“The most breathtaking sight I have ever seen”

Blogs, In the field article written on the 25 Jul 2014

Photo: Jen Duffy/Oxfam AU

Thanks to Inspired Adventures, two teams of incredible Oxfam supporters have attempted the Mount Kilimanjaro Summit —raising an incredible $185,000 for Oxfam’s development work around the world. Before the climb, the groups visited the HIV/AIDS Prevention Group (HAPG) in Bela Bela, South Africa.

Through the work of HAPG, the people in Bela Bela have come to see that they can turn around a situation of death, despair, fear and shame, making it one where people can come forward and claim the right to stay alive. Cecile Manhaeve has worked with the centre for more than 32 years.

“It was amazing to get an opportunity to visit Bela Bela HAPG and see the work that is done to educate, help and treat people in the community with HIV. Cecile especially is a true Saint, an inspirational woman.” – Cheryl Moore, Oxfam supporter.

Oxfam staff member, Jen Duffy, accompanied Team One to the Kilimanjaro Summit. Read excerpts of her travel journal below.

On teamwork:

“I cannot get over the camaraderie the group has formed. Gorgeous, uncomplicated relationships, formed around mutually supporting each other through kind words, affectionate shoulder squeezes and shared food. So simple, but so necessary. And you are always safe in the knowledge that when you’re having a bad moment, you will have a dozen hands helping you up.”

On the cold:

“We all got up at 11pm having packed everything in our daypacks before dark and having our many layers laid out ready to put on in the pitch black…we lined up for the hot water to fill our thermos or nalgene bottles…the hot water would soon turn to very cold water, despite being insulated by socks as instructed. The water bladders would freeze entirely…sometimes mid-sip. It was between -5 and -25 degrees.”

On finally reaching the summit:

“We kept walking, single file. Only this time, instead of keeping our heads down, aiming torchlight at our feet, we looked up as we walked around the crater of the mountain. The most amazing and breathtaking sight I have ever seen. Glaciers the size of apartment blocks, the sunrise over the reddy-brown boulders.

“The adrenaline rush was like nothing else I have felt. The last few days of sickness, exhaustion and tension rolled off all of us. As we hugged, high-fived and posed through dozens of photos with “that green sign”. I felt so sad when I heard one of our team members, a tenacious woman who had never struggled before, was so behind. It didn’t look like she would make it.

“After half an hour, we began the descent. Beginning the journey back to base camp, going the same way that we arrived. And there she was.

“I was so happy to see her, I burst into tears. So proud of everyone. She had one of our angelic guides on her arm as she shuffled towards that green beacon.”

Congratulations to everyone who participated and thank you for your incredible fundraising efforts.