Mt. Kilimanjaro by Kelli Kiffer

SO, today we climbed a mountain. I am not the most athletic person in the world, and I am not super adventurous, so I was a little less than thrilled when I first heard that we would be hiking up Mt. Kilimanjaro. But I got used to the idea of it, and everyone else in our group (including Professor Quaye) were unbelievably excited, so I fed off their energy and kept looking forward to the end when we were back in the bus.

When our group arrived at the site, we registered and then our guide told us a few things about how we should climb the mountain, when we will stop for lunch, etc. The guide mentioned that the walk up to “Mandara Hut” would take about 3 hours and that the walk down would take about 2 and a half hours-this made me nervous but I knew that I couldn’t turn back now. Professor Quaye gave us a speech about how we wouldn’t leave anyone behind-no matter what so that did comfort me a little!

I experienced so many different emotions and had multiple types of experiences on the mountain. At the beginning, the walk up wasn’t very thrilling. As I mentioned before, I wasn’t too ecstatic that I was going to climb this mountain, so I found out that the walk was much more enjoyable when I talk to people. I talked to MaryKate for a solid hour and a half while walking. I learned about her family, her hopes and dreams and some of her secrets. She also learned about my life, what I am most afraid of and the reasons I decided to study abroad. Our talk was hilarious at times, and very emotional at others. During this hour and a half, I felt like I became so close to MaryKate. As we got farther up the mountain, it was harder to breathe-this makes you slow down and look at all the amazing forestry, clouds and plants around you. The scenery was absolutely beautiful, there isn’t really a way that I can describe it. All I can say is that while looking at all the amazing views while climbing this mountain, the world seemed so small and so did all of my problems.

We stopped for lunch about two hours in and I was feeling pretty good. I had just gotten a lot closer to MaryKate and now I was able to sit down, woo! During lunch I talked to everyone about how they were feeling, and once again they were all SUPER pumped to finish the hike up the mountain. Once again, I was not thrilled about the idea of sweating again, but I was looking forward to the view once we go to our destination-Mandara Hut.

During the second part of the walk up, I had the privilege of getting to know Lizzy more. We didn’t necessarily pour our hearts out to each other, but we did learn about each other’s hobbies-hers being sweet stuff like hiking, photography and music and mind being the boring typical stuff like watching Netflix and eating Taco Bell haha. I had known Lizzy since freshman year of college (we were in the same Swahili class) and I sat by her every day, but we never really knew much about each other. I was always too shy to talk to her and I definitely thought that she was “too cool” and wouldn’t be able to deal with how weird I am. I was wrong; Lizzy accepted me and my odd qualities!

Part of the group slowed down a little bit and Lizzy, Marykate, Gim, Shelli and I were determined to make it to Mandara Hut before our time was up, and we had to turn around. Our tour guide paced us, and we made it to our destination. Like I said, I wasn’t even able to describe the flowers, trees, animals, etc. while we were walking up the mountain, so I DEFINITELY cannot describe the view from this point in a way that would do it justice. I will just leave it to your imagination… and maybe this will urge you to climb it yourself! But, the view was breathtaking and the feeling I had inside me was even more amazing. I had just climbed part of a mountain-a super adventurous thing to do, and I had made some awesome friends. Our tour guide told us that we only had five minutes to take pictures; we took as many shots as we could and then began our descent down the mountain.

The walk down the mountain was easier physically, but I was faced with different challenges. MaryKate, Shelli and I began talking, and we all shared our biggest struggles and fears with each other. I am a very private person and I do not like to tell people my personal feelings, but I felt so safe to do it in the protection of this mountain. I knew that nobody was judging me. We all slowed down (because if we didn’t we would fall) and we just talked about life. It was truly beautiful.

Unfortunately I did end up falling and MaryKate and I ALMOST got eaten by a monkey, but those were just minor details of this amazing day. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro was a physical obstacle but I also talked about and dealt with emotional road blocks during the hike up and down on the mountain. I wouldn’t say that I found clarity, but it did feel good to share such personal thing with the people that I consider my make-shift family for three months, who knows, they may even feel like family for life after this trip. Today I conquered both the physical obstacle of climbing a mountain and I also let my fears of being judged go, and I opened up to three people and they shared their personal struggles with me as well. The view from the top was absolutely amazing, and so was the feeling of making some new close friends. Who would have thought that I would make such great friends and have such forgettable memories while partaking in the arduous task of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Students exploring, learning, and experiencing Tanzania