The Road To Kilimanjaro

September 2010

You can track their progress in updates below. The trip will be used to raise funds and awareness for two groups (you can find their info at the bottom of this Blog) that help women in Africa.

Sunday, September 26th: THE ROAD TO KILIMANJARO: The Circle of Life

It was one of my favorite songs and now it is reality.

The circle of life is one of the things we can all count on in good times and in bad.

I was saddened to hear about the death of my friend Pat Doyle. Pat has suffered for many years from an illness but he died just hours after I was at the summit. I was close to heaven and Pat was on his way there. My wonderful friends decided not to tell me until I was down the mountain and now I send love to Pat's wife Trish and their three wonderful children.

Pat was a witty man and very smart. He lost the ability to speak several years ago and used a touchpad to communicate. His last message to us was as he was watching Chuck cover the Blagojevich verdict on ABC7. Pat asked his wife Trish to tell us how impressed he was with Chuck's work. Pat leaves a legacy of kindness that will live forever.

The circle of life.

I felt somewhat selfish to chose my pain and celebrate my hardship. My sister-in-law, Karen, has fought cancer the past two years.

That is true courage and a journey that she did not choose. How many others struggle every day to climb mountains they cannot see? Those are the people we need to celebrate.

The circle of life.

On our way down the mountain yesterday we encountered groups of young children cutting ferns to feed the cattle. They would run after us and beg for chocolate, gum and water bottles. I decided to make one boy happy so I gave him an American dollar bill. That is worth a lot to children who have nothing. He screamed in delight and suddenly all the children were on top of me for more. I had no more to give and it broke my heart. Should I have not given him the money? How do we feed the world?

The circle of life.

Last night we had a big party and somehow ordered in pizzas from a place in town. Everyone was ready for a slice of American pie. We also said goodbye to our Tanzanian guides. They now go home to spend 24 hours with their families and then it is back up the mountain for another week. There are no women to be seen among the dozens of guides and porters on the trail. The local culture frowns on giving the precious jobs to women. They stay home and take care of the children.

The circle of life.

The hotel we are in has very thin walls so you can hear people talking all night long. Many chose to celebrate their summit until 4am out in the courtyard. Just as they stopped drinking and went to bed, you heard the Muslim call to prayer on the loud speakers throughout the area.

The circle of life.

Today we head out to safari for two days. We are staying at a working farm where they use the cow's milk to give you a massage. They also teach the five key principles of African life. I will be posting another blog on our safari and I am still trying to get you pictures of the journey. I have a Mac laptop, a Blackberry and a digital camera with me. What I don't have is a steady signal.

The circle of life.

Saturday, September 25th: The Road to Kilimanjaro: SUMMIT DREAM COME TRUE

I have seen the top of the world and it is good.

Simba and Nala were not there to greet me, but two of my closest friends were by my side. Patty was the strong cheerleader and Lisa was practically dancing her way up to the top. My new friends in our group were there. Our amazing guides were there. A man with a horn was there. God was there.

I cried tears of pure happiness when the sun rose over Africa. Other than the birth of my children and my wedding vows, there has never been such a glorious moment. I learned a lot about myself and a lot about others.

The day began at night. We went to bed at 7 p.m. on Thursday but few actually slept. Our camp was very noisy with tents on top of each other. Our wake-up call came at 11 p.m. and we put on all of our layers in a frosty tent. I wore two layers of long underwear, three pairs of socks with hiking boots, a fleece jacket, a Gortex jacket and pants, a puffy down parka, two hats, two pair of gloves, gaiters for my lower legs and a backpack pull of water and snacks.

We met in the dining tent for tea, snacks and a medical check from our guide, Caleb. Most of us were scared. It felt like the moment before a triathlon times 100. Finally, after several adjustments, we grabbed our poles and it was time to go.

If you were to ask me how I went straight up a mountain for six hours in bitter cold with no oxygen, I would tell you now that I have no idea how I did it. It is believed that the guides have us climb at night because if we saw what we were about to climb, no one in their right mind would even try.

I attempted to make the time pass by setting tiny goals. I would listen to my iPod for the first few hours. I would then pray for an hour. By then, light would be evident in the East and the sunrise was near. When the sun rose, we knew we would be almost there.

