What could you do that pushes you to the limit physically, mentally and emotionally and leaves the planet stronger than it was when you stepped through your front door and set out on your life-changing adventure?
Me? I signed up for Wings of Kilimanjaro.
Wings of Kilimanjaro is a World First charity event in Tanzania; it's what happens when 100 of the world's most inspiring adventurers come together to climb and attempt to fly from the Roof of Africa and, in doing so, pledge to raise $1 million for those most in need on the ground.
In order to achieve this slightly overwhelming challenge, I need to overcome some rather enormous but hopefully not insurmountable obstacles:
1. Fear of flying
Paragliding scares me. My hands shake as I prepare my paraglider for a perfect takeoff. I breathe deeply telling myself that everything is going to be fine then I pull up my glider, turn, run down the hill and launch into the unknown sky. Once I'm in the air concentrating on flying and focusing on what the air is doing, I calm down... until I hit turbulence then my knees start shaking again. At the top of Kili -- 19,340 feet -- the air is thinner and therefore take off is more complicated. Strong winds can make the air unstable and dangerous to fly in. I need to face and overcome my fear not of flying, but of crashing.
2. Physical fitness
Following an altercation with a hard mountainside which left me slightly broken, I have only recently been able to begin my training. According to Kilimanjaro National Parks, only 41 percent of people who start the climb make it to the top. Then there are the small added complications of high-altitude climbing; sub-freezing temperatures, nausea, headache, dizziness and fatigue that will not help me to safely launch my paraglider. Only the most skilful will succeed. I have never been above 4,500 meters high before (outside of an airplane), so I have no idea how my body will react to the subzero temperature and lack of oxygen. To prepare I am hiking regularly and doing yoga... will it be enough?
3. Raising 10,000 U.S. dollars -- 50 percent to cover my flight and climbing fees and 50 percent to support the work of three amazing charities in Tanzania:
- Plant with Purpose provide environmental solutions to humanitarian problems: http://www.plantwithpurpose.org/
- The One Foundation address issues such as clean drinking water, HIV, education, nutrition and sanitation: http://www.onedifference.org/
- WorldServe provide innovative water and sanitation solutions: http://www.worldserveintl.org/
While my world revolves around my rapidly approaching expedition, most people are starting work after their well-deserved holidays or busy getting their children back to school. Supporting projects thousands of miles away in Africa is not a priority. Ideas on how to raise thousands of pounds in two weeks are welcome. (Ditto large cheques and generous donations!)
For more information, please go to: http://wingsofkilimanjaro.com/helenhawkings