Naro Moru gate to Simba camp:
6,552 ft. to 8,645 ft.
Hike duration: 5 hours
Temperature: 10 degrees Celsius
Word that captures the day for:
What a first day!
The climb began in the little wooden village of Naro Moru, on a small path that winds through some dense forest. It's home to a full range of wildlife, including the cool Kilimanjaro black-and-white Colobus monkey. Not that we noticed animals too much. We encountered other climbing groups along the trail; but we aren't interacting too much - our team is too focused on the job at hand.
For me, that couldn't be more accurate: I spent more time walking on my hands than we'd anticipated. In fact, I spent about 80 percent of the time walking and 20 percent in my wheelchair on today's hike. And Paul, our guide, was definitely right: my tendency to take longer strides was actually tiring me quicker. Taking shorter strides was less strenuous and enabled me to move more efficiently.
No one said this was going to be easy. And one thing that's keeping me focused is the reason for the climb. After all, I'm enduring some sustained physical hardship here. But I came here by choice. That fact really drives home the idea that many people in this part of the world are truly suffering, but they have zero choice in the matter.
I'm reminded of my last trip to Africa, where I saw the effects of last year's drought
. A drought that has left more than nine million people in need of emergency assistance in the region, even today.
Some of the young Kenyans impacted are my friends - people I've played with and worked alongside. They helped me find my path in life. Now I'm here on this rugged path, redefining my possible for them.
My goal is to raise $750,000 to bring clean water programming to drought-affected communities and people in East Africa who have come to mean so much to me.
Knowing that we can, in some way, improve their odds for a better life not only drives me, David and Alex on, it elevates us like nothing else could. Sure, I'm stumbling on loose rocks now but they'll just be a memory in a few weeks time. Imagine if we could reduce the devastating effects of drought to just a memory?
The forest began to thin out toward the end of the five-hour hike and the first camp is at the edge of the moorland, with decent views over the Kenyan plains. Tomorrow we'll be experiencing some alpine terrain and a sharp rise in altitude.
We can now see where we are going more clearly. In more ways than one.