On the eve of August 8th this year, I finally made a reality my brilliant idea of climbing Mt. Ol Doinyo Lengai as a birthday present to myself. Having summit Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2015 and Mt. Meru in 2016, I stupidly convinced myself that I can easily scale this one with no worries, after all, it is only a one night summit. 🤷🏾♀️🤷🏾♀️🤷🏾♀️
Boy were we up for a surprise. By we here, I would like to take note of my partners in assumption; @ezramusoke and @bingijuma. Now I had skimped out of climbing Mt. Kenya with Ezra last time around so, this was my come back mountain, while on the other hand, Bingi and I, shared the beauty and memories of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I am sure you get the drift here with them all being familiar with mountains. Excited and pumped up we were on climbing Ol Doinyo that on our drive over to Engaresero, we were having discussion on starting a Rift Valley Mountain challenge😅. Let me just say, that topic was never discussed on our drive back to Arusha.
Got to the camp by late afternoon and we went for a walk along the shores of Lake Natron followed by fish massage on one of the lake ponds. My highlight was the fact that I got to step alongside footprints that are believed to be between 5,000 — 19,000 years old (the history/geography fan in me was over the moon). We then headed to our camp to eat and get to bed early to enable us to wake up by 11:00 pm with the intention of heading to base camp to start our summit by midnight (the idea is to catch sunrise where you get to see Mt. Meru and Kili all at once). Starting a climb at night, in a way helps you pace yourself and you honestly dont see the full extent of your stupid brilliant idea.
Besides our team, there were two other tourists climbing that night and for a moment they were my goal post. Seeing their snaking headlights steadily progressing gave me a point of reference and hope (aka ‘kujipa moyo’). It is beautiful seeing the twilight early sunrise, and NO, I was nowhere near the top to witness the two mountains. By the time we reached about 3/4 to the top, the other tourists were coming down, first question I asked them was if they saw the two mountains at the summit. I honestly have to admit that when they said that it was cloudy and they didnt see it, my inner self was doing a dance, I was basically justifying that even if I had made it up in time I would have still missed out on this amazing sight. One of the tourists was actually disappointed that they scaled the mountain at a fast pace just to watch the sunrise and the clouds did not deliver, trust mother nature. *Lesson 1 — Always have a bigger why in whatever you are doing.*
By this point, I am tired but my stubborn self is determined to get to the crater and prove to myself that I made it. Now for any mountain climber out there, you know that each mountain presents itself with its own challenges, the Mountain of God (Ol doinyo Lengai) is made from volcanic eruptions and so lots of crevices, stones and rocks are your company. The sulphur smell is what tells you that you are nearing the crater, at that point all I want is to just see this crater and satisfy my younger self’s desire of seeing an active volcano (cool fact — only active volcano in the world that produces natrocarbonitite lava that turn white on exposure to the surrounding).
Around 9:30 eish am is when I made it to the crater mouth, my normal self would have trekked around, but I honestly could not be bothered, the fact that I made it, was all I needed. Now, this awesome mountain is a work of God as anyone standing looks like they are standing at a 45 degree angle due to the steepness, and so I intelligently decided to enjoy the view while sited down. All sited and chatting away with the team, enjoying our well earned celebration, our guide @thatkilimanjaroguide tells us to keep quiet as he can hear something, we homestly didn’t take note, but next thing we see, is lava spewing out of the cone followed by the cone disintegrating, a once in a lifetime experience that if the intensity was higher, I would have been barbecued up the mountain.
That mountain left us speechless and wowed in seeing nature at her best was just an out of this world experience. Now remember our fellow tourists who already had gone down and we were the slow ones as sumit is usually around 6:00 am, well here comes *Lesson 2 — Always run your race, don’t pace yourself with others as you never know what your journey has in store for you*. It is just pure coincidence or in this case luck that we were up there at the same time that the eruption happened.
Okay, excitement done, reality hits that you have to go back the same way you came up 🥺🥺🥺. Unlike other mountains, Ol doinyo was all sorts of difficult level going down. This is usually the time when I have my burst of energy and run down, remember the crevices(yah not a good idea)well now with daylight you get to see how deep they run and that if you slip, you are gone. Oh! and to add to this, butt crawling was not an option as my climbing gear was all rented and the fine for bringing it back with tears was motivation enough for me not to partake in this much needed activity. Needless to say, my butt did take some beating that day, I honestly cant remember the number of times I slipped on rocks and landed on my butt.
Going down the mountain, I was reflective on my decision to climb the mountain, at that point the fact that I just witnessed a volcanic eruption was far from gone and all that was left was thinking on how I come up with all these ideas of pushing myself to the limit, as if COVID-19 hadn’t done a number in my life already 😅. There are so many pacts and promises that were made between me and God on that climb down, but the one recurring was just for me to get to the base camp in one piece.
You do not understand how we all yearned for a plain, you are literally climbing down at a 45 degree and your knees get the brunt of it. My right knee gave way half way down by 3:00 pm. Every step I then took then was a painful one, but the alternative of having my guide carry me was scary due to seeing the imminent danger, and uum plus my ego of having to prove to myself that I did it singlehanded couldn’t let me ask for a lift down the mountain. *Lesson 3- Having goals with one self is all good but when you need help, do reach out to those around you.*
9 hours later around 7:30 pm is when I made it to base camp where our car was waiting for us. I did however get to enjoy an amazing beautiful sunset up the mountain ;-). Next day, we got to enjoy a beautiful hidden waterfall and swim which did help to loosen my aching muscles. When I started on this mountain journey 5 years back, it was simply to cross off. Mt. Kilimanjaro off my list, but then I fell inlove with mountains and they serve as my point of refuelling and gearing for the next level of my life. I finally got around to writing this post after seeing @ossegrecasinare post the video of Ol doinyo Lengai from a plane and it hit me on what I was able to accomplish. *Lesson 4 — Always try to view your issue/matter from more than one perspective, it is amazing how we shortchange ourselves*.
Thank you to @Chimbuko team for always making my adventures worthwhile. Till the next mountain 🥂