I woke up early as usual. The house was in darkness so I crept downstairs. After a year of preparation the big day had arrived, the 26th of September 2019.
Today was the day we were leaving for Tanzania to begin the biggest challenge of our lives. As usual, I was a little unorganised. I still needed to print off some insurance documents. The printer was in my son’s bedroom, so I crept in and managed to sort the paperwork out in relative silence. Then I quickly jumped up and smashed my head on a shelf! Shit, my head is now bleeding. All I can think is will it need a stitch?. What a start.
I kiss Natalia and the boys goodbye as they go to school and then check my kit for the umpteenth time. A Millwall cap hides my wound and I pace the floor waiting for Daren and Tim to arrive. Freenow has provided a brand new electric Taxi to take us to Heathrow.
When they arrive we all look at each other like this is it, boys we are really doing this. Arriving at the airport we meet Brian and we all just smile. This is it chaps.
We meet our group of fellow climbers and introduce ourselves. Daren uses an old Knowledge trick of word association to learn everyone’s names and within 20 minutes the Cabbies know everybody.
We get a little bit excited and slip off for a pint with Mel our mountain guide from Action Challenge. None of us realise how close we will all become in the next 10 days.
We, however, although buzzing is not about to undo a year of hard work by getting smashed on the plane. We have a couple of drinks and try to get some sleep.
The Tanzanian Tourist Board had told us we would have a welcoming party at the airport but we are blown away by what happens next. As we land at Kilimanjaro airport I point out the large group of dignitaries and cameras waiting by the runway. I jokingly say to Daren and Brian ” Are they are for us?” They don’t believe me. Sure enough, as we disembark we were shepherded away from the rest of the passengers (no passport control, customs or baggage reclaim for the C.D.K. team!!
We are being filmed as we are met by a group of Maasai warriors and encouraged to join in the dancing. Anyone old enough to remember the punk era think pogo and you will get the idea. What a welcome! We are truly humbled. We felt special and famous for a few minutes, it felt weird and unnatural but we lived it.
By John Dillane