It’s an astonishing thing to experience. When you open yourself to something unexpected, suddenly the whole universe conspires to bring you new offerings. It’s a bit like the degustation menu in a restaurant. Degustation is a culinary term referring to the careful and appreciative tasting of various foods. The process usually involves sampling small portions of the chef’s signature dishes – just enough to entice and seduce the senses without the accompanying dread of excess that follows a binge. And so it’s been with the Kili campaign.

If you had asked me, I would have told you that I don’t do spontaneous. I don’t do risk. I don’t do adventure. I would have told you that what I do do are timetables, planning ahead, organisation – in fact anything involving a list, preferably colour coded and cross-referenced. I am after all the oldest daughter in a family of five children. I also happen to have a Type A personality – that should tell you just about everything you need to know about me in one fell swoop. Except of course that it doesn’t. As

I’ve discovered, I actually can do adventure and right now I’m all about risk. And happily, when putting your Kili gear together lists are damn handy! I think one of the most beautiful and inspiring things to have come from this experience has been the opportunity to meet some truly incredible people. I was incredibly privileged to meet Sibusiso Vilane. This amazing motivational and inspirational speaker, and the author of the book To the Top from Nowhere is an adventurer, marathon runner, and mountaineer / expedition leader. I got to meet him at a whisky tasting a friend organised for me as a fund-raiser for the campaign. Robyn and I were lucky enough to sit and chat to him about hydration, Kili terrain and the old thorny question of Diamox. (He doesn’t believe you should take it by the way, he swears by good ol’ H2O).

Then there was Mandy Ramsden, who upon opening her newspaper and seeing an article about the ORT campaign called Robyn and arranged to meet her. In May 2010, Mandy became the second South African woman to summit Everest; and the first African-born woman to climb all seven of the World¹s highest mountains on each continent. It took this mother of four, with a successful career in investment banking, only five years to knock off the seven mountains, starting with Kili in 2006. Mandy came to meet the team last week and her words of wisdom and practical advice were immeasurably reassuring and encouraging. I am so indelibly grateful to Robyn for dreaming of this adventure and having the courage to make it a reality. I can never thank her enough for allowing me this opportunity to meet the beautiful group of brave women who are part of the Kili team. I have had the chance to meet explorers, pioneers, ambassadors. In many ways I’ve met my family members and closest friends for the first time, all over again. Their generosity and uncompromising support has been literally overwhelming. They have donated money to the cause, they have cheerfully taken over the organisation of a massive fundraiser that is in every sense my responsibility so that I can have this adventure. They have cheered for me and encouraged me, shown interest in every aspect of the campaign – even the 4:00 a.m. wake ups and the resultant stiff legs.

They have made me feel like I can do this without a shadow of a doubt. I can never repay them for this outpouring of love and support. In the end, maybe what I will ultimately gain from all of this is that I might get to meet me – the real me, stripped of pretence, of artifice, of fear. Deprived of every material comfort, including basic ablutions and placed in the heart of G-d’s universe, perhaps then, in the silence of the mountain, the traffic that invades every waking moment will finally cease. The chatter that is the soundtrack to my life, the on-going noise that questions, undermines, doubts and habitually interrupts may finally, be paused. In the quiet of Kilimanjaro, if I am lucky and if I listen carefully, I may actually get to meet myself.

by Tali Frankel