Have you ever seen the sunrise over the mountains at dawn when the ground is still wet with dew, water still frozen to ice as if moaning the absence of sun during the night, snow converting slowly to a pool of water trickling subsequently down their accustomed path, serene, peaceful and your breathing disorienting the natural order of things because it is too heavy. You have not, but I have so grab a seat, get your popcorn and go for a rest room break because today it is going to be a long read.
The Final Account
DAY 1 SUNDAY: All turned up.
Today is Sunday 22nd February 2015. The big day we climb Mt. Kenya. Our trip is composed of around 84 students and staff, two school buses and of course the Deputy Vice Chancellor DVC is seated back left of his own Toyota Primio vehicle. We gather around the school at 9 am filled with feverish anticipation ready for departure and as soon as the flagging off is done which includes singing, speeches and prayers we are racing down in KAY bus across the school compound into the highway. Amongst my friends is Francis, Esther and Trica. We are all turned up and the selfie game is on, going live on twitter #Climb2Educate.
Our journey is from Dedan Kimathi University past Narumuro, Nanyuki, Timau and finally KeSAL, the Kenya School of Adventure and Leadership. At KeSAL we camp all through the night and this becomes the first camp which we often refer to as Base Camp.
In Nanyuki we make a stop to shop and lunch. Nanyuki is the kind of town that is so tiny yet very modern beginning with their large Nakumatt Mall and 3 star hotels. The number of white people in this region is predominantly startling considering the ratio according to my calculation of locals to whites being 3:1. Now I know it might appear as if I am a racist which I am not, am just saying there are very many white people in Nanyuki. That besides my point we get lunch and in what appears to be an entire lifetime we get to KeSAL, of course with many more stops like one which Esther had to take a groundie in the middle of the highway.
KeSAL was a cup of coffee considering there was electricity and network bandwidth. At night however the temperatures hit below ten and that was when things started to get real. We get divided into groups each with their own instructor. Francis, Trica, Esther and I have a way of sticking together so we get to the same group with the name Nzoia, our instructor being Mr. Rono. KeSAL is more or less like a military camp.
DAY 2 MONDAY: I think Esther fed on adrenaline for breakfast.
So, here is the thing about mountain climbing, you walk in a single file each a step behind the other like penguins in Madagascar during migration, walking is done in designated groups each of twelve and of course the illusion gender must be considered, the slowest is the pace-setter and is always on the lead the rest follow behind, the instructor does not necessarily have to walk with you he can disappear as fast as he can appear but he is always there when there is a problem and finally and most fun, you sing as you walk like “If I fall in love in a camping school, take my ass to home, tell my momma I’m a shame… blah blah” as if to remind you camping is for fighters not lovers.
As early as 6 am the bell is rang and we get up to a little bit of working out before we hit the road. On top of the five day change of heavy clothes already in the bag an enormous sleeping bag is added. Most of our bags are barely good enough for camping so we tie the sleeping bag on top and immediately after breakfast which includes boiled eggs, a loaf of bread, green tea and a banana we set the ball rolling.
So we are matching along a rugged terrain of uncharted country where every sight and sound is unaccustomed the only thing that seems familiar are your friends of which you secretly begin to discover their other side after you have been walking together more than fifteen kilometers and that’s just horizontal distance leave alone the thousand feet of altitude you are gaining with every kilometer. No music, no bandwidth and batteries are running out and that is when I begin to observe Esther. Esther is the kind of people you would expect to see on runways of beauty pageants not mountain climbing and all through in my mind I knew at some point I would have had to help her carry her bag. Well, this does not happen not even once in fact most time keeping up with her is entirely impossible and Mr Rono has to occasionally ask her to slow down. What actually comes as a rude shock however is the fact that the load is equivalent yet I ask for breaks but she wants to keep moving. Must be the adrenaline, perhaps when we had eggs, tea and bananas she had adrenaline for breakfast!
We get to our second camp at around one called the Solo Camp which is just an open field where we set up tents and this where I begin apprehending that civilization was simply fading with the altitude. Remember in the eighties when you would fetch drinking water from the same point you took a shower then head home with your water barrel on your head to find your momma making flour using a pestle and mortal generating some kind of dissonant and raucous rhythmic sounding that makes you feel home then when the Ugali was ready you would all sit around the heath and pass gossip of the long day especially about which cattle fed on whose plantation then you would all spread your mat around the fire father, mother and tens of children sharing on bedroom which is also the dining room, more or so like a bedsitter but the rest room is outside. That kind of civilization. In camp there is no gender so Francis, Esther, Trica and I shared a self-contained tent of which I expect no questions about, am I clear?
DAY 3 TUESDAY: Are we going to die?
In this life, I have only felt close to death twice. Only twice. The first time was after watching Final Destination Movie and the second time was spending a night at Majors Camp which was our third and final camp. At Majors Camp, there is no camp fire because there is no wood lest the negligible vegetation which cannot make fire. Cooking is done using three litre gas cylinders carried by some support professionals called porters. On a bad night when there is no cloud cover, the temperatures drop to negative fifteen to negative twenty but on a good night of which I was unfortunate enough not to experience the temperature could rise to negative eight.
