Day 3– Overnight at Horombo Hut 3700m/12340 feet above sea level Acclimatisation day
“Sometime in my journey I just needed to take a deep breath and give myself some time. This allowed me to work on my relationships, go on holiday, enjoy the sweet things in life and celebrate how far I come.”
The second day and night at this camp. Some of the other climbers just used it as a day of rest but Samson would have none of that. He told us we needed to climb high and sleep low as it would assist with our acclimatisation. Today is the first day that we saw the Mount Kilimanjaro in all its glory as the sun was basking on the southern ice field. We also got a better view of Mawenzi which was impressive and mesmerising although its peak is lower than Kilimanjaro. Mawenzi was an ever present companion on this part of the journey. From Horombo the Mawenzi peak seemed to tower over Kilimanjaro – this of course was only a perception.
I could not help but remember how on my journey to healing there were often obstacles on the journey that appeared higher than my ultimate goal – telling a family member, sharing my story – but it was only a perception. Just as Mawenzi was much smaller than I perceived but only seen on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, my ultimate goal.
Mawenzi is only climbed by a few people for research purposes as the Tanzanian government is trying to protect it. They want it preserved as is for generations to come and to remain pristine and untouched.
We had breakfast and left camp at 9.30 warmly dressed for a hike to Zebra Rock situated at 4000m – a stunning natural phenomenon. We returned back to camp for lunch and I struggled to eat as I started losing my appetite. Eating was just as important as drinking so that I could sustain myself for the coming journey. Once again the Zucchini soup was outstanding.
I revealed another flag “Real Men Get Raped.” Each flag represents a part of the healing journey I had taken over the last ten years.
Whilst I revealed the flag “Real Men Get Raped” near Zebra Rock with Mawenzi in the background, the unveiling of the flag also unveiled people’s perceptions of male rape. I was standing holding out the flag when a Chinese climber also on the hike noticed the flag and came over and started reading it out aloud for the group behind her. In a loud voice she started reading “Real men get ….” Her voice tapered to silence and she could not bring herself to say the last word “raped”, and she walked back to her group uncomfortable at the concept that men can get raped.
This was also shower day – yes in my moment of madness I decided to have a shower. As mentioned before there is no running water but the shower is supplied by the passing streams. The shower cubicle which is situated in the toilet block has an overhead nozzle. The temperature at the camp was just 5˚c, I stripped in the freezing cold and due to the lack of design there was nowhere to put your clothes so I used the window sill. Even though there was a cold draught I decided to take the plunge. The water was freezing probably about zero degrees, my body went into shock. All the wrinkles and flab firmed up and I had an instantaneous sex change – just as a tortoise’s head would disappear into its shell so did my penis. I soaped down and then horror of all horrors the water stopped. About a half meter from the floor there was a tap with a trickling of water. I bent over with my arse in the air, the absurdity of the situation distracting me from my vulnerability and I rinsed my head and shoulders after which I also splashed the freezing cold water onto my body to remove the cleansing soap studs. The pain and anguish of the experience was worth it because I felt like a new person and was ready for the continuation of my journey. I did laugh hysterically and once again gave that inner child a chance to come out.
The experience was not unfamiliar in the reflection of my journey to healing. The pain and anguish that I endured making myself vulnerable by sharing my experience of sexual abuse and rape, risking rejection and the public and personal realisation that I was not always in control as my public persona had projected. The physical and emotional exposed to those around me had a cleansing feeling – I felt renewed, refreshed and invigorated that I could be me, just me and enjoy being me.
I need to just mention that using the long drop toilets was also an adventure – the near misses and messes had to be carefully considered when finding your footing. As you can imagine the view of a grown man trying to empty his bowels by squatting while balancing on two planks either side of the hole and making sure that nothing become soiled was a real sight, something I would not like to experience in a hurry again. I had to keep in mind that I am not the only one with shit in my life and that others before me and on the same journey are also trying to get rid of the crap in their own lives.
All spare time was used for resting and sleeping. After dinner we heard that three porters who use this route regularly had died a few months earlier. It dawned on me that there were very real risks involved in our hike, the journey changed in my mind from a walk up a mountain to the participation in an activity that could result in death. Approximately 20 deaths are reported on Kilimanjaro each year – although I had read this before, it now became a real statistic. I realised that the journey to healing takes many turns. At times I felt depressed ,unbeknown to me many others on the journey were suicidal and make take their own lives rather than take the next step