For the sake of a few hundred bucks, I am taking the long route to Kilimanjaro – and boy, am I regretting it.
After nine hours of flying, I am now only in Bangkok, twiddling my thumbs on the plane as I will it to take to the skies once again.
Once it does, another six hours in the air will get me to Dubai, then a five hour layover, a four hour flight to Nairobi, another three hour layover, then a one and a half hour flight to Kilimanjaro.
Pretty short journey.
I’ve watched three movies so far, stuffed my face with every type of food or snack on offer, and now I’m wishing I had jumped off the plane when I had the opportunity to stretch my legs.
Instead, I get up to take a pee, leaving a twisted mess of books, earphones, blankets and my fleece in the seat that has almost become welded to my arse (middle seat, row of four – worst seat in the house).
But when I return, relieved and fresh-breathed, not only has my trusty blanket been removed, but my fleece has gone too. It’s the only jumper I’ve got with me – it’s the only thing that will stand between me and the freezing temperatures of the mountain that awaits me.
In a state of panic, I run towards towards the nearest stewardess.
“My fleece – it’s gone!” I wail.
It must have been thrown out with the blankets she calmly explains. I beg her to try and retrieve it – she assures me she will, but I’m not convinced.
Sure enough, as the aircraft hums alive once again, there is still no sign of the fleece.
“My fleece?” I ask her again.
She shakes her head in a display of sorrow, but I’m still not convinced.
“I can get you a set of pyjamas from first class if you like?” she offers in a conciliatory tone.
I picture myself climbing all 5,895 metres of Kilimanjaro’s mighty hulk dresses in a set of fancy flannels and tears spring up in my eyes.
I flop back into my seat just in time for the plane to take off. Only another 20 hours or so to go…
I’m a little bit delirious by the time my tiny PrecisionAir jet plane whirs off the Nairobi runway. I nibble nuts and suck on soda water as I will the last leg of my journey to come to an end.
Apprehension has started to set in – nerves at meeting my fellow climbers, and uncertainty about the task that faces me.
Then, bang on cue, there she is.
Kilimanjaro swings into view through the tiny window to my right. Lit up by a glowing orange sky, she is breathtaking – a giant breaking through the sky high layer of thick white clouds.
I take her in – transfixed, terrified.
In just a few days, I’ll (hopefully) be standing at that peak, level with this tiny airplane.
The very thought blows my mind – I reach for the nuts.