Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The End of Phase One. Kili, here we come!

Yesterday was a chocker block full day.  We started the day with briefing by KANAPA, one of WaterCan's local partners.  Then we were off into the wilds to meet with a Massai (sp?) village to learn about their water challenges.  WaterCan and others had helped to provide a Health Centre as well as a school.  Unfortunately, their water source is drying up.  The lack of water has deterred teachers and health officials from coming to the community.  We trekked the 15-20 minutes to go see the water source.  It's a well, about 60 feet down a very steep hole.  Women and children have to climb down to the well and fill up jerry can's that then have to be hauled up and back to the village. But since the well is drying up, they often have to walk as much as 30 Kms to find water.  That often means being away overnight.  In the last year, the Village has lost 12 women and children who were attacked by lions, leopards and hyenas while trying find water.

Making Our Way To The Well In Ngobolo
In Canada, there would be a relatively simple solution to the well problem.  You would drill a bore hole into the aquifer below (in this case you might have to go down as much as 90 metres). Then you would use electric pumps to bring the water up to the surface.  In Ngobolo Village, there is no electricity. Even if there was, the village wouldn't have the means to pay for the electricity, or the maintenance. Solar energy is completely not economical for the community.  We thought we could provide easier access to the well  and add rain harvesting to reduce the dependence on the well.  However, the Massai in Ngobolo aren't the only one's in the area in need of water.  There is already conflict over water. Improving access might cause further conflict.  But we are determined to work with everyone here to find a solution.

The people of Ngobolo were, however, incredibly gracious hosts.  They greet us song and dance.  For many in the community, particularly the children, they had never seen a white person.  After a little early apprehension, the kids all wanted to have their pictures taken and started to point out how pasty white we are, which provide a lot of laughter.

In the afternoon, we drove to another community to visit a primary school.  The school had been slated for closure due to a lack of access to clean water and sanitation.  Because of Watercan's intervention, the school is thriving. It has a student population of just under 900.  I think every single kid, parent, teacher, administrator and public official in the area came to greet us.  We were welcomed by song and dance.  Ben Mulroney and about 10 of the kids did a Skype chat with students from Kanata, Ontario.  It was wonderful to see the kids finding what they had in common (primarily a disdain for homework and chores) and also how different their lives are.  Afterwards Team Watercan members Kevin and Rynette presented the Principal with several soccer balls as gifts from Canada.  Then another climber, Devin Publicover pulled his guitar and performed a song for the kids that he wrote the day before.  They lyrics consisted of some funny Swahili idioms.  Devin was a total rock star and had the kids in stitches.  Afterwards he donated his guitar to the school.  Then it was time to meet the kids close up.  They wanted to dance, sing and high five with us. It was incredibly incredibly joyous and moving occasion.

High Fives At The School
We finished the day with Team WaterCan playing a soccer match with the teachers and staff.  It ended in a draw 0-0.  I think, however, the Tanzanians planned that.  They could have clobbered us if they wanted to.

In the evening, there was a special dinner held in our honour at Kabaya's community centre, where we treated to more Massai song and dance and presentation of gifts.  I got a personalized hand beaded bracelet! It totally rocks! WaterCan's ED, George Yap and Program Director, Kyla Smith were made honorary Massai and presented with traditional dress, which they wore for the evening. We headed back to our lodgings at midnight and were able to grab 4 hours of sleep before jumping in the Land Cruisers and making the long journey back to Arashu.

Once we arrived, we checked into a our hotel for a little R&R and pampering. Most us spent time by the pool trying to get some rest.  Then it was time for a briefing by our guides about tomorrow's Kili climb. After a quick dinner, it was time to prepare our packs. Everyone got to bed early tonight. Everyone, but me that is.  Lol.

We've managed to overcome our phone casting challenges.  You can catch my audio updates with the team at www.watercan.com/kilimanjaro.

Next posts and phone casts will be coming from the mountain folks!

Night, night.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

This Is No Rest Home

It has pretty much been three days of non-stop travel. It took about 27 hours to get from Toronto to Arusha, Tanzania and then 9 hours of driving today to get to Kabaya in Kiteto Region. Here we will see first hand the clean water challenges people face as well as some of the work Watercan is doing help to bring solutions.

