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Bruce vs Kilimanjaro

Climbing mountains for TEF

Bruce recently had the privilege of climbing Kilimanjaro with the Trek4TEF team. It wasn’t a climb which he wanted to do for himself, but rather a climb where he would capture Eli Reimer (age 17, down syndrome) and Nate Davis’ (age 23, special needs) story as they attempted to reach the top. Eli managed to reach the base camp of Everest last year which was an amazing feat. When Bruce joined the Kilimanjaro summit team a couple of months ago he was pretty nervous, but more excited. The closer he got to the time the more nervous he became. This all seemed too large to attempt.

The write-up below is taken from the diary that Bruce kept during the trip.

Day 1:

Had an awesome send off at Spur. Nothing like a Goodie Burger to hit the spot!

I feel cared for by my community and family.

I have been feeling anxious all day. It’s the uncertainty of what lies ahead. How do I shoot a climb? How will I do physically? will Rebecca be OK on her own?

20:30 Cape Town > Joburg:

Played Stick Cricket on the iPad the whole way! Went quickly.

2 hour layover in Joburg Airport, not excited at the prospect. Find a 24 hour Mugg and Bean. Nail a Strawberry Milkshake and Horlicks. Bliss.

Day 2:

00:30 Joburg > Nairobi:

Kenyan Airways is kinda cheap and old-school. I don’t really care about the state of airlines these days, however Kenyan Airways gets me in the mood with their rad old-school African music!

I am dead tired before flying. Not good as now I am falling asleep… good thing there’s a whole row open next to me.

Weird Chinese guy won’t stop his annoying sniffing! Driving me nuts!

Fall asleep quickly.

Air hostess runs into my foot with a drinks trolley!

Awake.

Asleep again.

Arrive at Nairobi around 5am. Pretty average airport, but all the different African nationalities walking around excites me. I am a tourist in my own continent.

This is no Europe!

3 hour wait. I can hardly keep my head up… dead tired.

8:00 Nairobi > Kilimanjaro:

35 minute flight! Awesome.

I get a lump in my throat when I look out the window to the left and I see Uhuru Peak poking its head above the clouds at MY eye level! It looks scary and ominous.

Land at the tiny Kili airport.

Got questioned about not having a Yellow Fever certificate… but luckily got let through.

Standing in the visa queue I can see the baggage collection belt. I can’t see my bag.

Confirmed. No bag.

Bit stressed as this is Africa so it could be anywhere.

I HAVE to have all the gear in that bag in the next 24 hours, so I can do the actual climb. Camera gear, tshirt , shorts and sandals won’t handle this mountain!

Taxi ride to our hotel is cool. It’s amazing to see Africa. the proper Africa. It’s really beautiful.

There are some awesome crews of young men on their cheap motorbikes that park under the trees just hanging out in their biker gangs. They make me laugh! (Photo project opportunity noted.)

Arrive at the Keys Hotel. finally get to meet Justin (Eli’s dad), Eli, Tony (our incredible trip coordinator), Ben (filming the whole trek for the documentary Mountains) and his wife Lauren.

They’re all awesome.

I also meet Nate, he has a gift of just making people laugh! He also loves sports, boxer dogs and sarcasm. We are going to get on well!

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Eli, Nate, Micah (13) and Tyler (12) are all the young ones on our trip and they all keep each other entertained. It’s amazing to watch. I’ve never been close to anyone with a disability so watching them treat Eli and Nate as totally regular men is so humbling. These kids are teaching me loads.

Still panicked about not having a bag, but assured it will be here by the morning.

We check out a bit of Moshi, which is just chaos, but an awesome chaos.

This is definitely NO Europe.

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After dinner I have a good laugh at Nate and Justin!

Eli O arrives – he is also filming the trek. We are roommates (and tentmates) which is cool!

Hit the sack.

Awoken in the night by:

– dogs howling
– aerobics Class
– and a million roosters.

I feel rested though.

Day 3:

Have an awesome breakfast with tiny bananas! Rad.

Bag arrives! Never been so stoked to see a bag!

We are in one of the world’s epicenters of coffee, yet they serve Nescafe. I love this place! I only want Nescafe from here on out. It suits it perfectly. Stuff the flat whites of Cape Town.

We have a nice media team meeting with the video crew. I’m feeling more amped, relaxed and encouraged now.

We head off to the Upendo Children’s Home. What an incredible experience!

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The kids are just beautiful and I catch myself getting really emotional at times. Why were they left here for adoption? How can a disabled wheelchair-bound kind bring so much joy?

I am so humbled by Eli, who walks straight up to the first child he see’s in a wheelchair , introduces himself and starts pushing him around.

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Had fun exploring Moshi in the afternoon. Super busy, but felt great. Didn’t take many shots due to the fact that the locals stare daggers if you dare move the camera in their direction.

Tomorrow we hike, so I take it easy at the hotel.

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After dinner I had an inspiring time listening to Nate and Eli read Scripture to one another and discuss their favourite Bible verses in the hotel lobby.

These two are remarkable.

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Spent an hour before bed doing a final pack. I am now ready!

Let’s do this thing!

