if this waiting room...



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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Black Magic and Yarnfield Flag

Went shopping in Blacks today. Woah, the place looked like Primark. It was having quite a big clearout and there were boxes full of bits. After rummaging around, I found:

- Lifesystems Suncream spf 15, 25, high mountain, and high altitude so I got all of them for £1 each

- Lifesystems Mozzie killer plug with refills, £1 each

- Billabong board shorts £5

- Oneill board shorts £5

- Berghaus waterproof trousers for Ismail £10

- Wind up torch for Is'haaq £1

- Sun hat £5

- lip balm... 10p

and a cable tidy thing for my iPhone cable...£1

I could have bought a lot more things but I was quite controlled!

THE FLAG
Shaz was nice enough to pick up some white material for the flag as the blue on ethat I bought originally wasn't the right colour. I've given it in with very specific instructions of how it should be put together and will pick it up tomorrow morning so we shall see how it's looking!

In other news:

I got my car back! way happy with that. I also finished my Groupon Chiropractic sessions and have one booked for when I return I think I'm gonna need it then!

Anyway, it's 1.25am and I'm battered... don't you people give me a rest?!!

Only 2 weeks to go!

As we enter into our last week of Ramadan, it really dawns on us that we only really have 2 weeks left before we fly out.

Thank god, at least we have most of the fund raising done with only dribs and drabs to come in now.

That said, we have no hotels or flights booked for the extension of our trip to Safari and Zanzibar. Harune doesn't even have a decent sleeping bag to crash in!

So This weekend, off we went to Go outdoors for the first proper gear hunt. Most specifically for Harunes sleeping bag and found a very able Rab Ascent 700 but along the way, he managed to pick up some Leki trekking poles, waterproof trousers, trekking trousers, shoes and socks.

I on the other hand was far more reserved in my spending as I already have most of the gear. Though the few essentials I had listed in my iPhone before I even got to the store (lists, lists, lists). I picked up a Thermo tube for my camelbak hydration thingie. This is really quite essential as lower down the mountain, it keeps the water cool enough to drink and higher up the mountain, it prevents your tube from freezing. Dehydration is a major factor in Acute Mountain Sickness and I'm not playing ball.
I also picked up a pair of Smartwool socks. These babies are super comfortable but cost £17 a pair! The way I figure it, I desperately need to look after my feet!

I was tempted with a flow meter for my hydration pack which monitors how much water I have drank and how much is left in the reservoir but at £25 it was a bit much... I later found this for £15 posted on eBay so its on its way! Supergeek!

So that's the main stuff over with it's all the itty bitty things left now.


FLIGHT BOOKING
After scouring the internet for hotels for a couple of days, I decided to make at least one move and book the flight from Kilimanjaro Airport to Zanzibar. We've had to go for the budget flight but it's okay because at £90 it means that we get back from the Safari, straight into Kili airport and to Zanzibar within the hour. This is way better then the alternative, which is as follows: We get back from Safari, spend the night in Arusha or Moshi because the buses don't go to Dar till the morning. Get on a bus first thing in the morning for a 600km journey to Dar es Salaam. If we get there before 5.30pm we can catch the boat over to Zanzi, however, these coaches are notorious for delays which would mean missing the boat and spending a night in Dar es Salaam then catching the boat in the morning. This would mean that we miss a complete day just travelling... Yup, I'd happily pay the £90 to sort it all out in an hour and anyway, these short flights are my favourite ever as it's just take off and landing and very little in between!

HOTEL SAGA
No not the Radisson SAS in Reykjavik, I mean the booking hotels in Zanzibar. This whole episode with trying to get hold of the itinerary has meant that we have now been scanning Hotels.com for some decent places and are really stuggling. All we are left with is the very cheap and the very expensive. Though Harune's taste was edging towards the Hilton, my cars head gasket issue was sliding me to the cheaper end of the scale. That said, I always prefer a place with a more rustic feel rather then the very made up and posh hotels with all the mod cons as with these, you could be anywhere in the world and they all seem the same.

After three days of scanning every hotel in detail, I finally bit the bullet and booked the hotel that we saw at the very beginning, The Tamarind Beach Hotel. Though it has very mixed reviews, It has a sensational location and so we shall see how it all pans out. And at £90 for three days per person, it's not bad value at all!