A few of the highlights so far were meeting a whole lot of NGO people on the flight. I also had great travel company in a young Ethopian woman, named Lea, and her father. They were just going home after 4 months in the US.  Lea's Dad hasn't been well, so they were in the US to see family and get Dad some medical attention. To see the way Lea cares for her Dad is quite moving.

After arriving in Arusha, fellow climber Mike Wymant and I explored the city and waited for the rest of the team to arrive. In the Massai market, brilliant me knocked over a woman's stack of potatoes. I felt like a complete moron. Then a crazy woman assaulted me. Fortunately, Mike and I had befriended a couple of locals who kept us (I.e. Me) out of harm's way.

Last night, the rest of the team arrived.  We got aquainted over a late dinner and then it was off to bed.

Today was a long,  dusty, bumpy day as we jumped in the Land Cruisers and made the 9 hour trek to Kiteto. For most of the day it was like we were in the middle of nowhere.  We didn't see people or cars, just some antelope and the occasional eagle. It is so dry here that there is dust blowing everywhere and most of the vegetation appears to be dead. When we finally arrived, we were greeted by smiling kids that wanted to play soccer with us and get their pictures taken. We had a traditional Tanzanian dinner with local officials.  

Some of team has decided to grab a pint nearby. I am pooped, so I am off to bed.

Hakuna Matata  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

It has been a terribly eventful 36 hours. I look forward to telling you all about h journey and our first day Tanzania. I have some great stories. I have a new Ethopian friend named Lea who illurstrates the difference between just pretty and beautiful, but will have to tell you all about it tomorrow because I am exhausted and I have t be up in 4 hours. I tell you everything as soon as I canM Hukuna Matata!

Friday, October 12, 2012

And We're Off!

While most of Team WaterCan is enroute to Tanzania via Amsterdam, Michael Wymant and I are travelling via Washington and Ethopia (it's about the Aeroplan points). It's been a great start. Mike and I are getting in some last minute work and getting aquainted over a Starbucks in Dulles International Airport.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

One Last Pre-Climb Post

Before we depart, I should mention that I will be updating this blog as cell reception permits.  I will also be doing daily phonecasts, via satelite phone.  Everyday, I will call in and chat with Team WaterCan members about our trek, so you can get a sense of the people, the experiences and the motivations behind participation in WaterCan's Kilimanjaro Climb for Life.  These audio updates (as well as a link to this blog) can be found at www.watercan.com/kilimanjaro.

See you on the other side!!!

We Raised Over A Quarter Of A Million!!!

The WaterCan Kilimanjaro Team just surpassed our fundraising goal of $250,000!!!  My own efforts have contributed over $18,000, and I understand there is a donation or two still to come in.  That means the team has raised enough money to provide clean water and basic santition FOR LIFE to over 10,000 people in East Africa. Congratulations Team WaterCan!!!  As our reward, we get to climb a very big mountain. Lol. And a sincere thank you to everyone that contributed.  To my family and friends, thank you for your incredible support and encouragement.  I love you all.  Hakuna Matata!   

T-Minus 24 Hours

It's just less than one day to go!!!  I'm all packed, but I am one pound over weight, so I have to toss something. And you know how that goes. You pull out something that you figure you will never need ... and it will become the first thing you really need during the trek.  lol.

All the cool climbers are wearing them!
So what do you think about the latest in training fashion?  I am wearing shopping bags over my hiking boots, so I can wear them inside and make sure they are properly worked in before we leave.  Thanks to Brittany Moorcroft for that piece of advice (http://kiliclimbforlife.tumblr.com/). I have picked up some good pieces of advice by reading what the climbers are doing.

My awesome brother-in-law Jason De Luca
I also want to send a shout out to my brother-in-law Jason De Luca (pictured above) for closing out my training with a very enjoyable hike in the Northumberland Forest and donating to the cause upon our return.

Friday, October 5, 2012


Just picked up the embroidered Kili gear. Here's the light fleece. What do you think? Can you tell who my corporate sponsor is? Lol.

7 Days And Counting

The countdown is on to lift-off!  By this time next week, I will be on a flight to Tanzania ready to embark on one of the most interesting, and certainly most physically and psychologically demanding, challenges of my life ... all for a good cause.