That plan worked perfectly. The time actually went quickly, even though the conditions were hard. We went straight up, sometimes climbing rocks and other times working our way through loose sand and pebbles.

Our entire group started together, but then it was just Teri, Lisa, Patty and our treasured Tanzanian guide, James. He set our pace, adjusted our straps, fed us snacks and never let us give up. Many of our guides have climbed Kili dozens of times. The record for one of our guides was 240. They take one group up, come down, and go right back up with another.

The hardest part of the climb was between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. The weather was at its coldest and the mountain was very, very steep. Our breathing was labored, and often times, I would have to take several steps and stop for up to 30 seconds before taking several more. I knew that I had enough energy to finish, but I had to let my breathing control the way. Once the sun started coming up, we could see what we thought was a top. It was.

It is called Stella's Point and sits at 18,700 feet at the edge of a beautiful crater. When you get to Stella, you only have 45 more minutes and 500 feet to go.

I thought I heard a horn and sure enough it was a British man at signaling to his group that Stella was near. My guide said 20 more minutes, and he was right. Each step was agony, and it took all I had to keep moving forward.

Finally, I heard someone calling our names. It was our guide Natcho. He was waiting for us at Stella with hugs and hot tea.

We sat on a rock, and just then, the sun came up over the horizon. It was my African moment, and I cried like a baby. On one side was the vast crater created by the volcano, and on the other side incredible ice glaciers. All around me were people I had just met, but people who really cared.

Natcho said that the rest of the way to Stella would be a cakewalk. It was not. We managed to find a rock and go to the bathroom even though the temperture was near zero. One sip of water and off we went for the finish.

Step, step, breath. Up a hill, through some rock, and then another hill. People who had made it were skipping by us heading back. That helped. Finally, we could see the famous summit sign. That was when we knew we had made it. Patty, Lisa and I hugged and cried and met the rest of our group at the top. We were on top of the world in more ways than one.

I broke from the rest and went by myself to a quiet spot. I dropped to my knees and prayed for all that life had given me. I prayed for Chuck and Caylen, Brittany, Chas, Keegan and Grace. How did I get so lucky to get five kids and an amazing husband?

I prayed for my parents and my brother and my sister. I prayed for my in-laws and my nephews and nieces. I prayed for my friends.

There are dozens of you that sent messages every day and you have no idea what it meant to me.

Then, there was a frenzy of picture taking. When you get to the summit, you only get about 20 minutes to get out of the danger zone. That means there are many people all trying to take a picture in front of what is a very small sign. I pushed my way in with a banner I brought with. We did our group shots and then I wanted single shots of the three of us. A man pushed me aside with his country flag saying that our turn was over.

No way. I told him that I worked hard to get up that mountain, and I was going to get my pictures. He conceded the point. Please note that I did apply my Azalee lipstick before taking the pictures.

I then took a medal of St. Teresa that my sister Colleen gave me to leave behind. I buried it with love and took three Kili pieces of volcanic rock for my nephews. Then, it was time to go because there was a lot of work ahead of us.

The journey down is very tough. You are still lacking oxygen and you face a demanding workout in the scree. Scree is loose rock and sand that can be a foot deep. You almost have to ski through it but the process creates a lot of dust and dirt. You are choking in the dust. You then have to climb down rocks on legs that are shaking.

I felt like I had the flu, which is how I usually feel after an endurance race. The difference is that I had no car to take me home.

We literally crawled into camp around 10:30 a.m., which actually means we made great time. Chelsea Clinton didn't get back until almost noon when she did it several weeks ago with our guide.

We crawled into our dirty, hot tents to try and sleep for a couple of hours. I took several types of medication to ward off illness.

I am so grateful that I never got sick or had altitude sickness or even a headache. Two of our group members had respiratory problems, but both did summit.

We then had to hike another two hours to our last camp. It was a long journey because now we were approaching 36 hours with no sleep.

The saving grace was the fact that they sold beer and Coca Cola at this last camp. All week long it has been water and water.