Day 4:

Woke up really early due to roosters, praying Imams (Ramadan) and anticipation.

We had an early breakfast, packed the bus and headed off on a 3 hour journey to the National Park where we check in.

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Nate had me and the whole bus in absolute hysterics the whole way!

After checking in, I watched the porters all doing their baggage weigh-ins. It was interesting to see how strict they were. I was impressed. We have about 60 porters for our team of 16!

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Micah (13) wasn’t feeling too well and on arriving at the start of the trail had a solid hurl session.

It was the first time I thought to myself that this was actually going to be pretty tough.

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We are already at twice the height of Table Mountain, so I can feel my body trying to acclimatise a bit.

The trail was absolutely beautiful! Super lush jungle.

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Myself, Ben and Eli O were all finding our feet with regards to how to shoot this whole trek. By the end of the day we were pretty tired. We hiked for around 4-5 hours.

The campsite had all been set up by the porters and it was great! we even have a little eating hall tent.

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Had an OK night sleep, and felt great by the morning.

Day 5:

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We headed out of the jungle type terrain and all of a sudden we were in typical fynbos vegetation.

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We setup a couple of jib shots throughout the day which was pretty fun.

It was a really hard climb, but we had an awesome stop for lunch at exactly 10000 feet.

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I always feel really tired when we rest or stop, but then soon acclimatise and feel fresh.

Today was the longest hike of my life! Around 8 hours.

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We all felt super drained when we got to camp and now we can finally see Kili! She is beautiful!

Rebecca’s notes have really been helping a lot. I think I’m learning how amazing Scripture can be. I need to read more and experience more.

Nate is pretty ill, but still in high spirits!

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Day 6:

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Today’s hike was relatively short, around 4-5 hours across a plateau from Shira Camp 1 to Shira Camp 2.

It looked exactly like the Karoo and it was pretty hot. I felt really tired when we got to camp and it took me a while to settle into the altitude.

We had the afternoon to chill or take a small hike up around 200m elevation gain to help us acclimatise a bit faster and rest well at our camp. We took the little hike real slow and had a lot of fun!

I played with the Leica which was great. I only have 1 battery for it which doesn’t last too long, so I’m being careful with how much I use it.

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The campsite is dry as anything, but looks over this awesome view of an escarpment, with clouds whipping up the edges all afternoon. Really amazing, took a stack of photos.

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We went back to camp where we did a small media dump and hosed ourselves at Nate, Eli and Tyler playing cards! Flippen hilarious.

Nate is still very alert and say’s he’s great, but he is still pretty sick.

Had a bit of time to myself to take in the awesome sunset.

Later we setup the cameras for 10 mins to get Nate and Eli playing cards. It was so so funny. I haven’t laughed this hard in ages.

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Day 7:

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6am wake up as we have our toughest day ahead, besides Summit day.

Nate looks terribly ill, has a bad cough, didn’t sleep, but is still “great”. I am quite worried about him now.

We take it real slow as this is a huge altitude shift on this day’s hike.

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Nate is struggling and ends up way behind us.

Later we get the news that he’s been evacuated by car from Shira 2. He wasn’t doing well at all.

I am really really sad.

His spirit of joy is contagious.

He is full of life.

He is always positive, no matter what.

He loves Boxers!

He is really encouraging and he always wants to know what’s happening in your life.

And I’m sure he makes a crazy good lemonade at Chick-Fil-A!

We have lunch at Lava Rock. We are all exhausted and super tired from the altitude (4600m). It’s also really windy and cold.

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We start heading down to our camp and visually it is just amazing. We pass through shale, rivers, desert, trees, waterfalls and mist!

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Felt like I finally got some shots that told a bit of a story.

Eli was a champ today!

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Day 8:

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Today was my favourite hiking day so far. The trail was just epic.

We started off going straight up this sheer cliff, Birranco Wall. It was crazy watching the porters scramble across rocks with huge packs on their heads, and a 100m drop to the valley below. There was an epic view of Kili from the top as well.

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Somehow I felt really good the whole way.

We crossed through the desert looking landscape for most of the walk which was cool. It was really hot! every hike starts out freezing and hits super hot temperatures, so it’s hard to know what to wear each day.

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Just before we got to Karangu Camp we went down this really slippery, dusty switch back. I fell a couple of times, but it was pretty fun. Then there was exactly the same, but going up, on the other side, it was brutal!

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Got to camp nice and early which was nice to chill for the afternoon. Had some great chats with the other teammates. They are all awesome. Gonna miss them.

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This is our last full night’s sleep before we start our summit hike tomorrow around midnight. I have resorted to sleeping with all my batteries in my sleeping bag! It gets flippen cold at night with frost everywhere and water freezing.

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Day 9:

Today’s hike was quite short, but testing due to a drastic little elevation gain.

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Gary was feeling it and not looking good throughout the hike.

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We got to Base Camp and I was feeling good.

We had a short sleep this afternoon, as we leave at around 10pm tonight. Nerves are starting to settle in, this is the real deal!

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Gary has pulled out which was a wise, yet sad decision from his part, as he wanted to do this just as bad as everyone else.

