Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Real Adventurer

We've been planning our imminent assault on Kilimanjaro for nearly a year now. Thinking about training (and sometimes even actually doing some training), logistics, fundraising, innoculations, multiple layers to wear on summit night. Whether to take Diamox to ward off the dreaded AMS, or not. How many clean pairs of Y-fronts to take. You get the drift.
I wouldn't say it's taken over my life, but it's certainly been hovering somewhere around Cranium Central for quite a while now.
Compare this level of mental and physical preparation with our friend Sam Atcherley-Key, who we found out just the other day had climbed Kili back in 1960, when in Africa as a flyer:
In February 1960 I was working in Nairobi. Three of us were told it took 5 days to climb Kilimanjaro so we took Friday off and decided to do it in 3. Living at 2,000m for a year helped, I guess. We went Kibo, Peter's (huts, I think) and up the scree. Much trouble with hypoxia. The scree was a brute, 5 paces up, 2 back and rest. Started at 2 am to get to the top for the sunrise. Definitely worth it.
On the way down the porters picked us "everlasting flowers". Mine have just got back up on the wall in their little frame (Sam - at 72 - and Annie have just relocated to France from Yorkshire, taking on a huge property challenge). The yellows are quite striking 46 years on.
I wore a pair of my Uncle's old shoes, the sole came off on the way back in the trees just above Arusha...or was it Moshi?
There's a foothill called Monduli. A few months later I found a crashed aircraft on the very top and some folk around it, still alive. Landed the Sea Prince (I'd been down to Mombasa for the weekly fish run) and joined a police team to go up and collect them. Got charged by a buffalo which ripped the guts out of a hapless local policeman. Helped carry one casualty down who had an eye hanging out. I had a close-up view of it for rather a long time!
Sounds like something from a Graham Greene novel, or a Humphrey Bogart film, doesn't it? Completely spontaneous stroll up Kili one spare weekend in his Uncle's shoes. Amazing.
I hope you don't mind me sharing your letter with the online world, Sam, but apart from admiring your adventurous spirit and joie-de-vivre, it strikes me that this is a microcosm of how different life is now compared with back then. People plan things much more these days, eliminate risk, take out insurance, train and see physiotherapists, buy Chris Brasher's boots rather than borrow Uncle's.
Or is just me? Perhaps I'm a cossetted contemporary Southern softie, pampered by the luxuries of modern life and, on the cusp of 50, unable to embrace the spirit of Real Adventure.
If I have a fraction of your Action Man effervescence and spirit in 20 years time, Sam, I'll be very happy. And thanks for a glimpse into a bygone world without rules and rigid structure at every turn.
Now where's that insurance policy....


Post a Comment

<< Home