At last we arrived at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa at 5,895 meters above sea level and the highest lone-standing mountain in the world. ‘We’ is Charlotte Coltman, our energetic and committed volunteer lay partner, Sr. Aurelia and myself.
Kilimanjaro has 3 volcano cones which are Kibo, Mawnzi and Shira. The highest of the 3 cones is Kibo which we chose to climb.
There are 6 official climbing routes to reach the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. These are Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Umbwe and Machame. We used the Rongai Route. We prepared ourselves both physically and spiritually some days before the climb.
The mountain climbing was a project organized and sponsored by
Charlotte Coltman and her father to fund the bore-drilling to provide water for St. Marie Eugenie Girls’ Secondary School. Charlotte or ‘Charlie’ as we fondly call her, with her father, Sr. Aurelia and myself were the four who volunteered to climb. Aside from the four of us, official climbers, were our 3 guides and 7 porters who were carrying the luggage and charged with preparing the food and setting up the tents.
The journey started with the send-off from Moshi Community on 14 December at 7:00 a.m. as we boarded a safari tour coach. It took us 6 hours to arrive at the gate of the Rongai route. we had our lunch and then started our climb which would be broken into 3 stops at 3 stations along the way to the top. These were the places where we would have our meals and take our rest. It took us four days to reach the last station. That day, we did not have any rest but walked overnight from 11:00 p.m. till 8:30 a.m. the following day when we arrived at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. When we arrived there at the top, we found a very huge crater whose end we couldn’t even see. Inside the crater was snow which looked like a mirror. Our guides cautioned us that if anyone fell there, there would be no way he/she could be saved. We weren’t afraid because we knew we were in the providential care of our Creator whom we felt was with us all along the way. At every step, we were reflecting on the wonders of God…there where the way was covered with snow, so that we had to walk on the footprints left by our guides to make sure we remained on the narrow ledge that we had to pass. There were some places covered with unique vegetation called ground sels while the other places were bare and rocky.
As we reached the goal of our destination, our hearts were filled with overflowing joy. We thanked God for enabling us to make it all the way to the end. Listening to the innermost depths of my being, I heard the joyful song of Magnificat just breaking out from within me. I felt how God loves us so much. I remembered Psalm 48 about Zion, the mountain of God…’the holy mountain, beautiful were it rises, joy of the whole world !’ I felt like I knew what an expectant mother feels when she finally holds in her arms the baby she had been awaiting for 9 months. I will never fail to continually thank Almighty God for his wonders, for his great love and fidelity towards his people.
Having returned to the station, we rested and early the next day at 5:00 a.m. we were on our journey down the mountain. It took us only one day to come down. This once-in-a-lifetime experience I will always treasure, filling me with thanksgiving to God for the marvels of his creation.
Now we hear from Charlie :
Soon after the climb, in Charlotte’s monthly newsletter we read :
I am very happy to inform that in the last couple of days we have started to bore for water.
It’s an amazing thing to see. The guys are absolutely drenched and covered in mud and it attracts quite an audience. As my father said, Moses would be proud. It’s quite a challenge though ; the first borehole site hit rock and caved in. The terrain in Chekereni is solid volcanic rock, which doesn’t make things easy.
Water though, and access to it, is precious here and it will mean the girls don’t spend valuable study time
fetching buckets. I would climb the mountain again if I could. Frostbitten toes are an easy sacrifice when
you can so tangibly see the impact of fundraising.
Here is Charlie’s own account of the climb :
The Sisters and I made it to the top ! Them faster than me, I might add. I think for me I took ‘Pole Pole’(Kiswahili for ‘slowly’) to heart & made Gilman’s Point after 8 hours or so & Uhuru, 2 hours later. Sadly Dad succumbed to the effects of altitude on day 4 above 4,000m. Now, recovering from frostbite on toes and sunburn on nose. So am wobbling til New Year ! :-)
I would like to thank again all the donors in the UK who have made it possible. Our mountain
climb to date has been raised over GBP 7,000 to date (excluding Gift Aid). Whilst Dad sadly didn’t make
the peak, his fundraising back in the UK has been fab and is so appreciated. We continue to work towards our total, which remains ambitious and hope we can have the tanks and pipes laid this month. I would also like to thank all those who got us to the top of the mountain (guides, cook, waiter, porters whose job isn’t easy) and SHOCC, the UK charity, for enabling us to fundraise in the UK for Chekereni.
Back in England, Charlie’s school, Leweston, featured her in the school newspaper and gave a donation to the project. Here’s an excerpt :
Leweston Old Girl helps build a School in Tanzania
Old girl, Charlotte Coltman, who left Leweston in the early 90’s is currently working unpaid on an ambitious project to build a girls boarding secondary school in the Kilimanjaro-Moshi region of Tanzania after 9 years working in finance in London. She is managing the project in partnership with the Assumption Sisters who will actually be running the school. Her role is multifaceted and includes everything from fund-raising (locally & abroad), to project management, site inspections, factory visits, volunteer management and financial governance etc. Leweston wish her great success. Charlotte recently climbed Kilimanjaro to raise money for the project alongside some of the Assumption sisters themselves. The money raised has allowed them to start drilling a borehole for the school.
Sr. Lucy Marandu