Interestingly, as soon as I booked the hotel, I found out that my cars head gasket was not blown but it was just the water pump... thank you car for saving me £200 on the hotel and £800 not replacing a new engine... touch wood!

I have made contact with the operator of our Kili trek as they also do Safaris. They have agreed to 'sort out' our safari for around £300. I'm not quite sure what 'sort out' means and so I need to get a proper itinerary off them before we hand over any money. I just hope they don't balls all that part up...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Today started off looking super promising. I got a call from Tahseen. He finally emailed the itinery through to me.

The Good:
The itinery looks pretty good. The expedition company has now changed, to a very reputable one, the bus ride from Dar es Salaam to Moshi has become a plane journey, which means there is now an extra rest day before the climb to refresh and explore. The climb is the full six days including the acclimatisation day. So all in all, I'm very happy about the trek now.

The bad:
With the itinery set, me and Harune could move on to booking the rest of our adventure. First up, the safari. I contacted Teuende Safaris to see if they could better their quote, I'm yet to hear from them. Then I found a very very nice hotel in Zanzibar. It really was looking ideal. Not too flash and a real local feel about it. It was also the highest rated hotel on trip advisor, so I emailed them with our dates with everything crossed that they would have a spare room. Sadly they emailed back informing that they were completely booked. That's two of my favourites in Zanzibar full. This is.not good. I hope we find somewhere soon.

The Ugly:
I asked Tahseen to change our outward from Dubai from the 19th to the 22nd so that we could spend a couple of days exploring Dubs. Now I expected to pay some form of admin fee for the change but when he came back with a figure of £135 for the change, I thought it was damn right ridiculous! That's the price of a one way ticket! This may mean that we have to cancel this leg of the trip entirely. I am going to call Emirates direct today to see if they can do anything.

In other news:
I was called upon today by Transportation Strategy lot to have some cycling photos taken. I had to cycle out to the council offices in Erdington but it was a pleasant afternoon. To top it off Neil Nelson was cycling by and stopped for a chat. We rode back into town along the canal. Quality.


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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Back and crack!

Ok don't get excited, the titles not what it seems!
I had my second appointment at the chiropractor yesterday. It was quite an experience. After the initial report back on the analysis which told a story of tightness here and problem there, I was in for my first session of treatment.

It all started with me lying on the chiropractic torture bed face down. She (Lisa the chiropractor) proceeded to press hard in various places on my back... Kinda like a slow version of Pai Mei's 5 point exploding heart punch. I half expected to fall apart or something. That was just the start. Then came the "lie on your side, put your arm here and that leg there. Good. Now breath in... aaand back out again".... CRACK!!
As I calmly breath out, she gave an almighty yank at my hips which let off a loud crack... And it's supposed to be putting me right... Hummm
But when she said "now turn to the other side" it was worse then the first time because now I knew what I was in for!

Anyway, this carried on with the middle and upper back, my neck, my feet and even toes!
It was all part of trying to correct the balance between the left and right side so that my left leg becomes as long as my right leg, my shoulder blades are even and the tension in my back is released.

We also went through some stretches and stuff to help loosen up my iliotibial band.

On walking back to my car... what a strange sensation! My left leg was actually longer. I could feel the difference. My neck was also looser. A lot looser. I could almost see behind myself!

What an experience. I have my next session on Friday.


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Monday, 15 August 2011

Midnight Snowdon trek


We missed this hair brained plan of climbing Snowdon at night last week but we were a bit more determined this week.

The idea all stemmed from Sarah Elwell (yup you get a second mention!) insisting that "I'm not doing enough training". That coupled with the fact that I want to test all these dodgy lower body biomechanics meant that something needed to be done. The only crux being that we're slap bang in the middle of Ramadan so climbing during the day would be out of the question as its no food and no water for us good little muslim boys. Thus the idea of a night climb was born so that we can eat and re-energise before going up.

My plan: set off at 6pm, get there, pitch tent, head to mosque, open fast, pray, then head to Snowdon and climb, back down and into tent, sleep, wake about midday, drive home...

