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I CELEBRATED my thirty ninth birthday a year before travelling to Africa. At the time several people asked me; “What are you going to do for your fortieth?

Well I like to do things in style and I am quite an idealist, so I jokingly told them that I was going to celebrate it at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Growing up I was the runt of the litter and certainly the last in the class by a long mile in any school physical education activities. If I had have told anyone back then that I would be climbing some of the world’s biggest mountains later in life, they would have thought I was delusional. To be honest I would have agreed with them even though secretly deep down I wished I had the freedom and physique to conquer them.

By my latter teen years I was starting to outgrow my runtiness and was beginning to realise my dream by climbing some of the local mountains in the South Island of New Zealand. They were only small mountains though, not even reaching two thousand metres above sea level.

I finally broke through the two thousand metre barrier in early 2005 when I climbed the 2289 metre high volcano Mount Ngauruhoe in the middle of the North Island. I thought that certainly if I could climb that one, then perhaps I could climb a little higher and reach the summit of Mount Taranaki, the nearby volcano under which I was born. A couple of months later I achieved it, though under the cover of cloud.

I climbed the same mountain with my brother ten years later in early 2005. This time we had clear views from the summit. It was magic staying there at such altitude, though thinking I could never climb anything higher than this mountain. 2518 metres above sea level was my utter limit.

That stood as being the case until I broke through summiting the 4095 metre high Mount Kinabalu in May 2011. Now I was just two months away from doing the Inca Trail which reaches a maximum of 4215 metres high. This trip will keep me above 3000 metres for two whole weeks, so if I could do that, then I should be able to handle Kilimanjaro. A couple of people had told me that the trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is actually easier than Kinabalu or the Inca Trail.

A few months later, I had successfully completed the Inca Trail and coped very well with the Peruvian altitude with no problems at all, and without any medication. I therefore booked three weeks travel in Africa, with the primary goal to scale the 5895 metre high Mount Kilimanjaro for my fortieth birthday – over fifteen hundred metres higher than I have ever been.

This is my story.

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