A broken down car
An escort from NRMA
A lift from my mum
A rail bus
A Countrylink train
A Boeing 747 plane
A Singapore sky train
An airport bus
And another plane
Sometimes it takes a while just to get to the start line. Like the past 40 hours that I have spent travelling just to be here. I am hovering somewhere over North Kenya in a wobbly and steaming hot tin plane, due to arrive in Nairobi in an hour. I have had 8 meals served on small trays, four hours sleep, and carried my (come to think of it) replete 38kg of packed bags on all of the transport listed above. This transit shaking me out of my life that has become so blinkered in Sydney – I actually had a moment in Doha airport where I felt I was on set at Mos Eisley Cantina, or maybe by this stage I had just turned into a space cadet.
It is not just the past day or so of travel that has got me sitting on this bobbing plane – the seat belt sign blinking above me – my trip to Nairobi has been actually two years in the making. First booked as a safari and mountain climb in 2013 with Dad, and then cancelled a month before I was due to fly out. Cancelled, because I was in China at the time, and bunged my hip up training Kung-Fu and had to be sent home. Booked again in 2015 and then postponed in April, and then in June, and then again in September – because I had no money. But here I am. Wearing Dad’s thermal-Gortex-expedition pants (Because he did actually go in 2013 and summited !).
Come to think of it, this started way before then. My dream of mountains came when I was sitting on my floor typing my Masters paper in 2010. There is an idea in Art that I was researching. This idea, that you could be enveloped by the arms of nature, taken away from yourself and your thoughts, to be invited into a moment, a moment of nothing but the feeling of time and it’s passing. I am a painter and have had that moment whilst painting. It is a dance you do with creativity, lead by intuition, that only happens when you work in your studio for long enough. It is called various things, ‘Flow State’ by psychologists, ‘The Zone’ by athletes, but this moment is represented historically in painting as the lone guy, dwarfed by the magnificence of his surroundings, back to the viewer, contemplating the universe. The idea inveigled me and I wanted to know more. So I decided, as I do, that I was going to become a mountain climber. I was going to see or feel (?) what has been painted for so long.
So I need to mention this feeling – which is actually called ‘The Sublime’ in art – is tinged with a forcible sense of ones own mortality. And I am not sure if it is my craving to pursue this moment, my research on smartraveller, or normal nerves, but I have relayed instructions in the last two days to a few people of; “..in case I die do; …”. These text-message-wills coming from serious gut pang of disquietude. Maybe because I am travelling alone? Maybe because there is a serious danger in Nairobi at the moment? Maybe I have watched too many Leonardo DeCaprio movies were he is doing a South African accent. I dunno. But I do feel sick. Maybe it is those eight rectangle meals.
So anyway, this is it. My first mountain. Kilimanjaro. It has taken me years to get to this point in time. Images pouring on my Instagram feed of people doing one arm handstand presses on a beach in New Zealand seem so fun and easy and light and I am forever in FOMO mode. But this shit takes time. It takes patience, and I am glad that I have plenty of both. So me, and my hot butt (literally these thermals were not built for Singapore airports) are ready.
And lucky, because we have just begun to descend.