What actually happened:
Harune was still in Merry Hill shopping for base layers and the like at 6:30pm. I was mostly but not entirely packed. Mum made some paratas and omelettes Mmmmmm! He got here at around 7.45. We threw everything in the car and headed off... to find some food for opening our fast (the paratas were for sehri time). Junaids or Yassers? Pizza or wraps? In the end we got a masala fish in naan from Yassers and some chicken niblets. Then headed off. We opened our fast enroute with water and then stopped at a service station just before Telford to eat. I probably got through less then half of the food before I was exploding. We prayed in the carpark and were back on route again. Only to stop a short while later... of course, we needed a cup of tea!

We made it to Snowdon carpark at around 11.15. It was dark, almost scary dark! I prayed isha in a very gravelly carpark and geared up.

11.30 we set off







We headed up the PYG track... It's halal don't worry!




It was a great night for walking. No wind, warm and not crawling with people... Doesn't sound like Snowdon at all! There was however, a mist and cloud. Annoying because there was a full moon above us, hidden behind a blanket of fluffy stuff. Could have been amazing under a clear moonlit sky... Might have saved some battery power in my headtorch too!

As we climbed higher, I was feeling good. My back didn't hurt, ITB, knees heels all checked. All working fine. Harune was suffering with a little ankle pain though.

Then came the hill fog. Suddenly Visibility dropped to 5 metres or so. Fine when you are on one of the made paths but every now and again you are faced with a scramble over a rocky section that could take you in any direction. In the day, or good visibility, the Pyg track is an easy route. It was not so tonight. There were a few off track adventures but we manages to find the route again each time.

We saw one other couple on the way up who were decending but they had decended down the Miners Track before we got to them. We plodded on. All the usual landmarks were being ticked off which was a good thing. The Miners track piller, the scrambling sections, the posts with the coins hammered in, the rock wall with mesh on it. All good so far!



The wind picked up due to exposure as soon as we got to the pillar for the decent from the summit stretch but we pressed on. The long steep slog at the top was quite satistying and I was full of energy.

Finally we made our way up the very built up stair section to the trig point at the very top. At 1.30am, we topped out and looked out... erm... into the mist! No view, no moonlit night, too early to watch the sunrise... oh well, I guess it's back down again then!




I really wasn't looking forward to this part of the journey for a number of reasons:
Its always harder decending then it is ascending and as rocks were slippery, its a recipe for a fall; decending badly could lead you off the edge of a cliff whereas climbing only leads you to the bottom of one, the poor visibility didn't help us here; we notoriously lose tracks on the way down and end up decending some super steep mountain side off the beaten track; decending absolutely pounds the knees to hell and so I new I was in for a beating.

With all the marker points logged in my head, we headed back. First major marker... The decent pillar to they Pyg and Miner tracks, miss this and its a decent down Crib Goch... in the dark.. hairy scary!





But it was found with ease so next up, the two coin posts, a scramble down the rocks here and we were well away.

At the rock platform covered in mesh place... we came across another couple ascending. They were Three Peak Challengers on the way to the final summit. Harune was convinced that they would celebrate in style on the summit of Snowdon, given the seclusion and wot not. A mildly entertaining thought... trying not to get a visual!

Anyway we continued down, and met the marker pillar for the decent down to the Miners track. We were on a home straight. Here we met other groups on their way up to the summit, all Three Peakers, but we continued down.

One thing has to be said for the Miners Track... I hate it with a passion. As nice and scenic as the route is, it goes on, and on, and on forever. Just when you think you're making progress, you turn the corner to miles and miles of trail in front of you! Fortunately, we couldn't see that far so we just put one foot in front of the other and carried on.

I kept asking Harune for a time check. At some point we would need to stop and eat so that we could start our fast for the following day and time was pushing on. However, we were also making very good progress on the decent and so there was a possiblity that we would get back to the car in time to sit and eat in peace. We picked up the pace even more and decided to try our best for the latter.

As the minutes ticked by, fatigue started to set in everywhere. The knees were battered, the Hams were feeling it, and my feet were aching. Tired and weary, we caught sight of the lights to the YHA by the carpark. They were the most comforting pin pricks of light in the vast expanse of darkness before us. As we motored on, the path eased us to the gate and the start/end of the route and into the carpark.

