Porters and Guides

Are you like me, you like to do things on your own terms? Maybe you’re a starseed, never feeling quite at home or comfortable where you are, never quite fitting in. If so you are not alone, but you may need to hear this.

I love hillwalking, I love being out in nature, high up, admiring the view. My happy place was on Tuesdays. Heading out to the hills, all located within a 2 hour drive from my home in Scotland. But if I was honest, I preferred to do them on my own. I held people back, I wanted to enjoy the journey admire the views as they changed, not just race to the top, and then head straight home again.

When I went to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro, I learnt 2 big lessons. One was that no matter what you do, altitude sickness can get you, and put a stop to your ambitions.

Secondly without a certain group of people, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I did. Those people are the Porters and Guides who accompanied us. It was very humbling to be in their presence. Yes they had an awesome “office”, but they had the likes of me to put up with. They are all stars in my eyes. They worked tirelessly carrying our belongings as well as all the food and water, cooking equipment and portaloos up and down the mountain-side, and they do it with a smile on their face. Each night when the team got into camp they were greeted with singing. I only managed to first day, as all the following days I was so behind everyone else, they had stopped the singing and dancing and were onto other duties. It is the thing that makes me the saddest, when I reflect back on that trip, that I missed the singing and dancing.

3 guides I spent an inordinately long period of time with, and can mention them by name. There were others that were the rest of my party, so I didn’t get to know them so well. During the evenings, when everybody else was around the mess tent, bonding and gelling, I was laying down, recovering from the days walk. I saw little of the mess tent after the second day. Despite huge attempts by some of the party, I was left to my own company in my tent. This was a shame as it meant I didn’t get a chance to speak to the porters much. To be a guide, you started as a porter for 3 years, and we were encouraged to speak to them, to help them with their english.

So a big shout goes to Benson and Sticky who got me as far up the mountain as was possible., occassionally literally dragging me up, as the altitude sickness just made me want to sit down and sleep.

Ayoub who escorted me off the mountain, and subsequently looked after me, taking me to clinics and internet cafes to get the necessary paperwork, before I could come home.

I am often asked if I have unfinished business on Kilimanjaro. I don’t think so. Sometimes you just have to accept that you may not realise the dream you set out to do. That is the unfinished business that I have. Coming to terms that there are places that we set out for, but never reach our destination. The real learning is in the journey. The last donation before I set out came with a message.

So what has this got to do with your spiritual development? Well sometimes you just have to admit that you need help. Without the expertise and knowledge of a team of people, I would have failed very early on. Self-awareness, self-development, dealing with trauma and experiences in life that can hold you back from experiencing joy in your life need a guide sometimes. That is why I am currently writing a book to help you overcome situations that are holding you back. Sometimes it may feel as though you have a mountain to climb, and from my experience you do. Sometimes you will need a little help carrying some of your baggage, and sometimes you might need dragging along, as it feels as though the oxygen has been sucked out of you. But using my book as a guide-book, we will get you along the track for a memorable experience.

Follow this blog or join the Aligned with Joy Community on facebook to be the first to hear news of the book.

Blessings and Joy, Joy

The mountain teams are seriously hit economically by the health crisis, which has gripped the world in 2020. If you are enjoying this blog please consider donating to the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project here This is a fund set up to help with finances and training. To become a guide takes, time, money and dedication and they need our help now, more than ever.

7 thoughts on “Porters and Guides

  1. I was drawn to your writing because of my own backpacking experience, and it was wonderful to have pictures that belong with the shared experience. I also found your story inspirational. Thank you for sharing

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  2. Thanks for sharing this. I also succumbed to altitude sickness in Nepal. HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) resulted in me being carried on the backs of my porter and guide down to a village for a medical evac. I did make it back. I did climb that mountain, and left it on my terms. Now I am supporting Nepali porters and people suffering with no work because of Covid 19.

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