Most of us barely touched dinner and were in our tents for bed at 7:30. For the first time all week, I slept soundly. Ten hours in fact.

In the morning, I gladly said good-bye to my tent and we had our last breakfast at camp.

The walk to our exit gate took five hours down natural stairs, rock and mud. We saw monkeys, birds and a big change in the climate zone.

We went from rock to dirt to rain forest within one hour. Finally, we saw the exit and the glorious vehicle that would take us back to the hotel.

Before we left this morning, I took my cup of Starbucks instant and went to the fringe of camp to say good-bye to Kili. The sun was starting to come up and I realized that at that moment there were hundreds of new people trying to make those last steps to Stella's point. I wished them well and marvel at the fact that every day people from all over the world come to summit this mountain. Why? It brings out the best in life and shows you how beautiful life can be.

When you are climbing up, it is hard but you are focused on getting to a certain point. When you are coming down, it can be fun, but sometimes it hurts, too. The best moments are actually in the middle when you encounter a switchback. A switchback is a way to cut an angle in the mountain so that for just a few seconds you can walk on level ground. Those moments really are the sweetest of all.

Perhaps that is the lesson I bring home from Kili. The tough moments in life make us stronger, the wild moments in life need to be approached with caution, but the sweet days of calm and peace are the ones really worth living for.

I will do a couple more posts on this blog as we complete our journey to Africa. I ask you to consider visiting the two women's groups we are supporting. The people of Africa are loving and giving, but many have so little. For more information, visit the web sites for Opportunity International and the Janada Batchelor Foundation.

Friday, September 24th: The Road to Kilimanjaro THE FRIDAY SUMMIT

We began the slow, agonizing climb to the top. It was dark and just after midnight. I had no altitude symptoms at all. Near the top I had to take eight steps...stop for 30 seconds...then take 8 more. It took all 53 years of courage an determination. This was supposed to take six to eight hours in bitter cold and wind. It did. Each step took effort. Ahead, all you saw was a trail of head lamps as other climbers led the way.  

The night seemed as though it would never end. The last few feet were actually down a bit to the famous sign seen in the pictures. Our guide called this the victory lap. So, after a year of planning, 7 days of climbing and almost 19,341 feet, it is legitimately "Mission Accomplished." Hardest thing I have ever done including a half- Ironman.  

I cried like a baby at the top and dropped to my knees to thank God for my family, friends and the incredible miracle of nature. Patty and Lisa were stellar and we were assisted by our loyal Tanzan guide James. We are wrecked and covered in dirt and grime. We know have to hike yet another three miles to get to lower altitude for our last camp tonight.

Going down you start to feel better and now you know how bad you really felt going up. The trail is called scree and it is soft sand that you can bounce on as you make your way back to camp. We will nap at Barafu and then head down to Millennium camp for food, rest and oxygen. More later about whether there was truly a Lion King moment at the summit, as the sun ascended over Africa.

Thursday, September 23rd: The Road to Kilimanjaro DAY EIGHT

Karanga is short for peanut but there is nothing small about this day. We can see the glaciers but it has become windy and dusty. We have just reached our final stopover before the top: Barafu. It is like a refugee camp with people everywhere. Our porters just got into a fist fight trying to secure land for our group tents.

We only climbed for three hours and ate lunch. You could really start to feel the lack of oxygen now. At the summit, we will have half the oxygen as at the base of the mountain. We just saw some people from last night's climb to the summit coming back down. Some are being carried. Psych out. Like seeing the wounded before going into battle. What can we do? We just played a trivia game Robin made for us. Now everyone is clamoring for Scrabble.

We were told to rest for the afternoon and try and go to sleep at 6pm. It is cold once the sun goes down, probably about 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

It will be hard to sleep because we know what is coming. Our group has become very close and our team spirit will carry us. We will be awakened at midnight and told to put on almost every layer of clothing that we brought.

That includes a silk layer, wool layer, fleece layer, micro puff coat and pants, Gortex coat and pants, two hats, a face cover and two pairs of gloves. It will be the best of times and the worst of times but the bad will make the good that much sweeter.

It is Carpe Diem time only now it is the longest day of my life and I am seizing a mountain. Hopefully I will have reached my goal as Chicago is getting ready for bed Thursday night.

