March 2010 I’ve had some excellent news: One of my best friends, whom I don’t see all that often because he lives in The City, saw my first blog, funnily enough, and asked jokingly if he could come to Kili with me. I said he could and should and he couldn’t quite believe his ears. After some um-ing and ah-ing about whether he could justify to his girlfriend about dipping into his savings he decided this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity he simply couldn’t miss out on, wrath from a woman scorned be damned. We’ve always said we should do an Explore trip together because we both have inquisitive minds, enjoy active pastimes (when I can be bothered to get off my rump) and, like any sane human being, enjoy a jolly good holiday! I was looking forward to this anyway, of course, and I’ve never had a problem travelling without knowing anyone beforehand because you quite often have more of an opportunity and more motivation to make new friends ([waves at Angela and Greg]), but right from the beginning I wondered who would be able to appreciate my efforts if I simply came back and told people about it. Now I will have someone to reminisce with over a beer in the comfort of a cosy pub and I’m rather pleased about that. My friend, Stitch (don’t ask), is as enthusiastic as a dog with a bone and that just adds to the anticipation of the trip and makes preparations much more enjoyable – his enthusiasm truly is contagious. Decent new walking boots are still on my wish-list. I’ve been a little tardy with research, so I’m still undecided on what I’d like to get. There are some great review websites with very detailed descriptions which I find a little overwhelming. I’d usually just pop into my local outdoor activities equipment retailer (am I allowed to say “Millets”? It would have been less of a mouthful…) and grab some that fit me well enough. Some authors of the aforementioned websites would probably turn in their graves, were they dead. The research continues… Talking of research, I have started reading a book about Kili (“A trekking guide to Africa’s highest mountain” – Henry Steadman - find it in our Amazon Bookstore page 6) and it is comprehensive and also a little terrifying. It’s good to be informed, or so I’ve heard, and I do like to know a little about my destination before I get there. It is sensible to know, preferably in advance rather than with hindsight, how to keep clear of offending the locals: Perhaps with a seemingly innocent gesture; eating with the wrong hand; or kissing their wives. It doesn’t matter how crazy that may seem to some of us, I guess it’s just polite to know what not to do. The book has brought to light what I already suspected, but had been in denial about: that climbing Kilimanjaro is tough. It does also say that it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do in your life! Now we’re talking! I was pleased to find out, and meet, the Tour Leader who will be leading the departure I’m on. I only spoke to her briefly, but it was great to meet a veritable Kili veteran. I do, however, wish I hadn’t mentioned that I used to process Tour Leaders’ expenses when I worked in the Finance department, she may well have multiple opportunities to get her own back on my over-zealous red pen… I also discovered that it is the height of silliness to smoke on the mountain – of course it isn’t against any rules – it can simply incapacitate you. The last thing I want is to say that I couldn’t make it to the top because I was craving a cigarette. How ridiculous would that be? How much would I kick myself for spoiling such a colossal event just because of a smoke? Best pack the nicotine gum, just in case…! My birthday has come and gone with all that this usually entails for me: Excessive drinking; partying; and generally over-indulging and under-sleeping. Obviously this is all great stuff for the imminent half marathon I’m running. Perhaps I should have considered entering into one that wasn’t in the same month as a stag party, my birthday and two of my close friends’ birthdays. Still, despite my social whirlwind, the training hasn’t been neglected and I’m aiming for around the two hour mark… Fingers crossed! The Trailwalker challenge I mentioned in the previous blog has been confirmed now too. Explore has a team of four to take on the 100KM in 30 hours. (And a cheeky plug, blogmaster willing, click here if you’d like to sponsor us.) I’m also looking at running the London 10KM the weekend before the Trailwalker – I’ve heard it’s quite a scenic and interesting route. I think I should squeeze a couple more events in too, to keep the old training motivation ticking over… I still haven’t read the dossier for this trip. Perhaps, now that I’ve received all of my official paperwork from Explore, disappointingly handed to me rather than landing on my door mat of a morning (I guess it would be a waste of a stamp to send it to my house though), I’d better swot up somewhat. Maybe I will have read it by the time I write next month’s blog…!