Gear in back of car, change of top to a nice dry warm one and back into the car for a munch on Mums homecooked Paratas and omlettes made some 12 hours ago. At that point, it's like food decended from heaven... albeit wrapped in tin foil. The fast was closed and a decision was to be made: drive home now or stay, pitch tent and sleep. The prospect of tucking in to our own warm beds was too comforting a thought and so pitching tent was abandoned.

Though I would have liked to drive back to give Harune a chance to rest, I was too far gone to be of any use. Hats off to the man, he pointed the nose of the steed home got us back safely in 2 hours or so.

Back home, all the gear lay splaid all over the front room as I crept into bed and snuggled up with a sleeping Mrs Moof...

Please sponsor this very noble cause at:

http://www.justgiving.com/malikilimanjaro

Friday, 12 August 2011

A weekend with a true test

Ramadan is in full swing now and so I have proper slowed down on training. I'm trying to manage my back and glute pain. Last week we were supposed to go to Snowdon but thats been rescheduled for this week come rain or shine... well, there won't be any shine because it'll be in the night!



This is my schedule:

Saturday 6pm: leave for Wales, get to Gwern Goff, pitch tent (if we decide to stay over), go to the mosque pray, open fast, pray, etc etc.... Then head off to Snowdon

Climb Snowdon over the night, summit, eat, eat, eat, start fast, watch sunrise if weather is good.

Then, back down, to the tent, sleeeeeep... then drive back. Sounds like a plan. will it work... we'll see.

I'll be a good gauge of my health as I have no idea how my body will cope with the stress of climbing. Its a shame because otherwise, I'm a stong walker so it's quite disheartening to have an injury like this... especially before the hardest mountain I have ever climbed to date.

I'm still trying to sell my jacket on UKClimbing.com but no takers at the moment.

http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=470163

It might have to go on eBay soon if it doesn't sell. Talking of ebay, I have my Giant roadie and the Specialized Hotrock I bought for Ishaaq on there at the moment. They are doing well. I'll also have to sell some other stuff, Electric Guitar, bike parts etc etc to free up some cash for the Safari, Zanzibar and Dubai. It's likely to cost around £1000 extra so I have to be prepared for this.

I STILL have no itinery form Tahseen. It's getting a bit ridiculous now as we still have places to book for the rest of the trip. They have confirmed that we are doing the Marangu (Cocacola) route which again is short changing us because we were sold the trek as going up the Machame route. That was what I wanted to do not climb and stay in crappy huts. I feel like I've kept my half of the bargain raising the funds but they have not. Hummmmpf.

I have sent off my passport details and a cheque for £1155 to MWF office but I still have nearly £1000 I have to process and send in. This includes all the change from the samosa sales and peoples Zakat (compulsory islamic charity) money.

Anyway, I'm going to get mentally prepared for the trek as this will help me summit and forget about shoulda woulda coulda.



Saturday, 6 August 2011

Fixup

Some time ago, a voucher appeared on Groupon.com that's entitles me to 4 sessions at a Chiropractor. Bargain! I went for my first one yesterday. It was a very pleasant experience. Lisa the Chiropractor in Knowle was very good. The first session really was an analysts of my biomechanics, which are know are a little screwed up. It goes like this:

- mid back tension
- lower back pain
- iliotibial band pain on both sides
- deep glute/hamstring junction pain
- knee pain right knee
- occasional left knee pain
- plantar fisciitis (heel pain) on both sides.

Yup. Like I said... Biomechanics is royally screwed up. And to top it off, my left leg 'appears' or is 'virtually' shorter then the right one. What this means is that my leg is not actually shorter but because of the tension in my hip, it is pulled up by about 5mm making it have the effect of being shorter. Fortunately this can be rectified with exercise and stretching.

I have further sessions booked before I go.

In other news: I am still wondering g whether to keep my new jacket. I got hold of a medium but it's a little baggy. If I could get a small it would be perfect but it would be a miracle.

Tahseen is sorting out itinery tomorrow. After this we will have to book all safari, hotels, and other plans.

We've decided to try some mountain training during Ramadan and so we plan on going to climb Snowdon... AT NIGHT! We'll set off in the evening, open fast, climb, summit, eat, close fast and decent again. Sounds like a plan!!