I often consider death when I cannot sleep considering sleeping is like death practice. Anyway we are all asleep Francis, Trica, Esther then me in that order, today has been a long day so sleep comes instantly I even forget I had to document the activities of the day. So there I am dreaming about my future sports car and priding myself on being a connoisseur of beautiful imaginary women with my assortment of other lucrative enterprises living an idyllic fantasy life. The dream is too good so I turn over in the little tent and that is when my face lands on the wall of the cold tent and I wake up screaming and cursing. Deep down I am assured that I will not be sleeping tonight in this God-forsaken wilderness but like Jesus who persevered in the wilderness for forty days this was just my third day! (See what I did there?)
In death you see the beauty of life. Perhaps that is the reason I begin making this poem:
Like a snowfall
Soothing as a whisper
Of summer wind
Quite as the passage of stars.
DAY 4 WENESDAY: I want to go home to momma.
When Francis got tired of walking, unlike me who resolved to silence, conserving the little energy left and cursing in my head, Francis would begin to preach. Not really the Bible kind of preaching really but his own version of the Bible let us call it the Prince Francis Version (PFV). So today we hike from Majors Camp to Lenana Peak 4985 meters above sea level and back to Majors Camp a total horizontal distance of about thirty kilometres which sums up to fifty plus kilometers altitude gain considered. We are woken up at four and by four thirty we set out. Cold wind blows unapologetically through the hills and we clutch our jackets our gloved hands buried deep in the pockets begging for warmth.
You and I always consider a pain killer in case of a headache, stomach ache or just anywhere. In mountain climbing, painkillers are forbidden and the only solution to your body wiles is water. This morning all water we have is frozen to ice but the instructors keep emphasizing the importance of water when gaining altitude. “Maji ni muhimu, maji ni uhai, kunywa maji ata kama ni barafu” (Water is important, water is life, drink water even if its frozen to ice). So you have to sip that cold water if you want to get to the peak, a cold sip that makes your body shiver and wish you could go home to mommy and have a nice plate of millet porridge or morning pancakes. The jungle is not for quitters and as far as Esther and Trica are walking, you have to keep walking unless you want to be called a sissy who never made it to the peak.
I was telling you about Francis, so he is behind me and we are struggling through the rocks slowly then he begins “I am as strong as a horse, call me black stallion and I will make it to the Lenana and dougie 4985 meters above sea level”. I am too tired to laugh or shake my head so I let out a little sigh which is more like a cry but deep down I know Francis is right, I want to dougie at Lenana, do crazy poses and post them on Instagram to tell all those bragging idiots online that they could have been to Zanzibar or Bahamas for all I care during Christmas but none of them had faced the intrepidity of Mt Kenya, none of them had done a dougie 4985 meters above sea level. And today we did get to Lenana, we did dougie and did crazy poses, we walked until we could walk no more so we crawled, cried and begged (exclude me) to the top, to Africa’s fourth highest peak Lenana.
Trica was always the most silent among us but that changes when we start our way back from Lenana and it starts snowing heavily. The snow appears to have called a reserved energy tank in her and she begins snow fighting all the way to camp. I think we should call snow selfies snowie invented by Trica because she took a hell lot of them. We had conquered Mt Kenya our task was done, only thing left was a night at the cold jungle and we would be headed back to base camp for bonfire and barbecue.
DAY 5 THURSDAY: Back to civilization and the age of electricity.
The journey from Majors Camp to Base Camp through Solo Camp is quite a silent one and took about seven to eight hours. In my head I cannot wait to get to my laptop and type a story of how I almost died for all of you to read. I write Instagram captions on my Medulla especially the photo I was dancing under a snow storm. Tired but smiling 95% of us made it to the peak an achievement not most human beings could brag about.
At night an enormous bonfire is made and we dance and party till dawn. The barbecue is all you can eat roast, fry and boiled meat.
DAY 6 FRIDAY: Welcome home heroes.
A welcome home party is clearly set out on our arrival to Dedan Kimathi University the guest of honour being The Chancellor Dedan Kimathi University. Certificates are given and the party does not stop there.
Well, today I woke up with the kind of feeling that you have been ran over by a train severally but a story had to be told. A story of this being the largest gig dennispetersblog has done that comprises a series of four articles:
Working with great people and societies:
1. Antony Oroko – Lead Publicist Climb to Educate.
2. Tabitha Wanyoike – Mentor and Consultant.
3. Sam Kairu – Arts and Events Coordinator.
4. Zawadi Society – Equipment.
5. BAKE DeKUT which was association that handed me this assignment.
6. Mr Rono – Climbing Instructor.
And special regards:
1. Team Nzoia.
2. Esther Mukiri.
3. Trica Wanjiku.
4. Francis Ndung’u.
5. Sam Munyiri.
6. Evans Mariga.
1. Sam Munyiri.
2. Dennis Peters.
Meet the writer Dennis Peters.