Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kilimanjaro and Young Life Africa


(I'm on the right)

I leave for Europe in about 12 hours, and I've got about 12 hours worth of things to do before then, so this will be brief and undoubtedly inadequate. But I wanted to put a few thoughts and images down about my amazing trip to Africa before my next adventure begins. The images might not necessarily go with the words, but whatever, you get the idea. So here goes...


(With my dad and brother Michael)

We spent two weeks in Tanzania beginning July 1st, and I'm still mentally digesting the incredible things we witnessed. I hiked through 5 levels of forestation, saw the sunrise from 19,330 feet and stood next to some of the only snow in Africa (and on the equator, to boot). I had the privilege of experiencing it all with my dad and brother, both of whom I love, as well as some fantastic friends, new and old. But what really blew me away was the kind, humble, professional service of our guides and porters. From what I understand, to climb Kili you're required by law to bring with you guides and porters. This ensures both that the local economy is sustained (jobs created) and that silly foreigners don't get lost or injured on the mountain. I'm not accustomed to hiking in such conditions and wasn't sure at first how to react. But the people were truly inspirational -- their work ethic, their abilities, their smiles, kind hearts and stories won over every member of our party. Not only would we not have made it to the top without them, but neither would we have had nearly as much fun along the way.


(Michael, me, water pump, awesome porters)

video
(Hiking long days at altitude makes you a bit kooky)

I'm grateful for photos and the journals of others to jog my memory about the experience. The combination of high altitude, long days, and the incessant pursuit of that which lays before you makes for a terrible remembrance of even the most recent past. Looking at the images has reminded me of the details, but I never forgot the feeling of joy every day when I put on my boots to do the most enjoyable hiking I've ever done. The final ascent was a brutal task, I will not lie, but it was just a small part of the overall journey and a necessary component of the adventure. I recommend the trip to anyone interested.


(Top of the World)

We climbed and descended a total of 15,000 vertical feet on a few hours rest over the final two days (from 13k, to 19k, then back down to 10k).

video

Soon after we came off the mountain, we headed to Dar es Salaam on the coast of the Indian Ocean, still attempting to process what had just happened. But we didn't have time. Instead we were greeted in Dar by over 40 remarkable Africans from 13 countries and even more tribes. Each of them works with kids in their respective countries, and many volunteer without salary, all of it done in the name of Young Life Africa. I've been involved in Young Life in the U.S. my entire life and seen firsthand the wonderful work that they do in kids lives. Yet I was BLOWN away by the infectious energy of the African staff and their hearts for the young people in their countries. As amazing as the Kilimanjaro climb was, the YL Africa meeting was its equal. It's hard to explain (and in some ways impossible), but I'm grateful that I had the chance to meet so many wonderful people and hear the stories of what they are doing in their countries. (Unfortunately I don't have many photos or video from it. Maybe I'll find some more later.)


(Young Life Africa's incredible staff with guests from around the world)

Next thing I know, I'm on a plane, dazed, exhausted and trying to process the now multitude of various wonderful things I've just seen. After 30+ hours of travel and a short night's rest, I was then sitting at a desk in an office in hot, humid Texas, wondering what in the world had just happened. I'm still trying to process it, actually, and probably will for some time.


(Lunch at 15,000 feet)

Well, that's a glimpse. Maybe too much, maybe not enough. I'm glad I wrote it before I forgot, and maybe I'll fill in details later. Now I need to pack some bags, book plane and train tickets, contact potential hosts or travel mates and finish my responsibilities at work before I leave! I'll be in Italy for a week with family, France (and maybe Spain) for two weeks with my brother Will, Germany (perhaps?) with a couple friends, then to Florence to celebrate the wedding of some other friends. All or very little of that might happen, and who knows what else. I'm grateful for my life and this opportunity to see another part of the world and meet the people in it. If nothing else, the "Best Job" experience lit a fire of excitement under me and reminded me how much I enjoy travel and adventure. It was a great catalyst for my current exploits (though I still want desperately to go scuba diving on an island sometime soon).

That's all for now. Best of luck to you and your adventures, wherever they are.

Steven


(Hiking to base camp)

PS. And yeah, yeah, I know this blog needs to be rebranded and probably moved to wordpress, etc. Some day. Maybe. More interesting things to do right now.