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Climbing Mount Kilamanjaro was a huge goal I set for myself. As I planned my trip, I was getting anxious about the hike - am I going to keep people waiting, I’m probably not fit enough, will I make it to the top? All these thoughts raced through my head, but I could only do my best and had trained very hard. I like set myself goals; they keep me motivated and the sense of achievement is always such a celebration. And I prefer adventure to relaxing on the beach!

I had been wanting to go back to Africa for the wildlife and I felt needed a challenge. Although I will forever associate Africa with my awful experience in 2007, I wasn’t anxious about returning. I had already gone back in 2016 and had a wonderful time in Uganda on a conservation project and have done many fun camping trips since. Life is too unpredictable to let the past stop you. And I love wildlife too much to let anything keep me from my travels.

So in February 2020, I set off for Tanzania to take on Kilimanjaro. The views from start to end were mind-blowing. Unlike some other trails, Kili seemed to remain preserved from busy tourism and litter; its untouched natural beauty was spectacular.

I was in a small group of fellow climbers, which I definitely prefer. Everyone was very nice and from all over the world. Travelling with strangers can be a risk, but it gives me more sense of adventure, which I love. It’s ideal if you want to meet others you share something in common with, learn new things and have a change of perspective. And the fact that the tour guides were natives made it so special. I always prefer doing tours with the natives because I know I’m giving them work and of course they have more stories to tell – a richer experience.

Taking the first step of the mountain was exciting but nerve-racking! It was very hot, but as we made our way up the mountain it got colder and colder. I enjoy walking with a cool breeze and I’d say we were very lucky with the weather.

Each day had its own special moment when we reached the camp and shared a delicious buffet around a bonfire. My issues with food didn’t get in the way as I knew I was entitled to a big meal after all the climbing. The guides were so funny and enlightening. One of my favourite moments was watching them dancing and singing ‘Hakuna Matata’. And not the Lion King version – it’s a genuine Swahili saying for “no troubles”! We all got on so well and had many conversations and card games before going to bed.

Much to my surprise, all my training paid off and I didn’t struggle with the physical challenge. Balance isn’t my greatest skill and I only found the decent a little challenging. The ascent had its ‘pay attention’ moments and scrambling, but my legs managed it fine. I love mountain scrambling – climbing using your hands - it makes the hike even more fun!

Reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro was an unforgettable, tear-jerking moment. Holding the post, knowing I was at the top of Africa, was a dream come true. There is no better feeling than being allowed to cry happy tears. Whenever I’m at the summit of a mountain, I feel so proud and know why I am still here.

I often think that life and I hate each other, but at moments like this, I can say never mind the past and what I’ve been through, I can achieve my dreams - my risk taking, hard work and resilience has got me this far.

Set yourself any goal, because you can honestly achieve anything!

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