MY STORY | I climbed Kilimanjaro to eradicate pit toilets

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Andiswa Siwela conquered Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, for a good cause. (PHOTO: Provided)

There were times as she climbed the highest mountain in Africa that she wanted to give up.

But Andiswa Siwela was determined to reach the top – not only because it’s an incredible achievement, but also to help raise funds so that the children at Qakazana High School in the Eastern Cape can finally have a proper toilet.

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Here, the 38-year-old woman who works in Cape Town’s film industry shares her incredible story of endurance.

kilimanjaroo, hike, andiswa nosiphiwo siwela

The experienced hiker encountered a few difficulties on her way to the top, but she was able to persevere. (PHOTO: Provided)

“When I decided I wanted to climb Kilimanjaro, I messaged Sibusiso Vilani, the great South African mountaineer who conquered Everest, on Facebook and asked him for advice, that he was happy provide.

He suggested that I choose a good cause to climb for as it would keep me motivated. And I knew immediately what it was going to be.

In 2006, I had visited Qakazana College in Dutywa in the Eastern Cape and was disappointed that not much had changed since I had been a R to 1 student there.

kilimanjaroo, hike, andiswa nosiphiwo siwela

Climbing the mountain was not easy for her, but she really wanted to complete the trip for the students at Qakazana Middle School. (PHOTO: Provided)

I noticed that the children still needed to use a pit toilet to relieve themselves and the school was in desperate need of fencing. So when it came to choosing a good cause to climb for, school was an obvious choice.

I had started the hike in 2010 and had climbed around 40 peaks in the Drakensberg, Cederberg and other ranges.

For Kilimanjaro, I started training last year by timing myself every time I climbed a mountain and working to control my breathing.

On August 28, I began the most ambitious climb of my life in Tanzania along with two other women from Johannesburg whom I had met through the Kilimanjaro Climbing Agency, which had helped to plan the expedition, providing each with their own guide for the six-day trek.

kilimanjaroo, hike, andiswa nosiphiwo siwelalong time to recover. (PHOTO: Provided)”/>

She started to feel sick on the third day and had to take a long time to recover. (PHOTO: Provided)

The first two days were amazing. But on the third day, I started to feel really sick. I think it was the temperature – it was hot during the day but from 4pm it was cold.

I was throwing up and my legs were weak. We decided it was best for me to go down 90m so that I could spend the night recovering at Camp Horombo.

I remember sitting there and remembering why I was doing this. I thought about the change I wanted to bring to school children. I wanted them to have a toilet and a fence.

I told myself I could do it and the reason I felt so sick was that it wasn’t easy. I also thought of Gugu Zulu [the rally driver who died while attempting to climb Kilimanjaro in 2016].

Deep down I knew I was not as fit as I thought and asked God to help me.

I then started the climb and as I did it started to snow. It was like a blessing – the snow was so beautiful and the cooler weather was such a relief.

snow, kilimanjaro

It started to snow when Andiswa started to climb to the top. (PHOTO: Provided)

After joining the group on the fourth day, I felt so much stronger.

We started our trip to the summit at midnight and reached the summit at 10am. I had so much energy. Every step I took was so beautiful. I thought I was going to get to Uhuru [the mountain’s highest peak].

And when I did, I felt so much joy. Along the way, I was able to watch a beautiful sunrise while enjoying a snack with my guide.

As I watched the amazing view from the top it was all worth it.

In total, I raised R 15,000 from the climb. I still need 135,000 more rand and I am very grateful to my boss for agreeing to donate more money to help me get closer to my target.

kilimanjaroo, hike, andiswa nosiphiwo siwela

She also attributes to the sportsman Gugu Zulu, who died on the mountain in 2016, her inspiration. (PHOTO: Provided)

I hope my ascension inspires others to follow their dreams.

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If you want to do something, then get up and do it. If you fail, that’s okay because at least you’ve tried. But even then, try again.

That’s why I took a step back so that I could muster my strength. I wasn’t giving up. I knew I could conquer the mountain – and I did.


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