As the roof of base-camp appeared, a rush of energy enabled the remaining team members to accelerate, slightly! It might have been seeing the first signs of civilization, the hopes of a toilet as opposed to a hole in the ground, or a warm meal that wasn’t dried fruits or chocolate! Whatever the reason, the lodge seemed to be approaching rapidly.

The first sign that raised concern about the mental state of the lodge designers was the volley ball court. As if the hike hadn’t been enough of a cardiovascular workout, an architect on crack felt it could be nice to have a game where a penalty shot could have you dangling from 3000 meters, not to mention the performance enhancing levels of oxygen in the air!

The sense of humor of the lodge designer/architect was apparent through the first class, unisex, alternating temperature, mildew infested showers; made comfortable by a paper thin towel and a bar of soap the size of a Tic Tac.

However, the state of the accommodations wasn’t going to deter the KK-12 from getting some rest. We all piled on plastic chairs that were designed for size 2 models, heads on the table, we slept soundly! Well, not so much! It seems karmic debt caught up with us, and the disturbances we caused our Japanese fellow climbers was returned and then some.

The Scottish, well-endowed, marathon talker sat behind us telling her table mates what appeared to be the tale of time. All we heard was “yeah but, no but, yeah but, no but” at 100 miles per hour and 250 decibels! Jacko was most offended by the diarrhea of words coming out of the woman’s mouth as she felt the lady gave Scots a bad reputation. At one point, Jacko was so distraught by the disturbance, she lifted a fork and proceeded towards the lady’s table with the intent to extract her vocal cords. Luckily, the water retention in her ankles kept her from reaching her target.

Furthermore, to take the well-endowed Scottish female down, we needed the forces of all the KK-12 members. Unfortunately, Ali had been paralyzed by a tooth cavity, MouRnir and Mahmoud by the amount of food they consumed, Nirmala by the lack of modern amenities, while Iva and Rana were incapacitated by the absence of a clean mirror to refresh their makeup post shower and the rest couldn’t be bothered!

Despite the strange accommodations and the annoying lodge mates, the deck offered a stunning view of the sunset. One by one, the team stood admiring the cloud formations, the yellow, orange and purple hues of the setting sun and the majestic view s of the rain forest below.

To avoid ruining the “romantic admiration of nature“ moment, none of us shared our deep seated fear of what we had gotten ourselves into and only silently wondered how we might make it back down! It did not need to be said; the fact that most of the team proceeded to drink shots of vodka and Whiskey excessively, gave it away!

When Nick mentioned that the sleeping accommodations were a couple of steps away and without heat, everyone thought he was kidding; forgetting that an ex-royal marine is stripped of a real sense of humor and is solely capable of bullying and sarcasm. We attempted to revolt, however, due to the lack of oxygen, the fatigue and low IQ, Nick diverted our attention using a photo opportunity with our newly acquired head flash lights. We quietly proceeded to climb and after 100 meters found ourselves facing the cabin, under a bright sky dotted with beautiful stars and galaxies.

We quickly off-loaded their bags in the 4×2 meter room with 8 bunk beds, and returned outside to marvel at stars we hadn’t seen in years. While some members had vague childhood memories of starry sky’s, most have lived in light polluted cities deprived of the site of starts for the majority of their lives. We were quiet for the first time since we began our trip; left speechless by the beauty of the velvet black, diamond studded blanket that draped overhead.

This state was apparently too much for the slave driver. Worried that he might have to return alone, he broke the silence by mooning the group!

  • Evening stars
  • Mooned by Nick

Nick names

  • Mounier – Billy Goat and MouRnier a misspelling on his ticket that was carried through to all his official travel documents
  • Mahmoud – Moody
  • Nick – Slave driver/boss/Sputnik
  • Iva – Diva
  • Souheil – Beaver aka Castor
  • Rana – Kermi/Superstar
  • Nirmala – Nirmz
  • Dany – Rambo
  • Rama – There was debate about my name. The initial suggestion “Fart Machine” was suggested by Billy Goat because of my keen sense of smell and my ability to smell gas miles away. The team deliberated, and found terms such as Tant Adele, Ticker and finally Goddess far more appropriate.
  • Jackie – Wako Jacko aka

I was selected one of eight to sleep in the 4×2 room. Having never experienced a slumber party in my life, this was a welcome first. In spite of the Motel 4 accommodations, I was determined to have a slumber party before the age of 40.

It wasn’t long before the band of 8 decided which bed each would claim. The problem was the walking space between the beds could only fit two people at a time. Hence, the team mounted the beds while two at a time occupied the walking gap to extract their sleeping bags and toiletries from backpacks.

Midnight chats

  • Rana wanted sauce, or was that socks? Dany wasn’t sure, cause he was so scared of bugs, he wrapped his sleeping bag tightly around his head.
  • Jackie coughed a lung & had bladder control issues.. truth was, she loved the bathrooms and had to go back time and time again to savor the sights and smells.
  • Mounier couldn’t sleep – he tried to play “house” with Tant Adele; when that failed, he wondered the hall talking to random strangers and moaned the rest of the evening because Mahmoud slept so deeply
  • Rama froze & contemplated slipping into a lower bunk for warmth.. she was also scared of falling over because the bunks had no rails.
  • Being the largest one of the team, Nirmz guarded the group in her door side bunker
  • Diva and Moody slept through it all!

We got told off for being too noisy for the dorm – curfew was at 9.

The two adults, Nick & Souheil slept in the other room with Ali & Hussein; the excuse was, the boys wouldn’t share a room with the girls. Rumor has it, there was a mid-night bag carrying strategy session.