My Summit Kilimanjaro & Safari Adventure

By: Linda Hyles

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February 19, 2019 | 50th Anniversary Stories

As a child I grew up watching Johnny Weissmuller play Tarzan on my black and white television, and like lots of other children, I dreamed of going to Africa one day. I got that opportunity in June of 2002 when I went to Durban South Africa with the Jimmy Carter Work Project. Needless to say, Durban was not how I envisioned Africa. Fortunately, after the build, I had planned a week side trip to a game reserve in the true South African bush. It was there I found the Africa I fell in love with as a child. I longed to go back.

In 2006 I was planning a celebration for my 50th birthday which included the challenge of a lifetime that would require me to return to Africa. I wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro! Knowing very well this would probably be my last trip to Africa, I wanted more. When my children were little we bought a coffee table book called Maasai. We would sit together and read about this amazing tribe and I would say to them, “One day I would like to meet the Maasai.” How could I make that happen? Can I do another safari?

Since this would obviously be a long trip, it was important to my husband that I find a group that stayed with me through each transition so I was never traveling alone. That was when I found MT Sobek. They customized a trip that would fulfill all three of my goals.

Shortly before my scheduled departure, I suffered a pulmonary embolism which changed my plans. After six months on Coumadin, and receiving a clean bill of health from my doctor, I was even more determined to go. I did, however, add a fourth goal. I knew that God would be at the top of that mountain and I wanted to thank him for 50 years of my life and an opportunity for more to come.

In October of 2007 I flew to Tanzania where I met my guide, Godson Sekeyan (Seke), and six fellow travelers. After the first day of hiking straight up and an extremely cold night, I asked myself, “What the hell am I doing here?” You see, I had walked hundreds of miles for months in preparation. In my mind, this should be easy. The further up I went, the slower I got. While resting one day a porter told me, “You should walk so slow that your heart doesn’t know you are walking.”

Other trials included climbing all the way to Lava Tower (15,190 ft) only to go back down to Barranco Camp (13,200 ft) so our bodies could acclimate to the altitude. I discovered that going down was almost as hard on the body as going up. Then there was Barranco Wall, which required climbing 800 feet straight up on a rock wall. It was mostly single file with lots of tight spots, but no technical skills were needed. Every time you thought you reached the top, it was just another “false summit.”

After 7 days of hiking up, 6 nights of extreme bitter cold and lots of advice and encouragement from Seke and the porters, we managed to make it to the “Roof of Africa.” As we reached the peak, the porters gave us a special blessing when they sang How Great Thou Art in Swahili as we approached the marker. I do not understand Swahili, but I would recognize that tune anywhere!

We went on to meet the Massai, and took a week-long photographic safari across the Serengeti. A true trip of a lifetime that I will never forget!

I was sold! Since that trip over eleven years ago, I have had many other adventures with MT Sobek. They have taken me to Spain to hike the Camino de Santiago, to Turkey to climb Mt. Ararat and to Northern England to hike Coast to Coast (over 200 miles). I have always had great leaders, met amazing new friends and felt completely safe. I have absolutely trusted MT Sobek with the biggest undertakings of my life, and they have never disappointed me.

Thank you MT Sobek…you truly know how to make dreams come true! What’s next as I approach my 63rd birthday? Patagonia, Provence, Ireland…I just can’t decide!

Linda Hyles, MT Sobek Guest

MT Sobek Trip: Summit Kilimanjaro & Safari, 2007