THE SHINING MOUNTAIN
Fairlady|November/December 2021
Summiting Kilimanjaro will change your life in strange ways. It’s not about how high you can climb; it’s more about how deep you can reach inside yourself.
LIZA VAN DEVENTER

‘REMEMBER YOUR WHY.’

On the evening before we were going to summit the mountain that had become so huge in our lives, accomplished mountaineer Sibusiso Vilane, our team leader, gathered us all below the crater rim. He spoke quietly, but his words struck home: ‘Remember your why.’ Four days into hiking the Rongai Route, we were about to summit Mount Kilimanjaro from Camp Kibo, one of the three volcanic cones. He was reminding us to hold on to what it was, in our lives, that had brought us to that point.

Sibusiso is the first black African to conquer the Three Poles Challenge (South Pole, North Pole and Mount Everest). I was comforted by the fact that we were in good hands… but I was also terrified.

Our long walk to the summit started at midnight. When the sun finally rose a lifetime later, we were already standing near the top: 5 895m above sea level. And we were all digging deep to find our why.

Group dynamics are always interesting, but few things are more bonding than sharing the hardship of climbing the highest mountain in Africa as a group with a shared goal – not only to summit, but also to do it on Mandela Day. We were there as part of Trek4Mandela, an expedition founded by the Imumba Foundation that summits Kilimanjaro every year on Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Its goal is to support the Caring4Girls initiative, which addresses the harsh reality of period poverty: the fact that so many girls miss school because they have no access to menstrual hygiene products. Caring4Girls helps vulnerable and indigent girls to access these products while also promoting menstrual health, hygiene and puberty education across Southern Africa.

SUPPORT

My own why started two years before, when I met Richard Mabaso, CEO of Imbumba Foundation. Richard is humble and driven, and being around him has inspired me to be better and do more. Professor Thuli Madonsela was part of our expedition, and I admire her so much. We had long talks on the hikes we did in the runup to our climb, and the personal process of affirmation and meditation she used to calm her mind helped me with my own preparation too.

Our group was small: 10 climbers in total, which made it very intimate. As we walked, we shared personal stories: strangers at the start of our training, we were became close in the face of our common challenge. Listening and talking were really acts of encouragement and support: without identifying it as such, what we were doing was articulating our whys to one another and to ourselves.

These connections were crucial when we started walking on summit night. We fell silent, moving inside ourselves to find the strength we needed. All I could hear was the breathing of my teammates and, every so often, the porters breaking into song to encourage us. Sometimes a fellow climber stopped in her tracks, unable to take another step from sheer exhaustion. Together we would remember her why, and we would hold onto each other, slowly taking just one more step forward together; another step towards making our dream come true.

Not everyone made it. But the mountain will still be there when the time is right for them.

STRENGTH

Dr Lerato Masenya, the youngest climber in our group, was born in Ga-Dikgale, a village near Polokwane, to a teacher and a migrant labourer. Her physical and mental strength gave her the nickname ‘Strong’ on the climb.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FAIRLADYView All

WRITING WHAT SHE LIKES

South African author Karen Jennings’ novel An Island has been long-listed for the 2021 Booker Prize. Currently living in São Paulo with her Brazilian husband, she tells us about her book and how many naps it takes to conceive a plot.

5 mins read
Fairlady
November/December 2021

WRITING TRUTH POWER

We pay tribute to eight of the many women journalists out there right now putting themselves on the line for all of us.

10+ mins read
Fairlady
November/December 2021

THE SEARCH FOR THE FOUNTAIN of YOUTH

Human growth hormone (HGH) is being hailed in some quarters as a weight-loss and youth elixir. But is it? And should you try it?

6 mins read
Fairlady
November/December 2021

THE SHINING MOUNTAIN

Summiting Kilimanjaro will change your life in strange ways. It’s not about how high you can climb; it’s more about how deep you can reach inside yourself.