I’m nervous, but more excited.

Day 10:

The most hardcore day of my life.

We awoke at 10pm and started putting on all the layers of clothes that I could. It was freezing! Our tent even iced over.

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We started walking at 11pm. Tyler puked twice in the first 15 mins, so Tony (his dad) decided it would be smarter for him to head to base camp.

The string of LED headlamps up the mountain was beautiful, and really intimidating as you never seem to be able to see the end.

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It was insanely steep and we were moving really slowly due to the lack of oxygen and us just trying to pace ourselves.

The string of LED lights doesn’t seem to end as far as your eye can see up the mountain.

It is FREEZING! I’ve never been this cold and the slight icey wind is cutting my face apart.

I’m feeling really tired and close to giving up. Eli is also stopping often for a break, but carries on each time. It’s really inspiring and the team keep encouraging him always.

After around 2 hours Eli sits down and his dad asks him if he wants up or down. He say’s down, but wants to carry on.

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He has reached his summit.

It is inspiring and everyone congratulates him. It’s 10 feet higher than his Everest Base Camp victory!

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We carry on and I find myself crying as I am sad that he couldn’t make it, but am now more inspired to carry on. I am more amped than ever to reach the top, but the string of headlamps doesn’t ever end!

I am mentally breaking and can hardly even walk.

Rebecca’s verses keep me going as I pray them in my head. The porters are incredible in keeping us going.

I can hardly think straight, but am just going one step at a time.

I am thinking a lot about the mountains that disabled people climb every day. Is this what it’s like? This is crazy and inspiring to have seen Nate and Eli do this ‘mountain climbing’ with such joy and passion.

Around 5:45am we start seeing the sun rise. It’s bringing life to the darkness of our climb.

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I have never been so tired in my life. Each time we stop for water, I fall asleep on my trekking poles.

We are so close to the top.

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We eventually stumble onto the top and everyone is absolutely broken. The beauty of seeing the glaciers and sunrise is awe-inspiring.

I don’t even know what’s happened.

I suddenly just break down and start sobbing as everything over the last 6 months, this climb, the tiredness, the inspiration of Nate and Eli’s summits, the over-working of my body to shoot this trek have all culminated into one moment.

I am broken and moved all in one. I look up and everyone is crying. This climb has been huge for everyone and has changed all our lives.

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We take a short walk up to Uhuru Peak and take some photos.

It is so rad to have conquered this and not given up.

I feel so alive.

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The walk down is fun as it’s fast, but it’s tiring as anything.

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I am feeling the effects of no sleep and a giant climb My body says stop.

Eventually we get to camp and it’s awesome to see everyone again. I go to my tent and fall asleep in 5 seconds.

I awake for lunch and we have a good time reminiscing and chatting about disabilities in general and the climb.

they also tell us that we are hiking another 3 hours to our final camp. Man, I am bleak. I can’t even think about walking.

We pack up and leave.

The walk to the next camp is SO hard. It’s all downhill, but I keep stopping and sit down as I have no energy.

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We go through around 4 vegetation zones. It’s pretty cool!

Our final camp is really beautiful, in this misty jungle forest.

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I go straight to my tent at 4:30pm and go to sleep.

I awake at 6am the next day. I was definitely broken!

Day 11:

Feel great when I wake up.

Today is a nice easy 3 hour downhill trek to the bus.

We pass through some amazing misty jungle vegetation.

I love the mist and the moss growing everywhere.

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We manage to get a ride in a 4×4 for the last kilometer and the driver charges down a super muddy slope with huge muddy holes like a crazy man!

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Nate is at the end to see us. Man I’ve missed him!

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Our predictions were correct, he’s been eating pizza and watching football with Simon the porter (who has the biggest smile on his face!) haha.

We pack up the bus and head to Moshi.

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On arrival we all have a much needed shower and head to town for some coffee at Union Cafe, and a pizza. Man, I’ve missed cheese!

What I have learned this trip:

1. God has blessed me with a physically good body. I should be thankful for this.
2. I love my wife and cannot function properly on my own.
3. Everyone is disabled. All by sin. None of us have perfect mental and physical bodies. Some require a bit more help or attention, but we are all the same. Being labeled as ‘disabled’ is actually incorrect.
4. I need to stop using the word ‘retarded’ to explain things.
5. Mt Kilimanjaro is a seriously hardcore mountain. Nature will beat you down!
6. God created a beautiful world for us to enjoy. I need to play in it more. I come alive in nature and the city eats me alive.

 

Special thanks to:

capeunion

 

2 Responses to “Bruce vs Kilimanjaro”

  1. Megan Roux

    I dont think I have words to describe how amazing this was to read as well as to look at. I have followed your blog and posts for the last 2 years but today I just sat in front of my laptop and cried. What you did here is God in all his glory. The documenting of this hike, the surroundings and most of all, the hearts, shows his beauty and wild power. I hope to one day I meet both you and your wife. I pray for favour over both your lives and jobs as photographers. Keep it up. It gives the world hope.

    Reply
  2. Joshua Rowe

    I loved this. Your story telling is a gift from God. So amazing to read and experience part of your journey.

    Reply

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