The Siren Call of Mount Kilimanjaro
I spied the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro, at dusk, through the bluish-grey clouds that gave them shelter from prying eyes like mine. Yet through it all, its coquettish beauty was neither easily hidden nor denied but instead was a covenant of spiritual enlightenment.
So, it seemed to beckon, like so many other fools before me, to scale each of its 19,340 feet, if I dared. Was it a trick? Would she lead me into an interminable trap that would ensnare me before my senses could react? Or did she hold the promise of unmitigated beauty meant only for my visage?
I held my breath and began to exhale slowly as I took one long leap forward clinging to branches, rocks, vines—–anything that would keep me lucid, aware, mobile and functioning—-as I made my way up the peak. Up, up, up I go, resting, breathing, walking, pacing, gasping, focused, tired, but unwilling to give up or give in.
The days turn quickly into darkness as I alternately sleep, eat and start all over again until I reach a volcanic boulder field at 14, 500 feet. I can imagine the boulders being molten hot still as my tired, worn feet walk along them. I stop to drink from my hydration pack to cool my now thickened and parched tongue. Yet, at the same time, I feel victorious knowing that I have less than 5,000 feet to go before setting my eyes on Uhuru Peak.
I trudge along, passing other kindred who heeded her siren call. Daylight is breaking once again and I sigh with anticipation as I get closer to Stella Point at 19,000 feet. I’m confused as I see my former kindred turning back around once they’ve reached that point, having considered themselves conquerors, but I deem to go 340 feet further so as not to cheat myself of what was promised to me.
Three hundred forty feet later, I stand alone in the quietness of my long awaited victory. The air is heavy, yet sweeps across my face in a loving kiss. I look down over the horizon and survey the summit. I imagine this is what heaven is like as I sit down to rest my weary bones and wink at the bluish-grey clouds that, thankfully, had lost the battle.