Monday, 11 July 2011

Flights booked ready for Africa trip - a bigger deal than you might imagine

I have just booked a one way flight from Zürich to Kigali, Rwanda on the 27th August and then another one way flight from Nairobi, Kenya to Zürich on the 17th September.  This gives enough time for me to go gorilla trekking and to get to know Kigali, then to go to Lake Victoria followed by the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania for a few days of safari, then to climb Kilimanjaro before heading back.

Now I just need to select the company that I will use for the Kilimanjaro climb.  Not all of them offer the Umbwe route, which is the one I want to take.  This route is very steep and does not give as much opportunity to acclimatise, because you reach high altitudes quite quickly.  For this reason it also has lower chances of success.  At the same time however it is much more remote, and for me this is a huge bonus.  The Umbwe route can be done in 5 days but most companies advise to take 6 days, allowing an extra day of acclimatisation.  I will allow a full 6 days for the route.  Fitness wise I have no worries, but I will need to try and acclimatise a bit before leaving Zürich.  It should be easy enough to get in some 3,000 metres above sea level treks in the Swiss Alps during August.  At 5,895 metres above sea level, Kilimanjaro is still going to take my breath away though (quite literally).

For those who know me well, they will know that I am rather afraid of flying.  For a few years this stopped me going anywhere adventurous, but now thanks to the "gentle" persuasion techniques of Anny I am starting to try and face my fears again.  She first became aware of the scale of my fears when she suggested we take a holiday to South Africa together last November.  I was even trying to find ways to get there without flying - taking cruise ships for instance.  In the end I realised it was completely impractical and took the dive.  In the end we had a fantastic time, and I also stopped over in Kenya for a weeks safari before meeting Anny in Johannesburg, something I have wanted to do for a long time.

It wasn't always like this - I used to fly almost every weekend at one point.  When I was working for the UN I went all over the place, and I would also fly from Geneva to the UK at least a couple of times per month.  Within a period of several years I went to all kinds of interesting places like Venezuela, Moldova, Iran, South Korea, Syria, Jordan and so on.  What started it all off I think was one rainy day when a program called Air Crash Investigation came on, and examined crash after crash in detail.  Then I watched it the next day, and the next day, and the day after that and so on.  Afterwards, every time I flew I would start imaging all the things that could go wrong, and the longer I went without flying the more of a big deal my mind made out of it.  In the end there was a period of almost 2 years where I didn't take a plane.

As you can see it is now getting a little better.  I will be flying to East Africa and then I will be flying to South America, and then next year I will be flying to Morocco.  I do try to minimise the flying but I don't think this is any problem at all - it just means you plan your holidays differently.  For instance since I am in East Africa already, I am visiting all the places there that I have wanted to visit for some time, instead of making one trip now and then another trip later.  When you are an IT contractor like myself you usually have a lot of flexibility work wise.

I am also facing my other fear next March/ April in the Marathon des Sables - spiders.  Those Saharan camel spiders just scare the hell out of me and my worst nightmare is to imagine one crawling over me in the night and settling on my face.  It may seem unlikely but when I was in Belize with Raleigh International and we were sleeping in an open tent, one girl woke up with a tarantula on her mosquito net several inches from her face.  Probably not the nicest way you would wish to wake up.  There is no way a camel spider is going to stop me doing the MDS though.

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