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OutdoorBlog
The six-day assault of Kilimanjaro via the Macheme route was a walk in the park for me. This was my 16th assault of Africa’s highest mountain, and I had, between 2001 and 2009, survived the other more grueling routes under all kinds of murderous weather conditions. Macheme was easy peasy lemon squeezy.
That last part was only in my head, of course. No mountaineer with his head screwed to his neck at the right angle will disrespect a mountain prior to reaching its summit. It’s a little like telling the crocodile while you’re crossing the deep river on his back that his warty snout is particularly unattractive. You can be sure of this: not only would you not reach the other bank; you’d be croc dinner too!

This is not to lend any credence to the ridiculous superstitions making the rounds about some mountains in Africa. BraveHearts Expeditions and I had to deal with one such unfounded superstition when in 2015 we launched the first abseiling assault on the face of Mount Odweanoma in Kwahu. We were told the mountain was the face of some god, and that setting foot on its face (which we would with abseiling) would be sacrilegious. We abseiled, of course. The gods haven’t shown any interest in us yet. Still, no experienced mountaineer disrespects a mountain. In the case of Kilimanjaro, approximately 1-thousand people are evacuated each year, and some 10 deaths occur annually, mainly due to altitude sickness. You don’t want to be trekking up Kilimanjaro in miniskirt and high heels, wearing attitude and throwing shades at the 4,359-year-old mountain when acute mountain sickness, hypothermia, rock fall and avalanches, colds and respiratory infections contribute to stopping hundreds of people from reaching the summit each season.
But in West Africa, the killer-humidity on the Akwapim-Togo-Buem highlands is so energy-sapping that hiking alpine mountains are such cool endeavours. And it is with this backdrop that I consider an assault of Kilimanjaro as a walk in the park. Except for the bone-calcifying cold at night, of course.

Anyway, so here I was on the fourth day of my 13-man assault of Kilimanjaro. So far, I had escaped the exhaustion some on my team were experiencing, the altitude sickness and constant vomiting of a sweet other, the farting and anti-bath mountaineering policy of yet another team-mate and the I-never-poop-on-mountain-adventures plan of still another. To be sure, I was the envy of everyone else. Then came summit night at Barafu camp. I had been feeling increasingly feverish the night prior. I knew the symptoms of malaria so much that there was no doubt in my mind that the nightmare I had on Night 2 was an indication of how much running-around those annoying plasmodium parasites were doing in my blood. I had the right medication – that oh-so-awful combination of artemether and lumefantrine. Knowing what hell a malaria-free mountaineer experiences in summiting Uhuru, I felt it was necessary to start the dosage early. So I popped the first tablets at lunchtime in the hope that the second tabs by midnight might reduce the symptoms of the malaria and make the final assault easy peasy as well.
Midnight came and Patty, our head porter, woke me up in my tent and offered a bowl of hot water to thaw my thick, frozen fingers. Breakfast consisted of hot chocolate drink and some biscuits (I have since vowed to take a mixture of gari, sugar and groundnuts on all future assaults), and I washed the medication down with breakfast. Then the midnight trek to Stellar Point began. From Barafu (altitude 4,645m) we hauled our backsides through the icy night with nothing to guide our vision except the stars and our headlights. We reached Stellar Point (altitude 5,739 m) at sunrise at enormous personal effort. I could barely put a foot after another. I was far worse for wear than my team-mates who had thrown up every step of the steep, scree-filled slopes. The enormously high altitude of Kilimanjaro had increased the number of my red blood cells. This was my body’s way of dealing with the increasingly thin oxygen amounts in my blood. Consequently, the amount of the malaria medication that attached to each cell increased, reducing the amount of free drugs in my plasma and lessening the effectiveness of the medication. My theory is supported by this University of Cincinnati research.

“In high altitudes, our bodies produce more red blood cells,” says Prof. Wolfgang Ritschel. “Research on the body’s reaction to medication is generally done on subjects who live at sea level, and these results are extrapolated to people at high altitudes. This study suggests that a dosage’s clinical effectiveness should also be tested on people in high altitudes” before assuming effectiveness in high altitude terrains. My assumption that malarial medication would help was proven to be unfounded. Not only did it not help, it induced sluggishness, extreme sleepiness, overwhelming exhaustion, dizzying headache and an overpowering desire to return to my Mama. It was a wonder I made it to both Stellar Point and Uhuru Peak (altitude 5,895m).

As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t have made it without the help of my team mates in the Mountain Goats Clan, the Russian-blooded Sergei, the German Daniel, and his beautiful wife Christina. After we made it to Uhuru, Christina and I (probably the ones who suffered the most on the assault) made it back to Barafu in record-breaking time. Our bodies screamed for sub-peak oxygen and enabled us to literally ski off the summit, but that story is for another day. My point: high altitudes and anti-malarial medication do not mix. Do check your blood plasmodium levels before you assault Kilimanjaro. Your house people might not help you the way mine did.

