Conquering Kilimanjaro

Having scaled to the very top of Africa, and having been the highest person in the entire continent changed my life. That moment in time when I was above all else, when over 1.3 billion people looked up to me, nothing else mattered. That fraction of time gave me a freedom I did not know I lacked and a crown I hardly knew I deserved. I realised my dream and I am forever grateful to have taken the leap of faith.

By Yvonne Maphosa

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.

Being born and raised in a village means starting the race several leagues behind the rest. All the odds are against you and you have to fight harder. Now add on being black, female and mostly foreign and you have a life lived in constant defiance.

It took a long time to find my footing in the world. It took stepping out of my comfort zone and facing all my fears head on. Hiking mountains is more than a fitness feat or a search for the glorious views from the top. It’s about the journey up; every step a constant reminder that you are capable of more. An affirmation that you are strong in every sense.

A discovery of strength you did not know you possessed. It is knowing there is a risk of not reaching the top but heading up anyway. It is urging yourself on when the body screams at you to stop. It is about the discipline of training; trailing up in the rain, hiking against harsh winds and owning your mind. It is the resilience, mentality and grit it takes to reach the top. And eventually, it is the liberation when you stand at the peak, in the footsteps of others who dared to go for it. That gratifying realisation that you can conquer any obstacle.

Taking on Kilimanjaro was an act of rebellion on its own. It was a statement to the universe at large that: I CAN AND I WILL. For a village girl like myself, every small step is a milestone. I went from the unknown hills of Mambale, to Matobo hills, to the peaks in the Eastern Highlands, to the many mountains dotting Southern Africa, right up to the intimidating roof of the continent.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It tried me from every angle and challenged me to a point where turning back seemed to be the only reasonable option.

By day six, I could barely walk, sleep or even breathe. I was empty yet giving up did not occur to me. I knew it would not be easy. I suffered for seven days but now I am left with a lifetime achievement.

It does not matter where you come from, or where you are right now. If someone else has done it, so can you. If you can dream it, it can be done. Forget circumstances, as they are only temporary. Believe in yourself and you will be unstoppable. You can climb over your own mountains and when it gets hard, keep going. Do not wait until life is not hard anymore to start living.

Bloom where you are planted.

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