What better way to kick-start the launch of our blog, than with a truly monumental feat, achieved by Durban South Toyota’s Vis Padayachy. He has just returned from Tanzania, where he successfully reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, after 6 days of gruelling climbing in temperatures of up to -20C. Vis is no stranger to achieving the seemingly impossible, and is a veteran of 21 Comrades Marathons, and 20 2-Oceans Marathons as well. So we were quite assured, that he had what it took, when he first announced his intention of travelling to Tanzania for the climb. Nonetheless, it was still breathtaking hearing of his adventures when he returned this Monday, and at the same time an inspiration to all of us, on never giving up on your life’s goals, and dreams.
I asked Vis a few questions on his experience and here is his response.
Q: What was the highlight of the entire trip?
Vis: The highlight has to be the actual summit. To get to the highest point. It has to be experienced to understand it. It’s like a picture. You have the glaciers on one side, you have a crater on the other. Then you have a mountain of ice, and the clouds. Then you can see as far as your eye can see. You have a picture that is so clear, it’s unbelievable. At night while climbing, you literally staring into the stars, like you are walking into the stars. And at the crack of dawn, you see the outlines of the sun, and a little bit of light around you, and eventually you see the sun rising.
Q: What was the low-light or biggest challenge of the experience?
Vis: When you sleeping at night in your 2-man tent. It’s freezing, always below 0. And if you had to turn in your sleeping bag, the amount of effort it takes to turn, because the air is so thin up there, your breathing becomes difficult. And if you panic, you start hyperventilating and that’s scary. It’s cold, and dark, and no-one in sight. You cannot panic, you just have to tell yourself, relax, it’s OK – you going to be OK – and you fall asleep like that.
Q: How long did the climb take?
Vis: It took about 6 nights. Every night you just get closer and closer to the summit. We used to hike between to 7-9 hours a day. You keep moving all the time. We didn’t have harnesses as such, and at one point, we had to physically manoeuvre around a sheer cliff. And all this takes effort, and because of the thin air, you need extra time to recover from this. This can make or break you. I had a list of symptoms to look out for of altitude sickness, and I had to keep an eye on this to see if I had any. You need to know whether if you have a headache, it’s a normal headache or altitude sickness. 3 of my friends had to quit as a result of this. One of them, became dizzy and began throwing up, the other couldn’t breathe – every step, he’d be gasping for air.
Q: Would you do it again?
Vis: If you had asked me a few days ago, I would have said never. But slowly my mind is changing. I have to find something else, a new challenge. I am used to always being involved in some activity. When I used to run the comrades, I would train all year, and then you have the qualifying and then the 2-oceans. Now I don’t do that. But I must have something. Something to look forward to.
Q: Any budding adventurers out there, what advice would you give them?
Vis: It’s very easy. There is nothing that is un-achievable. Nothing. If you set your mind to anything, you will get there. If for some reason, you may not reach the summit, but your intention, and the direction – that is important.
Wow – those are wise words that should motivate anybody. I hope you enjoyed his story as much as I enjoyed listening to it!