Written in bed at 7am on Wednesday, the day before the trek begins. Everything is perfect.
The door of the plane opened and, when it was my turn, I emerged into the African night. I wanted to pause, look around and smell. I was nearly blown of my feet. The wind was wild, it was like Hurricane Baw Bag all over again, a little bit of Scotland had come to Africa.
I had wanted to smell the air because Wilbur Smith writes about Africa having a smell. Being someone with no sense of smell I was hoping that the pungent African whiff would reinvigorate my nostrils.
We spent an hour getting through immigration, Tony got charged $50 more than anyone else because he had an Irish not British passport. He was so angry I thought he was going to get his guitar out and sing the man a song. Everyone panicked. How would an immigration officer react to being serenaded by a Ballymena boy with blonde highlights. I could hear the clunk of doors being locked and the clink of keys being thrown away. Sense prevailed and Tony paid up. A money making exercise. The only mishap was Nikki Ryan losing her rucksack in transit. I have donated a pair of my Merino wool boxer shorts to get her by. She is a petite lady, she can wear them as a onesy.
We were met by John and Joshua, our guide and driver, proudly sporting TryAthletes shirts. They bussed us in a proper bus – bags strapped to the roof, rolling suspension and seats covered with brown furry fabric and held together with vinyl piping, and filled with an abundance of soft springs, all pointing in different directions, all vying to be the first to burst out (if Burns had been African he would of immortalised Tanzanian bus seats gushing their entrails rather than a haggis. Ode to a Single Decker).
The bus journey lasted about ninety minutes, passing through villages and towns, I was surprised at how modern and well maintained everything was. I expected dust and potholes.
When we were between settlements the full moon lit up the landscape. There were hills clearly visible to our left. And behind them the faint outline of a mountain. A shadow looming on the horizon.
We swung off the pristine highway into Kilimanjaro National Park. They clearly don’t invest the park fees on road maintenance. Every spring on my seat was tested to the limit. I got my dust and potholes. We bounced, swayed and tipped for 20 minutes and then arrived at an oasis. The colonial Kilimanjaro Mountain Resort. Big Al was already there, he had supplied the TryAthletes shirts and the staff looked magnificent in pink.
Beers, banter and bonding – the essential features of a Wobbly walk lasted until after 2am. Matt and I retired to our room, unpacked our stuff and poked around. Behind a curtain was a door. Behind the door was a balcony. Beyond the balcony stood a mountain. It was beautiful. It was enormous. And it wasn’t Kilimanjaro. It was Mawenzi, the much smaller peak on Kilimanjaro.
Looking at Mawenzi, the words John Bundy said to me when I told him I had Parkinson’s came into my head. His reaction to the news that I had my own personal mountain to climb.