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Stepping Outside Your Boundaries - My Kilimanjaro Climb, by Joni Harris

Updated: Feb 26, 2023

Have you ever considered doing something that was never on your radar before and thought, WHY NOT?

That’s what happened to me in March 2021. I had just gone through a major life change when I came across a friend’s post on Facebook about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with PJS Challenges; a company providing once in a lifetime Kosher & Shomer Shabbat trips around the world.

That’s when it hit me; WHY NOT!

After many phone calls and lots of planning, in October 2022, my friend Meredith and I found ourselves setting off to Tanzania for 12 days, not knowing what to expect.

What I received was a TRIP OF A LIFETIME

Our first 2 days in Tanzania included meeting the other members of our group and getting our bags packed for our 7-day mountain climb. Our group of 6 climbers included: 4 from Israel plus me and Meredith, and we ranged in age from 28 to 76.

On Day 3, it was time to head to the mountain. I was so excited to climb. Before this trip, I had only learned about Africa from books or movies. The drive to the mountain exposed me to the simpler and seemingly happier life of the local Tanzanians. I saw this in the people and heard it from speaking with the crew that joined us along the way. They have what they need and don’t feel deprived not having something because they don’t miss it. In turn, the people seem much happier and peaceful.

Once at the entrance gate, before we started our ascent we were educated about Kilimanjaro and shown a mountain replica. We learned that Mt. Kilimanjaro is the largest freestanding mountain in the world, made up of 3 volcanoes that range from 1 to 6 million years old and that it consists of 5 different ecosystems.

With incredible excitement reverberating through the group, we were all ready for this journey. As we started out, I was surprised how slowly we took each step but was told climbing slowly will help us acclimate to higher altitudes. Our guides kept telling us “pole-pole”, Swahili for “slowly-slowly”. We climbed 2 to 6 miles per day, ranging 2 to 10 hours per day. I experienced stepping out of my comfort zone throughout the climb. I was cold and dirty, had a few massive headaches from altitude changes, and got very little sleep. However, nothing could stop me from continuing to the summit. I was excited to be here!

Two of my favorite parts of the climb were being above the clouds and walking through them, and our midnight climb to the summit at 19,340 ft. Each day we climbed provided ample time to think about life, future goals and get to know my new friends. The midnight climb was the most challenging day lasting 12 hours. Seeing the sunrise was incredible and reaching the summit gave me an unbelievable sense of accomplishment.

What better way to end our trip, we added a 2-day safari with PJS Challenges. It was nothing less than thrilling to see animals in their natural habitat; a bucket list must do!

We made life-long friends, and this journey taught me that age is irrelevant. So, as I start thinking about my next adventure, I wonder, who will join me?

By Joni Harris

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