8 mins read
Fairlady
November/December 2021

❛I was part of the KwaSizabantu cult❜

As a child and adolescent at KwaSizabantu Mission, Erika Bornman witnessed the brainwashing and public beatings of young children. She herself was molested by her counsellor and branded a ‘slut’ when she tried to stop him. Erika has spent decades trying to get people to pay attention to what went on at the ‘mission’. It seems people are finally listening.

4 mins read
Fairlady
November/December 2021

On the bright SIDE

WE’RE HEADING INTO SUNNY DAYS ARMED WITH AN ARSENAL OF SUMMERY STAPLES: THINK CUTE COZZIES, BREEZY COVER-UPS, OVERSIZED SHIRTS, ALL-WHITE ENSEMBLES AND JUST A LITTLE BIT OF DRAMA, LIKE A PAIR OF GLITTERY EARRINGS.

2 mins read
Fairlady
November/December 2021

HOW TO MAKE AMENDS

IT’S NOT EASY TO BE THE ONE TO EXTEND THE OLIVE BRANCH AFTER A FALLOUT, BUT LET IT BE THE GIFT YOU GIVE YOURSELF – AND ANY RELATIONSHIPS YOU WANT TO SALVAGE – THIS HOLIDAY.

6 mins read
Fairlady
November/December 2021

BE A ❛SMALL GOD❜

It’s a truism that helping other people makes you feel good too, but figuring out how to apply your talents isn’t always easy.

7 mins read
Fairlady
November/December 2021

AFLOAT in France

BOATING ON THE INLAND WATERWAYS OF FRANCE ALLOWS YOU TO ENJOY THE SCENERY AND THE SIGHTS OF THE COUNTRYSIDE WHILE AVOIDING THE MORE STRESSFUL SIDE OF TRAVEL. A CRUISE BY CANAL BOAT ON THE CHARENTE RIVER IS A GORGEOUS, RELAXING CHOICE.

6 mins read
Fairlady
November/December 2021

Bounce Back Mountain

How a retreat in beautiful surroundings can provide new perspectives on wellness, wine and hunger.

5 mins read
Fairlady
September/October 2021
RELATED STORIES

The Strange Tale of Nelson Mandela's golden Hands

How a piece of lavish memorabilia became an art world albatross

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
August 03, 2020

THE MAN WHO FREED MANDELA

FW De Klerk, the final president of apartheid South Africa and the man who freed Nelson Mandela, has died.

1 min read
Daily Star
November 12, 2021

For keeps?

Pretty is pregnant and she has no idea whether to keep the baby or not – but everyone else has an opinion.

5 mins read
TVPlus - English
23 September 2021

‘THEY MUST PAY!'

Families of babies who had their arms amputated as a result of alleged negligence at an Mpumulanga hospital speak out about their anguish and anger

5 mins read
YOU South Africa
5 August 2021

A One-Time Affair?

Ndabezinhle lands in a one-night stand with a new intern, but the evening proves to be more than she can handle.

4 mins read
TVPlus - English
25 March 2021

Planning and timing: crucial success factors in cattle production

Lerato Senakhomo, the 2020 Agricultural Research Council's National Emerging Beef Farmer of the Year, runs her Nguni herd in a semi-intensive feeding system. She believes the keys to successful cattle production are proper planning and good time management. Siyanda Sishuba visited her farm in Gauteng.

4 mins read
Farmer's Weekly
February 19, 2021

Grasping At Straws

Ndabezinhle finds hope and healing following the untimely death of her best friend Mnqobi.

3 mins read
TVPlus - English
14 January 2021

Pretty awful

Pretty’s modelling dream turns into a nightmare when Nimza takes his ogling too far.

6 mins read
TVPlus - English
22 October 2020

Mark of dynamism

Those with emotional resilience at the core of their management philosophy will emerge as resourceful leaders when the going gets tough.

6 mins read
Indian Management
October 2020

Animal Welfare – Donation Drive Success!

“As our national donation drive came to an end on 18 July, Mandela Day, we felt extremely proud of the result that we were able to achieve, with the help and support of our customers and members of the surrounding communities,” says Genevieve Baptie, Marketing Manager of Absolute Pets.

1 min read
Canine Zone
October/November 2020