This is it.

Wednesday, September 22nd: The Road to Kilimanjaro DAY SEVEN

Good news: I watched the sun come up over the Mt. Kilimanjaro summit while sipping Starbucks and thanking God for His glory.

Bad news: ran out of out of Clorox wipes. People laugh at how clean I keep my tent. My mom would be proud.

Today we climbed the famous 650 foot Barranco Wall. It was a tough climb, no small "peanut" feet, scaling a wall and then straight up.

Barranco is the most "technical" climb we will do and I wish my daughter Grace was here to help.

All those days climbing the wall at Lifetime Fitness is good prep for this. You have to put your feet in the right places, find a shelf to grab and try not to look down.

Our guide assured us that even if we fall, we will not tumble off the mountain. The worst that has happened to me is a scraped-up leg from the jagged rock face.

Regardless, a broken leg at this point would not be fun. We were warned that a helicopter rescue off the mountain costs $50,000, preferably in cash.

Porters have to hike down 200 feet of rock to get our drinking water from a mountain spring. We then sterilize the water with UV rays.

I am breathing fine but two people in our group in our group are sick with diarrhea. They are carrying on though.

Every day we face new challenges but see new slices of breathtaking beauty. What's odd is, you really can't afford to have any breath taken away because the air is so oxygen-thin already.

My levels, thankfully, are still normal: 82 percent in the morning and 92 percent at night.

We each burn about 2,500 calories a day. So far I've lost about 5 lbs. Patty said that even if we don't summit we have already had once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

When people know we are from the Chicago, USA they want to know what we think of Tiger Woods and how are Bulls are doing. They know nothing about the Blackhawks unless they're from Canada.

I usually talk to Europeans about my favorite I debate Man U vs. Liverpool with our guide Simon.

I met a man who is friends with my nephew Jordan, who lives in Dallas. It is a Goudie small world.

You can see the glaciers on Kibo and you can hear the rocks falling down the mountain. We are getting very close.

We have now stopped at 13,800 feet and Karanga Camp. The positive in being so high is that Blackberry reception gets better the higher we go. The e-messages from home fire my spirit.

The cold is starting to become apparent. Last night the wind off the glaciers brought temperatures down into the to 20's. My sleeping bag is a miracle of warmth.

Everyone says "Hakuta matata" and we are reminded often that africa is older than Disney. I am getting very nervous as summit night looms. Tonight is the last full sleep before summit.

But now, there is no turning back.

Tuesday, September 21st The Road to Kilimanjaro DAY SIX

We go up to 15,000 feet which is higher than most people have ever been other than an airplane. Feels a little bit like the rock formations across Missouri. It was great today-we did an extra 100-foot rock climb with a guide to a place called Lava Point. There are more climbers here now than the guides say they have ever seen, because of the upcoming full moon and the dry season. We have lunch at a spot that is higher than any in the continental US. It takes  eight hours for our climbing day. We actually go up for three hours, have lunch and then come down for three hours. The idea is to climb high and sleep low. We end up at Barranco Camp where our small group suddenly becomes a part of 800. It is like a mini-United Nations. I did get some of the guys in our group to play Scrabble today. All climbing groups and their porters end up meeting here for the final trail to summit. Each person climbing has three porters thus the instant city. Barranco Camp is at 13,000 feet. We get the first good view of the summit and can see the southern ice sheet. In fact, the whole camp is set on what is called a glacial moraine. This is the sandy strip left behind by the movement of the glaciers. Chris, the hydrologist in the group, is full of details on the wonder of Mother Nature. There are also many caves here where the porters used to sleep until the caves started caving in. I think of the miners in Chile.

I have limited battery on my Blackberry because the solar-powered charger isn't working. We are learning Swahili from one of our Tanzania guides. He is trying to earn enough money for a dowry: five cows and one goat. Reminds me of my father's favorite lines about my mother. Her family actually owned a storefront Chicago dairy. When they got married, my father thought he "was getting a dowry--not a dairy." I hope that someday their grandchildren-my Caylen, Britt, Chas, Keegan and Grace-will get to experience something like this. My two sons actually love heights as they once demonstrated when jumping off an ocean side cliff in Hawaii against our stated wishes. From here though, those memories are long ago---and far away.

