It was exciting to arrive to Manchester with only photos of people and their voices to look for at the airport arrivals hall. I got a message from our UK team that they are still 25 minutes away with the minibus and if I could look for the Spain, Austria and Switzerland team mates as they should land soon also.
I got myself something to eat, a latte and sat waiting at a cafe for the others to arrive. I spotted the Spain members first, then, Austria and a bit later Switzerland member arrived. The UK team minibus driver got lost as there is so much construction going on close to the airport, but eventually we found each other and the whole Team Ubuntu was united for the first time.
I felt really tired, the flu was still in the background so slept most of the bus ride to Keswick. It though helped enough so that I could join the others for dinner after we had checked into the hotel.
Time difference was affecting me a bit as it was 2 hours more already in Finland so dinner started “my time” at 11 pm. I very much wanted to get to know my Team Ubuntu colleagues and was glad that I was able to stay awake until the end of the dinner.
During dinner we all introduced each other in round table style and learned to share how our day went. This debrief became very important to all of us and I began to look forward to these sessions and to hear how the day went for each and everyone. We are going to spend a week on a mountain in very difficult conditions so it helps to know each other and how we are doing.
I went to sleep that evening happy, intrigued on what was to come and interested to get to know everyone in the coming days. My mind was open and I got a similar vibe from everyone that we are here to create a team that can reach the top together.
Only worry was the lingering flu, but decided to take it one hour at a time and go as high as I can go the next day or go nowhere at all if I feel too bad.
I woke up in the morning I would say full of enthusiasm, but not necessarily full of physical energy. That enthusiasm carried far and thanks to it I probably got through the day.
After breakfast our guides helped us with the back packs and we got info on what you should have with you and how to pack everything.
Kirstin from our team surprised me with a request to interview just before we left with a minibus to the starting point of the first hike. You can see it from the smile on my face. It’s happening! Check twitter post.
At the starting point our first official Team Ubuntu photo was taken with the Autovista Kilimanjaro Challenge banner and Unicef UK shirts. (See feature image at the top)
Right after we started climbing up everyone began to chat and there was a nice kind of atmosphere and feeling of unity. We are in this together and everyone was eager to get to know each other.
I had to concentrate on my own performance more than usual to make sure I don’t overdo it and kept monitoring my HR and general feeling. My heart was touched how every now and then someone asked me how are you doing realizing that I am struggling a bit. Conversations were formed with most of the team already on the first day.
When we got down and the climb of the day was over there was a sense of relief. Many were positively surprised they could do it, me included. I felt strangely OK considering how I had felt the day before.
The debrief in the evening before dinner helped to understand how the day had been for all and we learned to check our oxygen saturation and evaluate other symptoms that might indicate that it’s time to head downhill. Feeling was accomplished, tired but happy. After dinner we pretty much headed straight to bed since we had another similar climb the day after (14 kilometers with over 900 meters of ascent).
I slept like a log and woke up in coma-like state. My younger son called me in the morning and since it was 2 hours ahead I was wondering why he is not in school until I was kindly informed it is Saturday.
I don’t think I was fully awake until we started walking after breakfast, but luckily the start of the walk was pretty flat and there was again chance to talk to people and before I knew it my body was awake again.
When we got to the beginning of the ascent it was clear that we would not be able to chat that much. The incline was pretty steep and first symptoms of going up and down started to appear in the form of knee problems to some of the team members. We got some really good advice from our guides and I was happy follow each tip they gave on how to proceed and dress at each point on the way up.
We proceeded with steady and slow pace in a queue up the hill which was a really good tactic. There was some discussions, but the path was a bit too narrow to walk side by side and the slope so steep that everyone was concentrating more on individual performance than the day before.
Last bit to the peak was the steepest with lots of loose slate rocks and I could sense that it was an achievement to get to the top. It was very windy up there and we could hardly see anything. The clouds kept coming and going sweeping the peak. Then suddenly the clouds disappeared and amazing views appeared. You could see all the way to Scotland! This was definitely the high point so far. We did it again, together.
Path down was more like a highway so wide and easy to walk so we got to talk to each other more. I learned so much of what everyone does at work, what hobbies they have, how their family is doing and where they live.
Knee/leg problems and tiredness were the general issues, but general feeling was good in debrief in the evening. Everyone felt like they had achieved something and we learned again more about altitude sickness and symptoms. We were emphasized that nobody knows how you feel unless you tell them. It is vital to be honest of what you feel no matter how strange as there might be a reason behind it.
At dinner I could clearly feel how something had shifted during the day. Everyone seemed more liberated, more familiar with each other and the amount of laughter! I have not laughed that much in a long, long time.
That evening Team Ubuntu was formed.
When the third morning began we were all feeling a bit sad already knowing that all this will come to an end soon.
Two previous days there was so much laughter and we could all feel and see the bonding happening. It was amazing to notice how especially on the second day when there was a bit more challenge it sort of jellied us together even more.
Back packs were carried for others, equipment borrowed to help out and a lot of “Are you doing ok’s?” and “How are you’s?” were exchanged.
This time we took a boat ride to the start of the hike on the other side of the lake. Route was only around 6,5 kilometers and ascent only around 332 meters as opposed to the days before it when it had been 14 km and over 900 meters.
This was the “rest” day and everyone was more familiar with each other so talking was easy, but truth was we did not want to go home yet. Debrief confirmed this, many of us would have wanted to do a few more days. We had just began to know each other and it felt like we were ripped apart just when we got to know each other.
After the debrief the minibus took us back to Manchester. During and after dinner there was again so much laughter. We have a great team was on everybody’s mind.
This was the last day together. No climbing but a team bonding training and general knowledge of climb to Kilimanjaro. One of our colleagues who had already climbed Kili shared her story and something in that made think. She said that by the time they got close to the top nobody wanted to be the first after all so they all went together.
This is not a competition, this is not a game. This is team work and everyone has their part to play.
With this almost poetic ending I finish my post. I look forward to Kilimanjaro climb with these amazing people. I feel more secure and confident now and I will do my best to support Team Ubuntu so everyone can reach their best, what ever the altitude.
Go Team Ubuntu and may we be united again in Tanzania! Miss you all ❤
Would you like to support our fundraising cause?
We also discussed why this challenge is so important to us during the three days and it’s not just the climb, it’s the helping others while doing it that matters. We all feel very passionate about the fundraising part and are determined to reach our goal and beyond and this way help as many as we can.
If you wish to sponsor Team Ubuntu you can do that by visiting the team JustGiving page. Every pound, euro, dollar will help us reach our goal of fundraising for @Unicef_UK.
Thank you for reading and sponsoring us.