So what's happening at T minus 164 hours?  Well, I get to mellow on the training for one.  Woo hoo!  I am going to do a couple of modest hikes on the weekend, but other than that it's just walking the dog and lots of stretching.  My quads and hamstrings are so tight I have to stretch them all the time. 

So why ease off on the training? The answer is twofold.  You don't want to get injured right before you leave ... and ... you want to pack on a few pounds because you'll lose weight on the climb.

I should mention that we are getting conflicting reports about cellular coverage on Mt. Kilimanjaro. So it may or may not be possible to blog during the trek. To be safe, I am going to have a satelite phone that I will be voice casting from. Every day, I am going to interview Team WaterCan climbers on their experiences and the audio files will be posted on the WaterCan Kilimanjaro Climb For Life webpage (http://www.watercan.com/25/kilimanjaro-climb-for-life/). If I can't access this blog Andrea, from WaterCan, will post to let you know when there is a new phonecast.

What else is going on?  Ohhh!!!  Last night, Agi and I went shopping to pick up the final pieces of gear I need.  I already had most of what I need, or so I thought.  A $1,000 later, I still don't have everything, so I am going shopping again tonight. Ugh!!!  And to my MEC friends on King West.  I love you, I love your stuff, but for a co-op, subsidized by memberships, I thought you'd be more price competitive.  I'm going across the street to Europe Bound tonight. Sorry.

In terms of fundraising, I'm at about $16,500 right now, so more than 3 times my original goal. Woot woot!!!  I'm gunning for $17,000 before we leave (http://give.watercan.com/site/TR/Events/General?px=1008425&pg=personal&fr_id=1040).  And Team WaterCan is fast approaching a total of $250,000!!!  If you haven't been paying attention to the math, that is clean water and basic sanitation for 10,000 people FOR LIFE!  That is not insignificant.  Way to go Team WaterCan!!!!  And thank you everyone for your stellar support.

You know, in addition to the funds being donated the climbers get a lot of other support as well (well at least I do). There are the amazing staff at WaterCan that make sure that we have everything needed to prepare properly for the trip and to support our fundraising and media relations efforts. There's the moral support and advice you get from family, friends and people who have actually climbed mountains.  There are the people who volunteer at or come to events. And there are some that are unexpected and not so obvious.  You already know about my long time friend Blaise, he's been hiking with me on weekends and was rewarded with two broken ribs.  There's my buddy Mark Greenwood who is hooking Kerry and I up with some ultra chic Kili embroidered mountain wear. And then there's my pal Bill Dietrich who hooked me up with a supply of MAX dietary supplements. MAX Cellgevity and MAX ATP have been making my training easier and I am hoping they will help me get up the mountain.  So thanks Billy (AKA The Minister of Happiness).  I'm sure I missing some people, but I'll catch everyone in the end.

On October 3rd, I was at a big event in Toronto, for Brian Mulroney, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement. It was a great evening and I was looking forward to seeing our team leader, Ben Mulroney.  I talked to the former Prime Minister (who, by the way, wishes us much success and asks us to be careful), I talked to Mila, I talked to Ben's wife, but no Ben!!!  And apparently we were standing back to back for a bit. Doh!!!!  I did, however, get to meet Paul Smith, another member of Team WaterCan. Paul is the Chair of Via Rail.  He hasn't done any training (Did any of you catch the pun? Via Rail? Training?)  Paul is an active triathaloner (is that even a word?) so he is always match fit.  Ben and Paul are the fundraising heavyweights on Team WaterCan. We owe a lot to their efforts.

After that event, I headed over to Dundas West where Kerry Freek (the Editor of Water Canada magazine, and the friend who inspired me to join Team WaterCan) was holding a really nice Kili fundraiser.  A big thank you to my friends who came to support Kerry's efforts on behalf of WaterCan.  And I apologize to my friends who had to leave before I arrived.  The only problem with the event is that the venue had a HUGE Scotch and Bourbon selection that Kerry and I were not able to sample.  We plan remedy this grave injustice upon our return.  On the upside, I came home with a Pook Toque!!!  It's a toque made from wool socks.  Proceeds from the night's Pook Toque sales support Kerry's campaign.  It's very funny and yes, I am going to wear it on the climb (I'll try to grab a sexy snap! lol).

So much for trying to do short blog entries from my phone! I'm off to pick up Kili Climb For Life swag that Kerry Freek and I ordered.

See you soon everyone.