Monday, September 20th The Road to Kilimanjaro DAY FIVE

Chelsea Clinton and I probably don't have much in common. But by the end of this week we will, I hope. The Kilimanjaro summit...led by the same guide.

One of our guides took her to the summit several weeks ago. He is one of the four guides that we have traveling with our group of ten hikers.

There are 30 porters carrying our gear, food, etc. That is 44 people just in our group alone.

Even though hundreds of people are in our camp sprinkled through the forest, our tent still feels cozy.

Home Sweet Home-a tent. First time I have actually "lived" in one.

Even up here there is good food; fresh fruit, lots of eggs and homemade soup. The food is meat and potatoes but lots of fresh fruit. The cook doesn't want the porters to carry a lot of vegy's up the mountain because they do not give us the calories needed each day.

I drink my instant Starbucks in the morning and brought my own peanut butter for toast.

There is time today for Scrabble and a trivia game created just for us by my friend Robin.

We move from Macheme Camp to Shira Camp. 10,000 feet to 12,000 feet. The days should be warm enough for a long sleeve shirt.

The route is very steep. Takes four to five hours.

The views are stunning. The rain forest turned to clear blue skies. I saw some Tanzanian impatiens. Wish we had those in Chicago.

Nice vistas but lots of dust. Already dirty from mud and dust. It and we will be like this all week.

We are beginning to feel the altitude and use hydration and Advil to get over it. The lack of oxygen causes fatigue and we are warned that sometimes we will just want to crawl in our sleeping bags.

When we do though, nighttime here is full of unusual noises. Mostly people going to the bathroom, even though there are no bathrooms.

Before "bedtime" I opened the first letter from my nephews. Kyle, Braden, Ethan and Garrett each wrote me a letter for each day.

Thanks guys! G'night!

Sunday, September 19th The Road to Kilimanjaro DAY FOUR

The adventure has begun. After a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast, we arrive at the Moshi gate. Is this the gate to heaven or hell? Time will tell.

There are dozens of porters waiting for us at the gate. These are the strong local men who choose to take us up the mountain and carry our gear. Some of them carry bags and others carry food. One man in each group also has to carry the 23 pound propane tank that will be used for cooking. Some of the porters will actually go up and down the mountain each day for fresh supplies. They count on us for money to feed their families and we count on them for everything during this climb.

The first day of climbing takes us through the rain forest. There are birds, monkeys and flowers along the way. The trail is steeper than what we thought it would be and we go from 6,000 feet all the way up to 10,000 feet in one day. We drink four liters of water each day and luckily this climb offered our last stop at a real bathroom. Our climb takes six hours and we do get a stop at our last real bathroom for the trip.

The common phrase here is "Poli, poli." That means slow, slow. Our guide, Caleb, doesn't take that too seriously. He believes that we should get each day done as fast as we can so we can rest. That suites my temperment just fine.

We are climbing the Machame route. There are several ways to get to the top. There are also three potential 'tops" The volcano has three peaks. One is Shira, one is Mawenzi and the other is Kibo. We are headed to Kibo, a big dome with cinder in the middle.

Our climb today takes six hours and we arrive at Shira camp. We have a warm dinner and head to our tents. This is the first time I have ever slept outdoors. I brought my Scrabble board for our rest periods but tonight rest means sleep and lots of it. So far no altitude sickness but it is early in the trip.

In the morning, I can look forward to a hot cup of Starbucks. Thank you Howard Schultz for coming up with instant Via.

Saturday, September 18th, The Road to Kilimanjaro DAY THREE

New friends, old cultures and adjusting to lack of control. That sums up my first 24 hours in Africa.

The connecting flight from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro was like hitting the remote control on your television. The Chicago leg was full of business passengers who all looked at me like I was Heidi in hiking boots. The connecting flight to Africa was full of kindred souls. Most people had on the all important hiking boots and carried a backpack with many water bottles. There were a number of nuns on their way to do missionary work and retired couples setting out for safari. We even met some newlyweds headed to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro as a way to celebrate their wedded bliss. Tents can be very cozy.