Please sponsor this very noble cause at:

http://www.justgiving.com/malikilimanjaro

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Itinery details

Finally. Me and Harune decided to sit down and work out exactly what will happen when and what is now required to sort out the fine details of our travels.
We need to find 2 people to join us on the safari, cheap flights from Arusha to Zanzibar and sort out the whole flight out of Dubai. As well as this. We need to book hotel in Zanzibar and Dubai.

Alhamdulillah. The blessed month of Ramadan is upon us today so I'm off to read the first tarawee prayer of many in the local mosque.



Please sponsor this very noble cause at:

http://www.justgiving.com/malikilimanjaro

Last chance

This weekend was the last time that I could have gone out and blasted the hills of the UK for some training but alas it wasn't to be. My demanding life required the purchasing of uniforms for next term and stocking up on essentials for Ramadan as well as other menial jobs that couldn't be delayed.

Its a shame as the weather has been perfect and it really was the only chance I had to do any mountain training, quite upset about that.

This last week has been too busy though with my Arabic exams. It's all a bit topsy turvy with Exams, Ramadan and Kili all intertwined but what has to be done, has to be done.

On the plus side, Starting from tomorrow, I can start collecting in peoples pledges. Many said they would give but in Ramadan so now I can work on getting to that target.

Oh, My new jacket arrived too! It seems a little on the large side but It seems to fit ok with a fleece and stuff. Maybe I will have to build some serious muscle instead!

Ramping up the training

On the advice of Sarah, I decided to ramp up my training considerably.

Thursday (21st July) I dusted off my running shoes put the iPhone of shuffle and started off on my usual 5 kilometre canal run. I kept the pace very slow just to get myself back into the routine of running again. It was worth it and felt very good. I knew that I would either feel better for it or would seriously damage something. I’m glad it went the right way!

With this new found motivation, I went to Moseley School Health and Fitness centre for the first time again in years. I miss this place. It’s such a nice quaint place to work out and brings back good memories of yesteryear. I started a nice easy run on the treadmill. I hate treadmills. It’s such artificial running. After a thorough stretch, I moved to the climber. Not that I ever buy home gym equipment but if I were ever to purchase anything, it would be one of these:



I programmed in half an hour on hilly terrain and started off. What a great workout. If I could just do this everyday, I’m sure I would be mega prepared for Kilimanjaro! Though I didn’t think I would, I managed to complete the programme. So then I moved onto working leg muscles. I found 2 machines that could be my saviours: a glute strengthening machine and a hamstring strengthening machine. These two babies will get me back in shape properly. You see, all the cycling that I have been doing has made my thigh muscles very strong but has done nothing for the hamstrings. As such, my legs have massive muscle imbalances. This imbalance pulls hips, knee caps, ankles and feet out of alignment causing all sorts of aches and pains. Time to fix this!

On Monday (25th July), I cycled it into work in the morning as usual but at the end of the day, as my walking shoes were in my locker at work, I popped them on and started my march home. Then Tuesday morning, I walking back into work and back home again. On Wednesday I walked in again but cycled home. By this time, my legs were getting very fatigued. I had however done 4 continuous sessions of 4 mile walks. So 16 miles at the beginning of this week is not bad going. I’ve also been rigorous in stretching too as if I don’t keep on top of this, I’ll cause more damage to myself.

Yarnfield School Fundraiser

Thursday was the last day of school for Yarnfield Primary School. It was also the day that Matt Wynne, the headmaster chose for the charity fundraising non school uniform day. It was unclear how much would be raised from this event. Matt suggested somewhere in the region of £350 so that’s what I’ve been calculating all along. The day went by and the children enjoyed it. Though for some very odd reason, though Ismail went in non school uniform, Is’haaq had actually gone in full uniform… imagine that, my own son, in school uniform?! Preposterous!

I went to the school the following morning to collect the monies. Though it wasn’t ready, I was told they would be kind enough to count it and write a cheque for me so that I wouldn’t have to be lumbered with a ton of coins.

I headed off to work and a short while later got a call from the school with the final sum. £600.00!!! My jaw dropped. I never in a million years expected that much. What an absolutely staggering effort from both the teachers and pupils. I was told that they even decided to add in the money raised from the 5 penny collection that each class was doing. I is so heart warming to learn about this kind of generosity.

