Rob’s Quest for Meaning and Getting Himself in Trouble
For some time now I’ve had this nagging feeling that I just don’t do enough. What difference have I ever made? When have I ever really put myself out? What have I ever done that has not just been about pleasing myself? What have I ever really achieved? When have I ever really tested myself and been pushed to my limits and beyond? Call it a mid-life crisis, call it soul searching, call it what you will.
These feelings and voices have steadily grown from a whisper to a loud voice that has become impossible to ignore, impossible to drown out with another beer and demands to be acted upon.
A while ago a guy who wanted motorcycle insurance contacted us. He’d been rising round the world on his bike for the last 5 years raising money for the “VSO” (Volunteer Services Abroad).
This sparked my interest and I did a bit of research on the net about the organisation.
VSO is the largest independent charity in the world, working through volunteers. They work in over 30 countries in the poorest region of the world and instead of sending money, food or clothes, we send people from a range of professions who want to make a difference, building schools, making wells and a whole range of projects to help those far less fortunate than us. VSO volunteers work in six specific areas: HIV and AIDS, disability, participation and governance, secure livelihoods, education, health and well-being and they need to raise money to train these volunteers and get them out there.
I noticed on their site that they do “adventures” where people can raise money through sponsorship for the charity, get to do something that little bit different and challenge themselves in the process. “Hmmm, I thought, sounds interesting”. I read on. I saw that they were doing a trek to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest freestanding mountain in the world at nearly 20,000 ft, in January 2007. “Cool” I thought, without really thinking about what might be involved, “Sounds like an experience I wouldn’t forget, I’ll sign up for that”.
The catch was that you had to raise a minimum of £3000 to fund the trip and provide a sizeable donation to the charity. That’s all well and good but I didn’t like the idea of asking people to sponsor me when part of their sponsorship would be going towards me having a possibly life changing (ending) experience. Why should anyone give me money to have a (hopefully) good time? So I had a chat with my conscience and decided to completely finance the whole trip so that 100% of any sponsorship I collect will go to the charity.
So, sign up I did. A few days ago I received confirmation that I’d been accepted and was the 29th person out of a group of 30. Just like me to leave things to the last minute! The pack arrived with lots of useful information and it was only then, after reading the literature cover to cover, that the scale of what I had decided to do without giving it serious thought, hit home. Gulp! This was going to be very, very far from being easy and it became clear that I would need to get into training straight away.
The hike will involve about 40 hours walking, the longest trek being on the final day, taking about 14 hours solid climbing, much of it through the middle of the night, up steep, difficult terrain, with about 50% of the oxygen that occurs at sea level and a really serious risk of altitude sickness! Holy sh*t!
As I write this I’m about to go and buy some hiking gear, plan a training programme and I’ve just read one guys write up of his personal experience of the ascent. Reading it left my palms sweating, feeling sick and wondering what the hell was I thinking about! This is going to something that I have to take extremely seriously for a change.
“Within 10 minutes James was on his way down unable to cope with the path by torchlight. Down on the ground several kilometres below us this would be a laughable excuse, but up here everything was different. I myself was constantly out of breath, each time we stopped I leant heavily on my stick and just tried to take in as much air to my lungs as possible. There was no view to be see, just black and a hundred billon stars above me – not that I noticed them. I was just concentrating on my feet, urging them, willing them to make the next tiny step forward. After about an hour of climbing my head torch suddenly went dim, then out. I carried on by the lights of the people before and behind me. By five in the morning we reached the Hans Meyer we stopped for a break and sweet tea was provided.”
“The true summit of Uhuru peak was another 210m up and 2 hours walk away. There was no way I was going to make it and all I wanted now was to get off this mountain – now. This was probably a wise move. I was later told that each year on average 20 people die on the mountain. They wouldn’t say how many people make it to hospital before becoming a statistic. I was quickly seen by Margery and she instantly diagnosed High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema. Which was explained to me as water on the lungs. If I had stayed up on the mountain it was likely that I would have drowned at over 5 kilometres up – a different way to go!”
So, there you go and here comes the big ask…..I want and more importantly, need your help! I want to try and raise a total of £5,000 in quite a short space of time. Having got as much sponsorship as I can will help give me the drive to push on where otherwise I might give in. In the dark, in freezing temperatures, both physically and mentally exhausted, knowing that I’ve got so many people helping me and putting their hands in their pockets will enable me to find reserves of strength and will power that I didn’t know I had.
If you feel able and willing, please click on this link and you can make a donation direct to the VSO or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to make a donation and I’ll get in touch. Any sponsorship or donation, no matter how small will be very gratefully received indeed. Equally, no worries if not and thanks for taking the time for reading this far, if you’re still with me that is. Have a good day.
Business Manager Bikesure Insurance Services