Yoo.
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By JayJay D. Segbefia, NAV Accra-GHANA I’d like to introduce you to Nii Amate. Nii Amate has participated in almost every BraveHearts Expeditions’ Abseil adventure since the firm rolled out the first-ever commercial abseil project in 2015, taking on challenges between 20 and 50 metres of vertical space every time. On the BraveHearts Expeditions #NoLimits4Kids Abseil adventure on July 6 this year, Nii Amate, scrambling light-footed over rocks to the top of the abseil rig mentioned to Clients Services Manager Ellen Lokko when she asked if he wouldn’t need her help, “I might need some help,” stressing on the point that he would be willing to receive help only if he found himself wanting, but not for a lack of effort. Nii Amate is a 4-year old pupil of the Trinity Montessori School in Dzorwulu, whose dream is to become a Super Hero, an Astronaut and a Doctor. And, at the age of 4, he has achieved the mindset-shift and the intellectual resonance of unapologetic greatness that 75 percent of the Ghanaian population will not achieve until they turn 40. Fifteen minutes after the above conversation with Ellen, Nii Amate made history as the first under-five year old to abseil the Mogo Rock of the Shai Hills Reserve unaccompanied by an adult. The experience of Nii Amate, and the increasing number of kids who face the challenges of the Ghanaian outdoors, is one that is pregnant with lessons towards creating a new generation of young people who have boundless imaginations and believe in their mental capacity to undo the crass mediocrity handed down to us by Ghanaians of the pre-1957 to 1979 stock. It starts by breaking down the chains of mental slavery that have been handed down to us from Ghanaian generations dating as far back as the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade era. And the path to complete intellectual emancipation of the Ghanaian starts with the interaction of Ghana’s Children with the great Ghanaian Outdoors. Outdoor Adventure is good for Kids Increasing evidence demonstrates the many benefits of the outdoors on children’s psychological, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical well-being, including reduced stress, greater physical health, more creativity and improved concentration. Beyond the health and cognitive benefits children gain from free and mentally-unrestricted play in the outdoors, nature also provides them with a sense of wonder and a deeper understanding of our responsibility to take care of the Earth. How exactly can a kid develop a sense of wonder when they are reduced to playing Pokemon Go? Another study by the North Carolina State University’s College of Design outlines eleven amazing benefits of introducing kids into the outdoors. Outdoor adventure supports multiple development domains, supports creativity and problem solving, enhances cognitive abilities, improves academic performance, reduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms, increases physical activity, improves nutrition, improves eyesight (reduces rates of myopia in children and adolescents, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology), improves social relations, improves self-discipline, and reduces stress. Summing up, Hewes and McEwan (2005), quoted in this Children in the Outdoors Literature, are happy to note, “…it is obvious that outdoor play experiences contribute to children’s physical development, in particular to motor development. Less obvious is the learning that happens as children test their strength, externally and internally: how high can I climb? Why does my heart pound when I run? Am I brave enough to jump from this platform?” The same work quotes the natural environment as representing “dynamic and rough playscapes… The topography, like slopes and rocks, afford natural obstacles that children have to cope with. The vegetation provides shelters and trees for climbing. The meadows are for running and tumbling.” What Ghana Needs is a Change in Mind-set Human beings start out as beings of action, mature into beings of thought, and evolve into both. I am no fan of Ghana’s first President, but I am a firm believer in his quote: “Revolutions are brought about by men who think as men of action and act as men of thought.” Central to the Action & Thought evolution is the Power of Questioning, which is the foundation of change and problem-solving. And, all little children ever do is ask WHY? This is why young children are the key to Ghana’s development challenges. As stressed by Theologian, Ghanaian Author and International Speaker, Dr. Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, “The why question has given birth to many inventions. You cannot start solving Africa’s problems, unless you ask why. You must carefully diagnose the problem. Don’t give solutions until you know why. Once you diagnose a problem [it becomes] half the problem solved.” Invariably, children are half-way through solving societal problems by their natural disposition to posing the why question. Why is the sky blue? Why is water wet? Why doesn’t Mommy go to school? Why can’t I use the girl’s washroom? Why can’t I drive? Why does Daddy have the biggest portion of meat? Why do we have dumsor? And these are questions that demand answers… the answers that are difficult for us sometimes to provide but cannot run away from all the same. Such as my good friend Nuerki A-B’s interesting attempt to answer a simple question posed by her daughter as quoted below: Daughter: Wow, look over there, Mommy. Many cows. Nuerki: Very observant, Ace-Ann. Let’s learn a new word for next time you see so many. Use cattle instead of cows. It is more accurate. Daughter: But cows is a word… Nuerki: Yes, but it is largely used for females. Females are girls. What you saw back there was a mix. Daughter: Okay…so, what are the boy cows called? Nuerki: Bulls Silence for 3mins. Daughter: What do the girls look like? Nuerki: (Picks up the phone as a point of escape) But in the outdoors, when we push them beyond their limits of mental endurance, they may find the answers to their questions and more, for the lesson book of nature is exhaustless, and calls forth the powers of the most contemplative elements of the human mind in her quiet majesty and unspoken Greatness. Like Nii Amate, kids have no fears. We simply must refuse to pass ours on to them. This we can do by signing them up to hiking, trekking, abseiling, canoeing, rock-climbing, camping, and many other outdoor adventure activities that would not only improve their physical well-being but, more important, shape their mental faculties in the direction we all will be proud of, in a country that is bogged down with so much mediocrity it cannot solve its own energy needs in a sub-region inundated with solar and ocean power-generating potential. No limits for Kids, I say!  
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