The Voyage: Roz Savage
03 Feb 2007, Africa

Yesterday morning shortly after 6am local time, I stood on the highest point in Africa and watched the sun rise. It was magical.

It had taken us 6 days of trekking to reach the high camp. Mileage-wise, we could have got there sooner, but we had to allow time for our bodies to adapt to the altitude. The peak of Kilimanjaro is at 5895m (or 19,340ft), where the oxygen content of the air is only half what it is at sea level. Even though the ascent is non-technical, i.e. you don't need crampons, ice axes etc - it's just a (very) stiff hike - the altitude alone makes it a challenge. I found that even though my resting heart rate was around its usual level of 44 beats per minute, as soon as I did anything remotely strenuous it would sky-rocket to 140+. Doing that for any more than 6 hours a day would have been exhausting, leaving me severely depleted even before attempting the summit. So we took it easy.

The first few days of our trek had started out sunny, with the rain starting early afternoon. But after that the rain had come at any and every time of day, making our campsites into squelching quagmires. We didn't have enough sunshine to dry out our clothes from one day to the next, so we had to just dress in whatever was least wet (or least smelly). And this was supposed to be the dry season.

Summit Day started at 11pm on 1st Feb. We got up, packed up, and were out of camp by midnight. The moon was just one sliver shy of a full moon, so we hardly needed our headtorches in the bright moonlight. The reason we started so early (or was it late?!) was in the hope that we would have better weather earlier on in the day. But given the excessive precipitation on the way up, I secretly thought it unlikely that we would have any kind of a view from the summit.

My hopes of favourable weather rose as we toiled up across the famous snows. The clouds parted enough to allow the moon and a number of stars to peek through. One of mental snapshots of the day was the moon shining brightly up ahead of us, shining down into the crater of this dormant volcano, highlighting the contours of the rock and snow below us.

6 hours after we had left our high camp, we arrived at the summit at 6am on 2nd Feb. The sunrise was already brightening the eastern sky. We took the obligatory summit photos, and then, just as we were making ready to start our descent, a sliver of pure red appeared. It grew into one of the most spectacular sunrises I have ever seen. It lasted only 10 minutes before another belt of clouds closed in, but those 10 minutes made the 6 days of muddy slogging worthwhile. It was a moment I will never forget - my moment on the roof of Africa.

| | More
Atlantic Rowing Race War Stories
26 Jan 2007

Check out these tales from the high seas - the stories behind the capsizes in last year's Atlantic Rowing Race. Shark attacks, storms, and dramatic rescues... yup, ocean rowers - they must be crazy.

| | More
Climbing Kili
26 Jan 2007, Arusha, Tanzania

It was strange inputting the latitude and longitude to X-Journal for my current position - it has been a long time since I was in either the southern or the eastern hemisphere. Yesterday we arrived in Arusha, our jumping-off point for hiking up Kilimanjaro, at 3.3'S, 36.6'E.

We have spent today exploring the town of Arusha and acclimatising, and tomorrow we set off. It will take us 5 or 6 days to get to the summit. On the last day we will set off at midnight to reach the summit (hopefully) around dawn - after that the clouds roll in and obscure the views.

I don't know Africa at all well, but in some ways Arusha seems familiar. It reminds me of some towns in Peru - where life is lived at the side of the road rather than indoors, there are people everywhere, everything is a little bit ramshackle but more or less works, and people have time to smile and say hello. And try to sell you stuff.

From tomorrow we will be out in the wilds, so I won't have internet access unless Scott (our leader) has the software to allow me to use his satellite phone to do updates, as I did from the Atlantic. But don't worry if you don't hear from me - I'm in safe hands with Scott, and hopefully I will be writing again in about a week to describe a successful ascent. God willing!

| | More
North Pacific Garbage Patch
25 Jan 2007

A friend recently wrote to warn me not to end up in the North Pacific Garbage Patch when I set out to row to Hawaii. I sincerely hope I don't - if the garbage can't make it out of the gyre, I may not be able to either.

The gyre is ten million square miles in size - about the size of Africa - and the garbage collects in the middle. Strange objects that have found their way in there include rubber ducks, Nike trainers and hockey equipment, as well as huge quantities of plastic. Disturbingly, in samples taken from the gyre in 2001, the mass of plastic exceeded that of zooplankton (the dominant animalian life in the area) by six times. Jellyfish mistake the plastic fragments for zooplankton and eat them, and thus the plastic enters the ocean food chain.

It would almost be funny to imagine this surreal island of ducks, running shoes and hockeysticks, if only it wasn't such an environmental tragedy.

For more information, watch the video made by the same Cryptic Moth video team that interviewed me last summer: Click here.

| | More



Powered by XJournal