It’s been two months since I returned home and I feel unsettled. Discontented. Full of wanderlust. I close my eyes and all I see is Kilimanjaro. It’s still with me. Haunting me. How can 8 days on one mountain completely alter a life? My heart aches to return to Africa.
I constantly ponder my next, great adventure. What will I do that will be on par or even top Kili? I’m doomed to a life of searching for the next great mountain. Yet, I worry that, though there are many mountains, there are none quite like Kilimanjaro.
My friend and dear Kili climbing companion, Adrienne, recently wrote to me and mentioned that she often feels similar thoughts. She said, “Everyday I still think of Kili and wish I had the luxury of just dropping everything and hopping on a plane back to Africa.” She then went on to mention that her South African friend told her that “once you go to Africa, it will stay in your blood.” She’s right. I inoculated myself against all sorts of fevers before heading to Africa but the one I never counted on contracting was Africa herself. It consumes me.
Adrienne also shared this beautiful poem. I think it’s the best possible epilogue to the greatest journey of my lifetime. Also, let this serve as a warning to those who dream of going to Africa and climbing mighty Kilimanjaro: The person you send can never return home. Instead, you leave Africa completely altered, changed…unable to be what you once were. For me, that’s been a gift.
Know peace-not as the calm heart knows
Low, ivied walls; a garden close;
And though he tread the humble ways of men
He shall not speak the common tongue again.
Who has known heights shall bear forevermore
An incommunicable thing
That hurts his heart, as if a wing
Beat at the portal, challenging;
And yet-lured by the gleam his vision wore-
Who once has trodden stars seeks peace no more.