Kilimanjaro Stories – Why Climb Kilimanjaro?

Our first date turned into a Kilimanjaro trek

[excerpt from Kissing Kilimanjaro: Leaving it All on Top of Africa] I used to wonder what would ever possess anyone to trudge up a mountainside on the far sides of the planet, into harsh, frigid winds and thin air, thousands of feet above sea level. For decades men have died trying to reach Earth’s highest points, to survive in places where humans were clearly not meant to endure. Was it for the glory of standing where few had dared to tread? Was it to test oneself against the elements and one’s own inner weakness? Or was it simply another way to impress women? For me it was a little bit of everything. But if I’m really honest with myself, I probably did it to impress a beautiful woman. My journey to the top of Africa started in a small coffee shop in Laguna Beach, California. I was on a date with that woman—our first date actually. Lisa sat across the table from me, cupping her hands around a mug of hot cocoa. I couldn’t stop gazing at her—her long dark hair, deep brown eyes, and a smile that made me slightly dizzy. I had known her for almost ten years. Lisa and I had met in Japan right after college, where we were both teaching English as part of an exchange program in the early 1990s.  At the time I was in the middle of a long-term relationship, so I became Lisa’s “safe” guy friend—someone she knew wouldn’t hit on her at every opportunity. Together we explored the country, and over the course of a year we became close. After that year of adventures, however, our paths separated.  I returned to the United States to start my “real life” while Lisa stayed in Japan for another year. She moved to Switzerland to study French for a few months before finally returning to her home state of Hawaii, where she worked in a scuba shop. I moved around as well. My relationship had ended, and I decided on New York City as the place to start my career in the high-tech industry. I soon joined the other techies in San Jose, California, however, flocking to Silicon Valley for the Internet revolution. Lisa and I had stayed in touch throughout all these years, with infrequent letters and even less frequent phone calls. We couldn’t help but feel inspired by each other’s adventures and life changes, so we’d kept the connection alive. Everything changed in 2001, when Lisa settled in Laguna Beach, California—only four hundred miles away! We started to talk on the phone more frequently, rebuilding our friendship. The calls eventually got longer and the bond grew stronger. One Friday evening as we were chatting late into the night, catching up on old flames and failed relationships, Lisa posed a question: “Dan, how come you and I have never dated?” I was stumped, speechless. We had been friends living on opposite sides of the world for so long that the thought had never really crossed my mind. But a week later I was on a plane to Laguna Beach to find out if there was that kind of chemistry. We spent the day playing “remember when,” reminiscing about our free-spirited travels across Japan. That evening, sipping our hot cocoa, we dreamed  together about all the places we wanted to see: Alaska, Machu Picchu, New Zealand. The list went on. Then Lisa uttered five fateful words: “I want to climb Kilimanjaro.” “That’s perfect!” I blurted out, without thinking anything through. “I’ve been thinking about doing that for a long time.” Her warm smile melted my decision-making skills. “Let’s do it,” I said in all seriousness. “Let’s climb Kilimanjaro together.” And with that, I was committed.  Granted, if Lisa had suggested that we drive sled dogs across Antarctica, I probably would have signed on to that just as eagerly.
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One Comment

  1. Maite
    March 9, 2012 | Permalink

    Just beautiful…..

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