The geographical titan that is Mount Kilimanjaro will soon be the backdrop for 17 members of the Kilimanjaro Challenge 9 expedition. This is the ninth edition of Dun George Grima‘s philanthropic collaboration with Keith Marshall. For the past 9 years, Marshall has been training volunteers to physically, emotionally and mentally prepare themselves for the mountainous ascent and back.
Every step made on Kilimanjaro’s terrain is all for a worthy cause. Every year, fundraising activities leading up to the climb have accumulated donations for Dun George’s projects in Africa. All of this comes together with the courage of those who take up the challenge, and there aren’t enough hats in the world to be taken off to them. We’ve caught up with Tezara Eve Camilleri to see how it’s all going.
Who is Tezara?
I’ll actually be turning 25 whilst on the mountain, since I celebrate my birthday at the beginning of January! I’m currently reading for a PGCE in Drama, so I’ve got quite an intensive year ahead. I try my best to get as involved in the local theatre scene as time permits, but for now, I’m just co hosting a TV talk show. I enjoy cooking, reading and looking after children. Gosh, I sound like a 70’s housewife!
What made you decide to take up the Kilimanjaro Challenge?
It’s a funny story, actually. David Schembri, who is now the leader of our team, had just set up his donation page and was sharing it all over social media. Whilst spamming my Facebook newsfeed, he randomly messaged and asked me to share the post. I had known Dave a bit from when I was at university, and we’d always awkwardly wave and make pleasant exchanges whenever we bumped into each other, so I couldn’t just ignore his message. I asked him to give me some more information about the cause… and I bet he was just as shocked as I was when I asked him if I was still in time to join.
I joined them for a trek the following Sunday to test the waters and see if they were the kind of people I could face this challenge with, and I immediately knew they were. Dave had messaged me thinking I could help him with his fundraising, and he ended up pitching another climber! I wonder if he has any regrets…
I heard somewhere that when you’re unsure about whether or not you should do something, there’ll be a 100 reasons why not to do it and just one simple reason why you should. Mine was because I can. I worry about the fund, the altitude sickness, the money I need to fork out to get there, and all the other stresses that come with doing this, but I’ve also got the ability to see the top of that mountain.
You’ve been training for the challenge since February. Could you tell us more about the process?
Because I had only joined in May, I needed to catch up with the others who already had a head start. We train 3 times a week. Sundays are sacred – we wake up at 5am to trek and boulder for a good 4/5 hours, depending on the kilometres we’re aiming to do. We have to get there early because of the sun. The early hours are fine, but when it hits 8.30am, we’d already be sweating buckets.
Our Monday training has now moved on to getting used to trekking on back to back days while still sore from the day before. We don’t have any rest days on the mountain – it’s just climb, sleep, climb, sleep. Wednesdays are the worst and we all dread them every week because Wednesday is Hills day. We’ve found some super steep hills in Rabat and Għargħur, and every week we repeatedly climb the hills. It’s not pleasant.
I would say the toughest part of training is keeping my mouth shut during the hills, because I’d be too out of breath to chatter. On a serious note, I’ve trekked with sore muscles from previous training and it’s painful and all you want to do is stay in bed, but you have to get up and train again whilst still sore.
What dynamics as an individual do you bring to the group?
I’m the loudest of the group, so I’m just going to go with volume! I don’t think they appreciate my high pitched voice in the early hours of the morning, or when we train after a stressful day at work, but I put up with them so they have to put up with me I guess. I help with the marketing side of things through my contacts to get us as much exposure as possible, both on social media and on TV. Unless people know about us and what we’re doing, they can’t really contribute, so I’m doing my utmost to get the media involved.
If you had to take one prohibited item with you up Kili, what would it be?
It’s not so much prohibited, more so inaccessible – internet! I’m spending New Year’s and my birthday in Africa, and as great as that is, I’d really love to somehow make contact with my family and boyfriend on such special days. But I’m excited to be experiencing this time in such a different way. I’ll also miss showers and toilets.
What theme song would you like to have played as you trek up Kili?
We’ve been trying to come up with a theme song for KC9, but we’ve never agreed on one and I bet we’re all going to be humming different songs as we climb. My current tune is Rachel Platten’s Fight Song. There’s something about the lyrics, I guess. Oh, and Brave by Sara Bareilles. For when I really need motivation, there’s always Beyonce’s Who Run The World. I think I need to make an empowerment playlist!
You can make a donation to Tezara’s fundraiser through here.
Get to know the other volunteers, meet David Schembri.