Flag update: I was advised that the logo would look much better on a white background as it contains lots of blue anyway. The printing company may be able to supply the right material but if not, I will have to buy some more. I can’t wait to get it finally printed. I do however have the design in my head of what I will do with it in the end. I know some of the staff and kids read this blog so I’ll keep quiet about it for now!

Long awaited update (s)

I’ve been super busy revising for my Arabic exams of late so things are a bit delayed on here so very sorry.

Last Wednesday (20th July) I had the second samosa sale. I was much better in setting everything up but Chandigarh, the samosa suppliers were very very late (40mins) in delivering them. I had massive queues so naturally was rather worried because people would start to leave. Fortunately when they eventually did turn up, Me, Sarah and Paul pulled together and sold samosas like they were going out of fashion! We managed to sell them all in under an hour which was absolutely mind blowing considering there were 600 of them!



I managed to raise a staggering £277 for the charity bringing the total from the Lancaster Circus Samosa sales to £677!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Bad Samosa, Good Samosa

The bad samosa story:

Well, what a washout weekend! Saturday, the curtains opened to a world for garden lawns and...er...ducks! Completely chucked it down for at least the beginning half of the day. As I was on route to Barry Island to spend what would probably be the last 'day out' with my family. Enroute, I get a call from Harune "it's chucking it down with rain, no ones gonna turn up, I don't think its worth bothering about the Conway school fair". I thought he was right so I called Chandigar and cancelled the samosas.

Just in case you're interested, we had a very nice time in Barry Island. The rain stopped and 'ole Mr Sun put his hat back on!'


The good samosa story:

I finished the poster, very late the other night so I couldn't post it up. Just as well actually because there were quite a few spelling mistakes on it. So I corrected them at work with a bit of Microsoft Paint handywork. The posters went up in the lift today but after not too long, a colleague came and asked about the very obvious mistake. Apparently the date on my poster was WEDNESDAY 21ST JULY...

... Wednesday is the 20th!

So a bit more handy work on MS Paint and some new posters were ready for the lifts.
I've decided to knock down the order to 600 samosas this time rather then the massive 800 in the first run. I'd rather sell out quickly then have to walk around.



Hopefully it will all go well on Wednesday.

In other news:

The non school uniform day has been mentioned in the Yarnfield School Assembly. I'm really excited. Its very touching to get the support from the school and the kids. More then anything, it always brings it back to the forefront that it's all for the orphans. I'm sure that many of the children will not realise how their actions will have such a profound impact on children on the other side of the planet but that's the truth.

Our tickets have now arrived. Flights are going from Manchester to Dubai to Dar es Salaam... interesting. I have requested an itinerary from Tahseen as if we to do anything else, we really need to know the schedule.

Anyway, a great programme on the life of the Prophet Muhammad is one now so time to wrap up!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

New stuff a go go!

The fund raising activity continues...

Saturday is the Fair at Conway school. I hope we are not being too ambitious with 200 samosas but hopefully it will all go well. Harune and his friend Turbo (Tayyab), who was once a pupil there.

I will be on a family trip to Barry Island with Ismails madrassa. It's likely that this will be the last outing with my family before I go... don't say anything... I didn't choose Barry Island! To top it off, I think it will be raining on Saturday. Oh well, so much for the white linen shorts I bought for the trip!

The Samosa sale is on for next Wednesday. I'm sitting on my computer updating my blog when in fact I switched it on to design the next poster. I have a few ideas! I'm running late with the advertising too. 700 samosas I've decided. 100 less then last time but I'm gonna have to push... it's all for charity. I'll blog the poster when I finish.

I've decided to go ahead with a Krispy creme doughnut sale on the last day of term too.



I've heard nothing back from the flag people for the flag of Yarnfield school so I'm on to another printer. I'm really looking forward to flying the flag for the school so I want it to look absolutely pukka! Shaz was quite surprised how fussy I was with the material!

In fact, Ismails just told me that all the kids in the school are very excited about the Kilimanjaro climb and are always googling it... no pressure!

Tahseen called yesterday. The meeting is off. Not enough people could make it which is a shame. He will organise something for the end of August but a) I think thats too late and b)it will be the last ten days of Ramadan so I'm not compromising that.

Training wise, I seem to be hurting everywhere! My iliobial band is playing havoc so I'm rolling the hell out of it but inshallah it will be ok.

gotta do this poster now!