Archive | February, 2014

Reaching my goal: Mt Kilimanjaro 2014.

12 Feb






In 2012 I was appointed by UN Women as SA ambassador to climb Mt Kilimanjaro as part of the Africa Unite campaign. The Africa Unite Campaign, was launched by Ban Ki-moon, to stop violence against women and children on the African continent. I was elated and nervous and trained hard and set off with the idea that I would reach the summit without any hassle and be able to fly the SA flag high. To my dismay, illness got the better of me, on the day of the hike I had a stomach bug and spend the first two days of climbing vomiting and being ill, I made it half way up to Gilllmans point and was brought down. I was totally devastated and angry that I had not achieved my goal, little did I know that two years later I would be grateful for that day.

After returning to SA I made a pact with myself that I would attempt to climb again and make the summit. Mid 2013, I contacted Tim Challen, who had organized the UN climb to see when he had schedule the next climb as the Africa Unite campaign in SA collapsed. When he informed me that he had a climb planned for 2014, through the Kilimanjaro Initiative: It would mark the 9th annual Mount Kilimanjaro climb that would bring together 25 Urban youth and business executives to highlight the need for youth education and leadership.


I sit on the board of an organisation called The Tomorrow trust and this would be a great opportunity to raise awareness for the South African NGO.

I visualized the climb and put it into my future plans that In February 2014, I would climb and summit. To my dismay I has an unfortunate incident in Botswana where I was punched in the face and had emergency nose surgery. In December, I took the decision to allow myself to process and heal effectively. I closed my business, and rested, prayed and processed the pain both physically and emotionally. Literally, taking it one day at a time. In January my doctor gave me the good news that the nose had healed effectively and that I probably would not need plastic surgery, I then turned my attention to Kili and focused my attention on planning, training and believing that 2014 climb would be successful.

Before I knew it, I booked my ticket, bags packed and Amy Shirley, our psychologist for The Tomorrow Trust, set off on the journey of a life time.


We arrived At Marangu, Kilimanjaro on the morning of the 1st February 2014. We were met with the climbers from USA and Canada. Later on the youth arrived after a 10-day excursion of self discovery and team building. Little did I know that it was these ten individuals who would provide us with a huge amount of  inspiration and support. At first we called them youth, but looking back I would call them Game changers, as I found their strength, tenacity and power incredibly overwhelming. Its great to know that no matter how the world turns out, we can definitely can be sure that these ten young adults will be changing the world in a positive manner.

They are:

Kevin Owino Adundo – 23 years old, from Korogocho in Nairobi, Kenya; involved in an alumni program set up by Fight For Peace, a Brazilian and UK-based NGO that uses boxing as a way to engage and mentor young women and men.

Cynthia Faith Aroko – 19 years old, from Orecha, western Kenya; working as an intern at the Sauti Kuu Foundation (SKF) founded by Auma Obama to enable young people and their families to set up income-generating activities so as to guarantee their economic security.

Ricky Chauncey-Edmonds – 23 years old, from Queens in New York, USA; activities specialist at the LIC YMCA teaching high school students about fitness.

Yahiela Eliakim – 21 years old, from Manhattan in New York, USA; volunteer at the Andrew Glover Foundation that helps kids in the US criminal justice system.

John Senteu Letite – 23 years old, from Enkutoto, Kenya; an unemployed youth living in the Maasai plains who asked to join this year’s climb when he saw the KI group training near his home in 2013.

Furaha Modesti Lymo – 25 years old, from Marangu, Tanzania; involved with the Sembeti Youth, a self-help youth group that provides tuition to primary school students.

Makgotle Johannes Malebana – 23 years old, from Johannesburg, South Africa; representing Tomorrow Trust that pioneered an education-focused strategy to help orphans and vulnerable children transform their lives.

Carmen Miranda – 18 years old; from Harlem in New York, USA; worked with Creative Arts Workshops for Kids (CAW) last summer and is now focused on applying to school. CAW improves the lives of underserved youth through the use of visual, performing, and technology arts.

Vincent Odhiambo Oduor – 23 years old, from Sinkul village in the Nyanza Province, Kenya; is a graduate of Undugu Society of Kenya (USK) non formal school in Kibera, Kenya. USK was founded to improve the lives of children living in the streets of Nairobi.

