The first time that team Sparks met in full was at Heathrow Airport, on Thursday 3 February 2011.
The Devon brigade of Dave, Hilary, Tracey, Nicole, Jenn and myself had travelled up to the airport on a minibus and of course knew each other fairly well having spent time together training and fundraising. Most of us had met Rupinder on our December training weekend in Snowdonia, there was definitely some excitement and apprehension about meeting Fiona (who lives in Hertfordshire and was a late addition to the group, time and distance were both factors in not being able to meet before this point) and of course Kirsty – our doctor and team leader – and us all being together for the first time.
On the basis my next few blog posts talk a lot about these guys – here is a quick summary…
Photo, L-R Hilary, Rupinder, Dave, Tracey, me and Nicole
Front – Jenn and Fiona
Kirsty is an A&E doctor who has a passion for rock climbing and mountains, and specialises in the study of altitude. She has climbed Kilimanjaro 8 times. These trips for her are ‘holiday’
She has a wicked sense of humour and is as cool as a cucumber.
Kirsty is in her thirties, although I’m not exactly sure how old she is as she fills in the ‘age column’ on every form and register going through Kenya and Tanzania with a different number. Somewhere between 33-39 I think. She lives with a cagefighter. Blonde, brainy, beauty with a scary enthusiasm to get her scalpel out.
Our regional Sparks fundraiser, my newest closest friend and room-mate. Possibly the kindest girl you are ever likely to meet and permanently happy. Has climbed mountains, jumped out of planes and done far more in her 28 years than you could ever guess. Loves her parents and the great outdoors. Would definitely give you her last Rolo. Has an incredible knowledge of musical acts and the only person I know that can faint one minute, and be singing the next. Is worth 25 cows, if any Tanzania single men fancy snapping her up/buying her.
It was Dave that roped me into climbing Kilimanjaro, and I will always be grateful to him for that. Dave is going to climb the 7 highest trekable peaks in the world, I applaud him and also think he is slightly nuts.
Kind hearted and good to the absolute core. IT genius who is a great husband, father, business man and friend. Made us all laugh coming out of his tent with his silk sleeping bag liner tucked into the back of his trousers, and made us all go a little bit soppy as he told the story of how he met Hilary. His favourite resting position is front first across a rock in a ‘beached whale’ stylie. A great man, proud to call him my friend.
Married to Dave. Gives the best hugs in the world and has a bag of magic homeopathic potions for every occasion – which earned her a gold medal in our award ceremony for ‘drug dealing’. Walks way faster than most normal people. Has a great singing voice. I will forever laugh at the impromptu interview Hilary did on the side of the mountain for a Korean man, and her spelling out her name phonetically. For any avoidance of doubt it’s – Hilll-aarrrrr-reeeeee. It’s no surprise Dave snapped her up, Hilary is a wonderful woman.
Possibly the most determined lady I’ve ever met, has an awesome ability to walk up mountains with her eyes closed. Obsessed with colour co-ordination and, of course, her iPhone. Has an extraordinary knack of getting signal where most other mere mortals fail. Had a marriage proposal on the mountain, which we never got to the bottom of. Won the award for first ‘number 2’ on the mountain….
Top bloke. Positive, funny and late for everything. Loves his family, works hard and I suspect has a whole list of work achievements we know nothing about because he is also incredibly modest. Almost missed out on the mountain experience by not getting in the jeep, and was almost left behind. How he managed to wear white on the mountain, and keep those T shirts white is beyond me. He should be the face of Daz for sure. One of my funniest moments of the trip was in the Masai market when a stall holder seriously asked him if I was his sister……
Under-estimate this woman your peril. She may look like an attractive mother of 2, but I suspect she is half robot. The only girl who didn’t seem to suffer with the altitude sickness and practically sprung up the mountain. Has the patience of a saint. Kind and lovely. Loves her husband, kids and cats. I get the feeling her house lost its soul and fell to pieces when she was away, definitely someone who holds things and people together. Makes breakfast in bed every day for her girls. Big hearted Mum who just gets on with it.
I think Fiona and I come from the same gene pool. An adventurer who manages to lower the tone of every conversation and seems to have 3 primary topics of conversation – which we refer to as the 3 S’s. Sex, snacks and toilet habits. Made me laugh loads. A cordon bleu cook that’s also managed a game reserve and travelled extensively, there is nothing this girl can’t do. I could listen to her stories for hours. Should also hold an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for biscuit eating.
So, here we all were heading off to Nairobi airport on the 7pm flight.
After checking in our bags and heading through security, which is always a bit of an ordeal, I was stopped for a random full body scan.
I think the staff were taken back by my enthusiasm for this ‘new experience’ which I demonstrated by skipping down the hall to the security area and being very animated with my ‘where do you want me?!’ style of questioning – I wondered whether I looked like I was concealing something and that’s why I had been chosen?! After removing my belt, shoes, jewellery and scarf again, I had to stand in a lunge style position with both arms above my head whilst I was scanned – both sides. It was painless of course. The staff declined my request to take a picture for me on my iPhone so that I could tweet it. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to see the scan pictures but would have looked like a ‘white blob’ according to the guy that was in charge of the machinery.
The flight was uneventful, Kenya Airlines were fantastic. Great food, fabulous films and lots of leg room as it was not a full flight. After 8 hours we arrived in Nairobi.
It took an eternity getting through passport control as there were a number of forms to complete on arrival. We needed to buy a visa to allow us to pass through Kenya into Tanzania. Passing through passport control was painfully slow and involved having finger prints taken and trying to avoid paying more than the publicised fee of 10 US dollars. It’s not a nice feeling to arrive in a country and your first experience is being taken advantage of.
Whilst waiting for the full complement of team members to get through passport control I changed into flip-flops and got my sunglasses out. Such an amazing feeling to walk out of the airport doors to our transport and to feel the sun beating on my back.
A 6 hour journey lay ahead on some of the bumpiest roads I have ever travelled on – but we were well on our way to starting the adventure of a lifetime. Excitement at this stage definately building…..