It’s Swahili and means “crazy, cool like a banana.” It’s a phrase our porters and guides on our Survivor Summit adventure on Mount Kilimanjaro used a lot. As in “Mambo?” (How are you?) “Poa Kichizi Com Ndezi!” After our 100% group summit on Monday, it describes us all perfectly, too.
I actually wrote in a journal every day on our trip. The next couple of posts will be the transcription of that. Afterward, I’ll write a separate post about the powerful, emotional, energizing, spiritual, grueling, empowering hike that was our Survivor Summit.
The flight plan, because it’s me, makes no sense. We flew west to Seattle, then went on to Amsterdam, which is now a 9 1/2 hour flight… and on to Kilimanjaro, which has its own airport. That’s another 8+ hours. I also flew in a day early, because my flying luck has been so horrendous lately. Of course, all my flights went off like clockwork. I met Maddie from Livestrong, and her dad, Bob, from North Carolina and our two US guides, the famous Chris Warner (one of 9 Americans to summit both K2 and Everest. He has great mountaineering stories, even though someone always dies or nearly dies in every one) and Nelson Laur, our other American guide, who’s from Maryland, in Amsterdam. We were standing in yet another security line. We remet in the Kilimanjaro airport. We had to get visas for Tanzania. The sign on the wall said it was $50, but the immigration officer asked for $100. No one asked any questions. We paid $100. We took a short (2 minute) van ride to the Kia Lodge, and that’s where we stayed for two days.
We just hung out for a couple of days. The others in our group of 16 arrive in waves. Everyone is so excited and so nice, most with a cancer story to tell. It’s a pretty amazing group of great people. I already can tell this will be the adventure of a lifetime.
Here’s who’s here, plus Chris and Nelson, our Earth Treks guides:
Cindy from Illinois, my tentmate. Cyclist, Livestrong leader, math teacher. Generous, outgoing, kind.
Claire from Jackson, Mississippi. Works for an insurance company. Adorable, funny. She took care of her husband, Jeremy, during his battle against colon cancer.
Jeremy went through his chemo and surgeries about a year ago. He’s strong, nice, funny. They brought their own honor flags of people they know who are fighting cancer.
Matt is a doctor from Maryland. He and his brothers started the Survivor Summit. He has a calming, quiet strength that I tapped in to during the week.
Chris works for a rental car company in Iowa. He and Matt have been best friends since birth, they say. A genuinely nice and sensitive guy who loves Swedish fish. He brought a lot of them.
Bree from Katy, Texas celebrated her one-year cancerversary with us. She had breast cancer. She’s the mom of twins, one of whom has cerebral palsy. She wears her big heart on her sleeve. She made us all cry a lot.
Stephen is Bree’s husband. He stays home with the boys. He’s smart and has an easy laugh. He hikes with his hands in his pockets. He and Bree have the most wonderful, respectful, loving relationship I’ve maybe ever seen.
Rob is a pharma executive from Park City! He’s funny, spiritual and a constant source of surprise. We will be good friends.
Robert is a spine surgeon from Orlando who has a home in Park City. When I met Robert last summer, I mentioned that I was climbing Kili. He said he wanted to do it and has a sister who’s a cancer survivor. I figured he was just saying that he wanted to come along, but he was already all-in. I love that.
Maddie lives in Austin and coordinated Survivor Summit with Livestrong. She’s only 24 but totally has her act together. I wasn’t this together at 24.
Bob is Maddie’s dad, who lives in North Carolina. A nice, nice man with a big heart who is thrilled to be part of this adventure with his daughter.
Doug Ulman is the Livestrong CEO and a 3-time cancer survivor. I give him credit for saving the foundation after the Lance debacle. He is earnest and authentic and passionate.
Marc is the CEO of Growing Bolder and he’s been my friend for almost 30 years. He’s shooting a documentary and a bunch of stories about our adventure.
Day 1, Rongai Gate to 1st Caves Camp, 6,400 feet to 9,450 feet, 4 miles
Starting the Kili climb was a lot like race day. You wait, wait, wait, not sure what to expect, knowing that all your anxiety will go away as soon as the gun goes off.
It was about a 4-hour van ride from the Kia Lodge to the Kenya side of Mount Kilimanjaro. We are going to take the Rongai Route up, it’s supposedly less travelled, scenic, and one that our guides, Chris and Nelson, have never done.
There were a couple of groups at the base, plus a lot of Tanzanians that will work on different groups’ porter teams. All that had been worked out without us. So after lunch, we staerted up. We started at 6300 feet and went to 8700. Part of it was rocky and steep, but most of it was not. They key is to go slowly (Pole pole!) to mitigate altitude damage. I was surprised that I could feel the altitude much at all, since I live at 7,000 feet, but I did, especially after I chased down a porter who was wearing a Deer Valley ski school jacket. I HAD to take a picture.
We can see Mount Kilimanjaro off in the distance, and after a couple of miles, it seemed much bigger, but no closer (!). It looked more like North Carolina than what you’d expect to see in Africa… Pine trees, then corn and potato farms. We expect different tomorrow.
It isn’t glamping, but it is nice to have our tents set up when we arrived at camp. Our duffels arrived shortly after. Then popcorn and hot chocolate and a dinner of spaghetti and veggie sauce, with cucumber soup. Really delicious. So tonight, I’m sleeping in my brand-new sleeping bag, excited about the adventure, hoping that tomorrow is as fun as today.
The group is passionate, smart, funny, well-travelled and includes Livestrong CEO Doug Ulman. We raised $150,000 for Livestrong and are now challenging ourselves physically, mentally. It’s a group of cancer survivors, caretakers, friends, and family members of folks in the cancer community.
A final note: Here’s some weirdness. Text is working on my phone.
Keep reading! Check out:
Part 3: Rise Up