Tanishka Thomas – 23 years old, from Brooklyn in New York, USA; involved in Red Hook Initiative’s Young Adult Program that empowers youth to overcome systematic social inequities.

The first few days before the climb included meeting the rest of the climbers, crew and team.

They were Phil and Bruce, who are brothers from Canada. Brion, our leader, Dr Joe and Paul, Cindy, Brian and Mike from New York, Juddah from LA and Pia and Dennis from Denmark.

Our guide Mawe, is a force to be reckoned with, he automatically got the group to do a series of team building exercises, the importance of group dynamics are an integral part to climbing Kilimanjaro, apart for the world renowned: POLE POLE, translated from Swahili, meaning SLOWLY SLOWLY. We were introduced to a group applaud of clapping and shouting ‘Give em one’ and the group would then repeat and another one.


Monday morning arrived, our bags were checked, we packed up were introduced to our team of porters, cooks, waiters and guides. I salute all of these mazing individuals, who carried our bags to each base camp, prepared our food and ensured our safety and well being. Our head guide Eliyah and his team did a sterling job and I salute them.


We headed to the gate of the mountain, where registration took place and we headed to first base camp, being Mandara.  I thoroughly enjoyed this day and the next one as compared to my 2012 climb it was these two days that I spend walking with a stomach bug, vomiting and not feeling great. We all set out in a slow pace set by Mawe and his team, taking in the beauty of the environment and the luscious green rain forrest.  

We enjoyed our packed lunch and warm tea which we soon discovered was a main component of all our meals. By now we had broken into groups and discovering each other, what we do, where we come from. Although we represented USA, Canada, Denmark, Kenya and South Africa, we all had similar goals in mind, to successfully climb and summit but more importantly to be part of the change in the world.


We arrived at Mandara camp in good time, our feet really sore, the moral high and ready for the next stage. We were booked into out huts, unpacked what we needed for the night and then made our way to dinner.

Day 2:

We headed to Horombo, through the rain forrest then through mountain terrain where we were introduced to the beautiful Tanzanian landscape and vegetation.

Today was longer than day 1 and a little challenging for me as I started to feel the altitude and made the near fatal mistake of wearing a cotton shirt. Just before we sat down for lunch I had difficulty in breathing and walking, only to discover I was wearing too many clothes and that cotton caused me to overheat. With support from Ricky, Tanishka and JM I unraveled, and felt normal again. The rest of the climb went well. We engaged in interesting conversation, laughs and future ideals.

On arrival at Horombo, we unpacked, went to dinner and then we were briefed for the following day.



We headed to Kibu hut. The day started over rocky, across the saddle, which was dessert terrain then upwards towards Kibu. The effects of the high altitude began to take its toll and I felt that my pace had slowed down and breathing had become a lot more difficult.

The last stretch of climb just as we reached the camp was a real test for me.

I finally reached the hut, where we unpacked, had tea then a full plate of spaghetti and meat sauce. At this point I had severe heartburn which had reached an all time high. As much as I took antacid tablets, the burning sensation could only be described as a hot brick being lodged in my chest. Not only did it burn and create discomfort but also caused me to breathe slower and deeper. Our rest time was very limited for me as the hot sensation in my chest created all sorts of acid reflux sensations as I lay down. Before I knew it, it was 23h00 and we were woken up and had to round up outside for our summit climb. The air was chilled and calm and we headed to the foot of the mountain. Mawe, Eliyah and their team lead us up and we began walking at a slow pace. After about twenty minutes, I realised that the pace was too fast for me, the heartburn started to create a hot sensation. Brion, our leader, stayed with me, trying to console me, give me moral support but something was wrong, I realised that perhaps I was over dressed.

I stopped a little distance behind the group and felt really nauseous, then out of nowhere one of the guides, named Benvenuto said to me that I should be sick. He took my back-pack and I was sick. This was like a de ja vu for me, as my last climb in 2013, started this way out too. After vomiting for approximately 20 minutes, realizing that my dinner and possibly lunch were up, I needed to give myself some energy, I took out a power bar, took some water, took off some layers and said a prayer. After that Benvenuto, turned to me and said, what do you want to do?

