Friday, 5 September 2014

Trekking towards Summit Nutrition

When I'm in need of inspiration, I need look no further than my beautiful parents. To me, my Mum and Dad are pretty darn amazing. They have worked themselves to the bone establishing and running their own business for 17 years whilst simultaneously raising my sister and I (tough gig, that one!). My parents have certainly instilled into me the meaning and importance of hard work and determination.

When they're not working, you'll find my parents at the footy or rugby, in the great outdoors, or most likely in the gym. (Hhhmmm, maybe that's where I get it from.....). Dad's always trying something new in the gym, pushing a little harder and going a little further. A jog outside turned into a 5km run, then a 10km run. Then next thing you know he's planning the year around various half marathons. Similarly, a touristy climb up Adam's Peak in Sri Lanka lead to climbing Mt Kinabalu in Borneo. Still yearning for more, Dad pulled out the big guns this year and took on Mt Kilimanjaro. "Mt Whaaaat?," you may asking. Mt Kilimanjaro, located in Africa, is the world's tallest free standing mountain at 5895 metres or 19 341 foot tall. Technically speaking, it is not a mountain at all, but a dormant volcano. No small feat, that's for sure. However I am extremely proud to say that Dad did conquer Mt Kilimanjaro!! In honour of Father's Day this weekend, this blog is all about Dad and his Kilimanjaro adventure. He shares some of his memories, including the food he ate, below:

"Before leaving for Tanzania, I did a lot of research, some of which included the food available on the trek. My reasoning was simple; I had prepared physically and mentally for the challenge, but what if something simple like an aversion to the food caused me to fail?? Thankfully my research told me I had nothing to worry about, and I soon found for myself that was the case. Our trip was organised by a local Tanzanian group called Kilizone. I spent some time talking to our head guide John Lyimo about the food. John himself was a chef /cook, who had worked his way up the chain over twenty years. After doing some 300 summits himself, he had a very good knowledge of what  foods were available, necessary, nutritious and healthy. He, his fellow senior guides, the camp cooks, local suppliers and Kilizone management  got together on a regular basis to discuss these matters. It was surprising to learn that EVERYTHING we ate over the 8 days on the mountain was carried there by porters! No shops, no cold storage depot, no freezers - it was all carried in. This meant we got fresh food each day, including locally grown fruit such as mango, pineapple, bananas and avocado, which were abundant. 
The very first day started with a boxed lunch of chicken, fruit, juice, cake and biscuits. Upon arriving at camp that afternoon, we were greeted with popcorn, tea, coffee and hot chocolate.
The evening meal always started with soup and bread; it was very good soup too! The main meals were either meat or chicken and sometimes with rice or pasta. There were also vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potato (a curious white variety), carrot and aubergine. The meals were always tasty, flavoursome and plentiful. Dessert was usually fruit, or sometimes pancakes with jam and honey. 

Breakfast was always porridge or chocolate flavoured millet. The porridge was way more popular than the millet! Eggs, sausages, toast and tea, coffee and hot chocolate were also available. On top of the provided meals, I also snacked on trail mix (aptly named in this case!), energy bars, fruit purloined from breakfast, lollies, and chocolate bars.

One guide always ate with us, which we all thought was very nice, but it turned out it was for a reason...he watched who was and who was not eating! Higher altitude dulls your appetite and sometimes you really have to force yourself to eat; no food = no energy, no energy = no summit.  There were two occasions I had to force myself to eat; one after a particularly grueling 9.5 hours on the trail which left me windburnt, sunburnt and tired. Dinner was really hard to get down that night. I was about to refuse, due to gagging just trying to get it down, but I persevered, took my time and thankfully managed to keep it down. I struggled to eat again on Summit morning, but accepted the eggs and graciously turned down the sausages, knowing they would otherwise repeat on me for the next 12 hours! 

On top of the food, liquid was critically important. We needed to drink 3-5 litres per day. I carried 3 litres of water with me and made it a point to drink it all, on top of tea coffee, even if it meant peeing every 45 minutes! At one stage I even stopped to drink water from a stream coming straight off the mountain - nothing like it! The guides explained that particularly above 4000 mtrs they liked us to drink coffee for it's stimulatory effect, which got your heart going, your blood circlulating and supposedly got your oxygen levels up (!?) In any case, it was good African coffee!

Looking back, it seems all we did was eat and drink! It was all for a good reason; 8 of the 10 trekkers in the group made the summit, fuelled by good diet. We spent 6.5 days ascending from 1500 metres to 5895 metres, and merely 1.5 days coming down again, covering approximately 80 to 100 kms. Despite the sumptuous feasts on the mountain, I lost 2kg on the journey. 

A fabulous celebratory meal was prepared for us at the bottom. Extremely tasty rice, savoury chicken, a myriad of side dishes, and a lovely spicy tomato relish, all washed down with Kilimanjaro beer and some champagne.....we had earned it!"

Dad at the Mt Kilimanjaro summit with "Summit Buddies" Bryce (left) and Ashley (right).

Thanks Dad! Congratulations on summiting Mt Kilimanjaro and living to tell the tale! I knew you would make it, especially after watching you prepare meticulously for months and months. You are incredible! Thank you for sharing the culinary tales of Mt Kilimanjaro. I wouldn't mind trying the white sweet potato myself, with a side of that spicy tomato relish too! I also think the chocolate millet may need to be recreated for #wednesdaybreakfastclub, it sounds quite decadent! It's great to have you home safe and sound. Good luck preparing for Everest Base Camp!!!!!

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