Meet Jenna

Over the past few weeks I have been busy organising my team and getting them to write a paragraph about themselves. I have since however realised that I don’t know most of the people following my blog, and as such doubt they know me. Thus I have written a little something which will hopefully help those who only know me as a bar of soap, get to know me a little better. I do have a tendency to write novels though but here goes…

Being born and bred in Birdsville, Outback Queensland, I have finally come home to roost after leaving the nest at 12 years of age and heading off to boarding school in Adelaide, followed by a student exchange in Canada, a university degree in Sydney, and then some more travelling. Now 24, I have recently returned from 5 months travelling through parts of Africa, which have certainly left me with a clearer view of what I love in life. After a few months of volunteering in some wildlife reserves and a few humorous encounters with BIG and CONFRONTING animals, I mosied onto parts of the Drakensberg Mountains, before heading up for my big adventure to the top of Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.  

A year or so before my friend had told me about her Kilimanjaro trek, and after my life took a couple of unexpected turns I decided that it was time to go. After quitting my job, saying goodbye to the town I was living in, dropping my dog off with the family and spending my savings, I said goodbye to Australia and am now forever grateful for that unexpected turn as it allowed me to find my passion for walking. I know the words passion and walking rarely go hand in hand, but then again I’m a little different. Being up on those mountains and knowing that the only person who can drag your sloth moving bum to the top is yourself, makes it all the more amazing when you get there. The mental games that you play on a mountain trek are far more dangerous then the physical pain you put yourself through, and I firmly believe that with some self motivation and will power you can get to the top if you go slow enough. I went slow enough. For anyone who has done the treks or have them on your bucket list below are a few excerpts I wrote about my treks, they were once much longer but I’ve cut them down so you’re not still sitting here in an hour.

“…by sunrise we were still not at the summit, so we watched it over Kili above the clouds which gave me a little bit of extra strength. To be honest though by this point the summit still seemed so far away, and with the numerous false summits along the way I did entertain the thought of turning around, only to look back and see that it was just as hard to get off the mountain! It was a game of mental toughness in all its glory! Upon reaching the summit I was exhausted, but I did enjoy the view for long enough to take a couple of photos, have a bite to eat and psych myself up enough to clamber down the rocks that I had just spent the last 7 and a half hours clambering up. By the time I reached the gate at the bottom of the mountain I had been walking for 16 hours that day, my feet were on fire, my knees did not know why their owner would choose to do such a stupid thing, my hips wanted to remove themselves from my body, my mind did not care that buffalo were a mere 100m away from us, nor was I amused when the guide wanted to stop and take a photo of me with the giraffes in the background, I wanted to cry at the pain I was in and I wanted to vomit. All in all it was a great warm up for Kili!”

– Mt. Meru

The sunrise. Looking towards the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro

The top of Mt. Meru!

“We walked slow (well I walked slower then the rest), we farted…a lot (said to be a good sign of acclimatistion), I drank copious amounts of water, I ate like a dog who hadn’t eaten in a week, my socks stank, my clothes were dirty, my hair was a birdsnest that I never attempted to brush, I had blisters which ankle tape seemed to sort out, the weather was beautiful, it was cold though and moving was tough…Along the way we all got burnt, even putting sunscreen on 4 times a day was useless against the sun that high up, I fashioned a David Attenborough style hat using my trusty needle and thread, someone dropped their camera down the drop toilets along the trail (which are just a hole in the floor) and I repeatedly left my wooden walking stick behind and could always be heard saying “where’s my stick?”.

…the best way I can describe walking at altitude is either like a chameleon where one foot goes forward, stops, then the other comes forward, and where there is absolutely no forward momentum, while the other way is like having your feet tied together and you sort of shuffle. While the rest of my crew strolled along in front I chilled out the back singing all sorts of songs and always walking slow enough so I did not have to breathe through my mouth. My favourite songs while on the mountain were The Fisherman (thanks Sacred Heart), Hakuna Matata, Sweet Caroline, Circle of Life, as well as most other ones from the Lion King. They took my mind off the monotonous, gruelling task at hand and took me to a ‘better’ place!

 
Eventually we all needed a break…it was at this moment that your mind starts to go ‘why are you doing this?’, ‘you know you want to turn around, come on…there’s still 5 hours to go, turn around’. It’s like having a devil and an angel on each shoulder taunting you. At this moment my experience on Meru was invaluable and I knew that if I just kept going I’d get there, I never doubted my ability as I’d done it once before…not having to fight with yourself is a huge burden off your back when you’re at 5500m, there is no oxygen and it is cold. My slow and steady idea paid off as I was the first to step onto the crater rim at Stella Point where we all got a second wind and could finally see the purpose of all this madness…Uhuru Peak (I was the last to get to there though)!…From here is was a beautiful, gruelling trudge around the crater rim passing glaciers either side and looking onto the crater floor and our home for the night. Along this path my head started to throb…and throb…and throb. By the time I got to Uhuru Peak at 5985m I was sure someone was playing a drum inside my head, so after a few photos, congratulations and hugs all round, I hotfooted it down to crater camp to allow the thumping inside my head to decrease. After a good hearty meal it was off to bed and no sleep. I’m pretty sure humans weren’t designed to sleep at that altitude and as such I didn’t. My head never really did stop pounding, everytime I rolled over in my sleeping bag I wanted to vomit, however I couldn’t because I was too busy gasping in air as I couldn’t get enough oxygen by breathing through my nose. It was horrible. To make matters worse I woke up from a doze at 4am with ice INSIDE my tent and my water frozen even though it was insualted. I was sleeping in 9 layers of clothes and it made no difference…after crying and gritting my teeth through the pain that my hands were in from the intense cold, combined with my pounding head and the urge to vomit, I followed my guide and 2 other climbers off that mountain as quickly as possible!”

 – Mt. Kilimanjaro

In the Barranco Valley

The highest handstand I could manage at 4800m with Mawenzi Peak in the background

Mt. Kilimanjaro 5895m

So what else can I tell you about me? I am the youngest of 6 kids, I have a dog called Chevy, I am fairly self motivated, I like trying things that get my adrenaline pumping (however usually quickly realise once is enough), I like gardening and a dip in the billabong on a hot day, as well as a walk whenever the urge gets me!

And so I suppose that leads onto the walk itself. In my first post I wrote about how it came about and why I was doing it, but since then I’ve been doing some “evolving” (as my media mogul sister would put it…check out KBS) and realised that I left a crucial thing out. Since experiencing the thrill of working towards something and achieving it like I did with Mt.Meru and Kilimanjaro, I came to the conclusion that the feeling was brilliant! I believe I need the goal of something to work towards, and the buzz you get from doing something so physically and mentally demanding has to be felt to be understood. It grabs you like an addiction and takes your focus until such time that you can say ‘I did it’. I don’t think I realised the impact of achieving the goal of the two mountains until well after I was finished, and worked out just how much hard work went into making it to the top and more importantly back down again. Most people would use the term self-indulgent to describe a day at a spa or a yummy desert, me however…I use the term to describe walking 435km across the Simpson Desert so I can get the buzz at the end!  

I hope that this has shed some light on who I am for those who don’t know me, and perhaps explained a few things for those who do. By embarking on this journey I hope to create an event that all those involved in can feel proud to be a part of, from my support crew right through to the person sitting behind their computer half way around the world. My idea is that the more people we can get involved, the more happy people there will be around the world and that’s always a good thing. So if there is one link you forward to your friends I would be very appreciative if you made it this one, so they can become a part of the journey too. The support has been amazing and all thanks goes to YOU!

Jenna Brook

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