We left camp at 1:15 in the morning with headlamps and hiking poles, beginning our final ascent to the peak of Mount Meru, 4,566m up in the atmosphere. For about six hours we stumbled up jagged rock, bumbled along ridged peaks and shielded our faces from the relentless, howling winds. Braving the extremities of both nature and human with as much exuberance as we could muster, the slightest hues of red, orange and yellow revealed their splendor in the distance. It was nearing 6:30AM and we were close to the summit. Exhausted, both mentally and physically, I peered across the clouds – seemingly stretched across the sky like a sea of pillows – to watch the sunrise over Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. The numbness in my face and the hunger in my stomach vanished, as I stood face-to-face with one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen.
My time in Tanzania has been marked by extremes in the forms of poverty, people, heart and aesthetic beauty. But perhaps none has jarred my thoughts and emotions as much as standing above the clouds, above it all, ostensibly on top of the world, with a clarity and perspective of situations never found before. My initial thought while staring at the scene playing out before me was not so much an awe-struck feeling of my impending accomplishment of summiting, but a reflection of how I’ve come to be standing on top of a mountain, in Africa, with a woman from Scotland, a woman from Australia and two Tanzanians.
It’s this brand of wanderlust that I’m terrified of letting slip through my fingers. Influenced by an era of instantaneous gratification, political impudence, flat-out greed and cynicism as a desired lifestyle choice, I don’t want to be devoured by it all before I get to experience more. Perhaps this appetite of “more” is my own iteration of greed – which means I’ve already succumbed to this generation – but finding yourself in outrageously sane situations is what I’m after. Fueled by an idealist bent, on realistically figuring out how to make the world a better place in all forms and institutions, this type of travel has a grip on my direction that I’m afraid will never relinquish.
It’s funny the thoughts that creep into your head at 4AM while you’re climbing 4,000m above sea level in pitch darkness, with just the guides’ voices and screeching wind to break your train of thought. It’s even funnier how, at the first sight of light, everything just makes sense.