We breathed a sigh of relief that all our luggage made it and we met a man who will be crucial to us the next ten days. Caleb is our guide and he is assisted by a man named Nathaniel also known as Nacho. He picked up that nickname while doing farm work in Nicaragua. Each man has a story as does another guide named Macon. Caleb grew up in West Virginia and can't imagine any life other than the mountain. Nacho was an English major and decided to live his life in the most adventurous way possible. His ambitions remind me of my son Chas. Macon went into mountain guiding after losing his wife. His climb with us will be his third in 27 days.

All three men are easy going and upbeat. At first, they didn't like the likes of me.

After loading our bags, Caleb announced that our original hotel was overbooked because a group of German tourists had decided to abandon the mountain and end their climb of Kili a day early. I was not happy to hear this and boldly announced that as a woman who travels for a living, I know that there are always extra rooms held for special guests. They tried not to laugh and told me that I was in Moshi now. That's when I realized that I needed to go with the flow. Hakuta Matata.

After that, the night got much better. Our hotel was horrible but we ended up meeting the wonderful people who will join us on the climb. We shared a delicious bottle of Kilimanjaro beer and some fried chicken and laughed until we started to fall asleep at the table.

Our new friends include John, Jim, Grace and Sam from New Mexico. Jim and Grace are married. John is Jim's brother and Sam is his son. Sam is a loyal Chicago Cubs fan and we thank him for that. Robert and Chris are scientists with the Los Alamos Lab. They are fascinating men and work on some of the country's most important energy projects. My engineer dad would love them. Chris and Dave from Utah round out the group. They are friends and hydrologists, meaning they can actually interpret all of the wonders of nature we will see.

We slept fairly well and in the morning my buddy Lisa set out to shop for tanzanite with our new friend Grace. Tanzanite is very important to the local economy and is similar to the diamond trades. They had a hard time navigating through the agressive vendors and gave up and came back to the hotel. Patty and I set out to find some local currency but also scurried back when our blond hair made us a magnet for attention. One interesting sight was the shop keepers who take the shoes left behind by tourists, polish and sell them as new.

One of the local characters tells people that his name is Jimmy Carter. He must assume that all visitors love democrats and peanuts.

The people of Tanzania are gracious and kind. The images created here are both stunning and disturbing. There was a giant mound of garbage created by the tourists. On one side you see giant, majestic storks digging for food. On the other side, you see local women trying to find food for their families.

You see people on cell phones who have no hot water in their homes. You see an abdundance of fresh fruit but children thrilled when you give them an energy bar. You see the majesty of the mountain but people who will never have the resources to climb it.

We just completed our gear check and passed with flying colors. Caleb actually encouraged us to take less than more. When you don't take showers, you don't need to worry about toiletries and clean clothes.

We also had a very frank talk about the realities of bathrooms. There are none. You use a shovel to dig a hole, do your business and then cover it up. There is a portable toilet in camp but you have to drag yourself out in the middle of the night to use it. Our altitude medication makes you urinate much more often so the guys usually just keep an empty bottle in their tent. It is called a PeBo and is one of the advantages of being male.

It was confirmed by the scientists in our group that we will be climbing during a full moon. In addition, Jupiter will be closer to the Earth than anytime in the past 50 years. We will get a glimpse of the stars tonight in a part of the world that has no light pollution.

Tonight is the last night we will sleep in a bed for seven days. I look forward to my mattress and pillow. Tomorrow the adventure begins.

Friday, September 17th The Road To Kilimanjaro

The road to Kilimanjaro goes from Chicago to Amsterdam. I have just arrived in this rainy city for a two hour layover before flying on to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It looks very odd to see "Kili" on the departure board. The mountain's name holds a kind of aura for all who aspire to climb her. A digital posting on a crowded list seems insulting. I meet up with my climbing partners, Patty and Lisa, in a few minutes because they arrived on another airline. As a proud Chicagoan, I always fly United. I do about 150,000 miles a year for my consulting job and go to places like Hong Kong and Buenos Aires. I always pride myself on traveling light so it was very irritating to trudge through O'Hare with several very large duffel bags and one heavy backpack.

