The day started at the un-Godly hour of 5:30 am. I don't think I'll ever be convinced that human beings were designed to be awake that early. But I was meeting eight of my Mercy Ships friends at 5:45 to drive to Mount Teide, a volcanic mountain and the highest peak in Spain, to ascend towards the summit.
Armed with filled nalgene's, peanut butter sandwiches, and granola bars, we piled into a Land rover, took winding drive up the mountain to the opening of the trail (the curvy ride almost made me throw up), and began our summit quest as the sun rose at 7:45 am.
It's been really nice to spend time with people outside of Liberia. There is such a stressful atmosphere in Liberia. Everyone is busy and mildly tense, by default simply because of the intensity of Liberia, the fact that over four hundred people are crammed inside a small fish bow, and the sometimes overwhelming sense of the work that needs to be done. I have always realized that I was surrounded by some really amazing people but here, without the pressure, I have been able to see it even more. The group I was hiking with was simply lovely.
I don't have much experience hiking, but I am pretty certain this was a fairly decent climb. The trail was rigid, steep, and at parts icy. I slipped at one point and cut open my knee, got blood all over my pants, but I didn't even bother to stop and apply a band aid so I guess that just means I'm tough :). The peak is over 12,000 ft above sea level, and as we climbed the altitude and thinning oxygen was apparent. I must admit, at times during our assent we all the I-probably-should-have-just-gone-to-the-beach thought, but it made reaching the top all the more enjoyable.
You need a permit to take the trail to the summit, My lovely friend Maria had applied and gotten permits in town for the entire group. The summit trail was steep and the air was thin, but the top was breathtaking. You could see the entire island as well as peaks from the surrounding islands slipping through the clouds. The rocks were white and had a distinct, less than lovely sulfur smell. We ate our lunches at the top while we enjoyed the view and tried to stay warm (I didn't realize how cold it would be on the mountain and was mildly unprepared).
I really love going on adventures and feel blessed to be having these kind of experiences. When we were climbing up a particularly steep and icy part of the mountain I shouted to my friends, "You know, we are not normal. Normal people don't do this kind of thing." My friend Rachel shouted back, "I think we are all crazy."
You have to be at least a little crazy to think living on a hospital ship in West Africa sounds like a good idea. And even crazier to actually go.
After the climb was over, we went out for a hearty Indian meal and spent the hour drive back to the ship singing an enjoyable medley of classic Disney songs. I must say, sitting in the back of a Land rover with friends from New Zealand, Brazil, England, the Dominican Republic, Texas, Maine, and Alaska, singing songs from the Lion King, with a wonderfully tired physical frame, is a pretty amazing moment. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.