My reply: I want to go to Uhuru. He smiled and said I should follow his lead and pace. Brion cam back to check on me and he was assured that we would meet at Gillmans, that was the last that I saw of the group. We started off on a really slow pace, breathing slowly and counting each step as we went. Afer every 100 steps, I would take a 1 minute break, sip of water and of need be a snack.


As we reached the half way mark, the point where I was forced to turn back on my last climb, I sat down in a small enclosure called the cave. I called on Hashem ( My creator) and asked him what we should do, I sat down, had a power bar, sip of water and then got up and we continued up the windy mountain. The next few hours consisted of us walking along a narrow path, winding to the top of the mountain. By now I could hardly see the rest of the pack and our darling Mawe’s voice and disappeared into the night. A few people had walked down past us and a two or three groups had passed me climbing up. I looked behind and it was darkness, I looked ahead and it was darkness, It was me, Be Venuto and my creator. What I admire and loved about him was then he knew that when I needed to take a break every few times would be a little discussion with Hashem, which he would then graciously allow me the space. One of the most phenomenal moments was as we were winding up the slope, he turned to me and said, you are a strong women but now we watch the sun rise. I turned around, put on my sunglasses and watched one of the most breath taking sunrises of my life.

 I realised at that point that I had been climbing for over six hours, that I has created a rhythm and my determination was in full swing. We continued up the mountain and then I saw a glimpse of a green board and I knew that Gillmans was close. We continued for a few hours and then suddenly I heard the familiar voice: Lets go, I looked up and saw Mawe leading Brian, Pia and Dennis down the mountain. The look of happiness and surprise on their face was astounding. They had been worried about me and were generally happy to see me make that point. We passed and a few minutes later I reached the top and took a turn and then I saw it, the Gillmans point sign. I had made it, Ben Venuto turned to me and gave me the biggest hug and looked at me and said again wow you are a strong woman. We then took our picture, I had a cry and took a large sessions of short breathes. Benvebuto then asked if he could convince me to go back, I asked him if I had to or if it was a suggestion. I sat down said a prayer and asked for guidance, I then stood up took a snack and decided that I has reached that far, but Uhuru was my goal. We then decided that that is what we would do. The next two hour walk was not as strenuous as the climb as I had a feeling of jubilation and excitement. We slipped around the mountain and reached the second last point, Stella, then in approximately 45 minutes I could see the final mark of the mountain. As I was staggering along I saw Dr Joe, and his huge smile and deep New York accent warmed my heart: Rosie is that you, you are a rock star. We hugged and I moved on, the next person I saw was Tanishka and we had a beautiful moment, where we cried and hugged and she had to be taken down the mountain. Then I saw two huge grins and I knew that one was from Kevin and the other was from Johannes from Tomorrow Trust We hugged and had an emotional cry.It was like a long lost family reuniting again.


I then saw the rest of the group and the feeling of surprise and pride that came from them was astounding. It was like a domino echo, Rosie has made it, the feeling of camaraderie and love was totally overwhelming and emotional. Amy did the unthinkable and even turned back with me to walk together to the Uhuru sign. I will never forget that, a true sister in deed. I had achieved my goal against all odds and it felt great.

Before I knew it Benvenuto too off my beanie from m head, I whipped out my Tomorrow Trust T-shirt and South African flag and stood proud in front of the sign. We took a few pictures and cried, tried to process the feeling then we made our way down the mountain. That day was one of the proudest days of my life. It took approximately 10 hours to get to that point and the realization that anything is possible, but as long as you do it at your own pace. Anything is possible with preparation, determination, belief and endurance. Like my healing took time, this climb took time and that level of consciousness is what I will take me further in the future challenges that life will throw me.


Thank you to the Kenya and USA teams who work hard on the Kilimanjaro Initiative. Thank you to our hard working team at The Tomorrow Trust. Both organisations work to change the lives of individuals from all walks of life.


As Mahatma Ghandi once wrote: Be the change you want to see in the world.

I urge you to be part of that change and support us.

For more information on:


Kilimanjaro Initiative:

P.O. Box 104160-00101
Nairobi, Kenya

Telephone:+254 072 237 8542



The Tomorrow Trust:

Tel: +27 (11) 447 7707
Fax: +27 (11) 447 8130

132 Jan Smuts Avenue, 2nd Floor, Rosebank

PO Box 1812, Saxonwold, 2132
JHB, South Africa