It is so wonderful to see the way people respond when they find out where I am going. Everyone has a story for my story. I met about dozen people just between TSA and taking my seat on our Boeing 777. Most people ask why I want to do this. My answers are never quite clear but primarily I believe that we all have to break a little before we can grow. I love to take on challenging goals, like the Ironman this summer, and push myself to achieve them. One always gets stronger in the process and you end up learning more about who you are and what life is all about. The visual conclusion of any challenge is often the key to finishing. During a marathon, I might visualize my friends and families at the finish line and that cold beer that race organizers like to have on hand. For Kilimanjaro, I am hoping for a Disney ending. One of my favorite scenes in film is the end of the Lion King when the baby cub is held up for the animal kingdom to see. Cue the music.

I am also a woman of strong faith and I know that at almost 20,000 feet, I will be closer to God than at any time in my life. I have so much to be thankful for so my mountain conversation will be one of glory and goodness. My sister, Colleen, has given me a special medal to leave behind. It is a medal that honors St. Teresa, my patron saint. It will be interesting to see what others choose to do at that moment. Paul Meincke was with a friend who chose to sprinkle his father's ashes at the top. We will arrive in the town of Moshi tonight and get some decent sleep in our comfortable little hotel. Saturday is a day of rest and orientation. We will meet our guides, get our instructions and have a chance to see Africa for the first time. Hakuta Matata.

Thursday, September 16th The Road To Kilimanjaro starts in Chicago at Terminal One

"Life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away."
That mantra is my spiritual compass for the next ten days, and I am sure there will be moments when the breaths I take become treasured commodities.

My name is Teri Goudie and I am a former ABC7 Chicago producer. I met my husband, Chuck Goudie, in the newsroom and we have been married for 28 years. We have five fantastic children and they are all in or studying journalism. I now run my own communication coaching firm, Goudie Media Services, and work with some of the world's most interesting people. My clients include CEO's, doctors, lawyers, scientists and Olympic athletes. I love my work and I love my play. My hobbies include marathons, triathlons, books and films.

To me, life is one big Carpe Diem. Seize the day and savor every moment. Seize the moment even at 20,000 feet, because that is where I am headed.
I am on my way to Africa today to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. This is the latest item on what many call my "bucket list", but it may be the adventure that tips the bucket for good.

I have set goals for each decade of my life. In my 20's, I jumped from an airplane. In my 30's, I learned how to play the drums and had a pie thrown in my face. In my 40's, I ran 10 marathons including Paris. The goals for my fifth decade include swimming with sharks, seeing a tornado and climbing a mountain. I have seen the tornado, the sharks are still waiting but the mountain is now.

I am traveling to Tanzania with two close friends, Lisa Stafford and Patty. We have trained by doing an Ironman in July and climbing 5,000 steps at a time in suburban Palos Park. We have networked with people who have done it before, including Channel 7's Paul Meincke. We have researched and are carrying enough clothing to stock a small textile factory. We have been vaccinated against all diseases known to man and we are carrying enough medications for a Walgreen's drive-through.

We are also carrying a cause. Last week, we gathered over 100 women in my home to hear speakers from Opportunity International and the Janada Batchelor Foundation. Both groups help women in Africa with micro-loans, shelter, education and love. I will be sharing more information with you on these groups during the next few days. Women helping women was an idea I came up with after reading the incredible book "Half the Sky."

Please follow us on our journey. You will smile, you will laugh and you will be inspired. I will post every day with new information and pictures. You might even hear some insights from my husband Chuck, as he tends the home fires and provides an anchor to my adventurous ways.

Be well,

The climb will raise money for the following groups:

The Janada Batchelor Fund is a non-profit that builds centers where orphaned and homeless women in East Africa can get education, healthcare, nutrition and hope.

Opportunity International is based in Oak Brook and it provides micro-loans to women who then are able to start businesses and save their families.

A staff member there was one of six children living in extreme poverty in Kenya. Her mother received a $50 loan, started a tomato crop and eventually sent all six kids to college. Three of them are now doctors.

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