Friday, January 18, 2008

Breaking in the new hiking shoes...

...on the slopes of Jebel Jenas in Ras Al Khaimah. It's a moderately difficult 5-hour trek, say the good folks at Mountain Extreme.

Moderate or difficult, we'll find out tomorrow.

Update: The trek was both moderate and difficult. I could swear the incline was 75 degrees in places. And in places, following a goat track at the edge of the precipice was thrilling. But best was the silence, where you could hear even the flapping of a bird's wings... Pics and update will follow.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Thank you, Mr. George Bush!

An unexpected holiday is always good news, except if you're heavily pregnant or if you work at a petrol pump, or if you happen to be wearing those 5-inch Manolos.

M' assalamah Mr. Bush. Do come again... next week.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Gear and now

Also posted at The Kilimanjaro Blog

Mountain of caravans, mountain of greatness, shining mountain - no one quite agrees on the real interpretation of 'Kilimanjaro'. But among the multiple meanings ascribed to it, my personal favourite is 'little white hill'.

Little, indeed.

But Kilimanjaro may well turn out to be a molehill as compared to the bigger problem I'm facing now - gear shopping. There are hardly any outdoor outfitters in Dubai, and the only two I've found - Columbia and Timberland - seem woefully inadequate.

Sample conversation:

Me: Do you have fleece jackets?

Salesman: Yes, ma'am. Right here... (points to a row of sleeveless jackets)

Me: Don't you have jackets with sleeves??

Salesman: Ok, look in the children's section. You might get your size.

If he didn't get advanced hypothermia from the look I gave him, I would be very surprised.

It doesn't get easier when it comes to shopping for the right pair of boots. "Walk down a ramp to check that your toes don't get crushed," suggested Alpha.

Not only were there no ramps in the store I went to, but even options were hard to come by. One pair of tenacious leather boots which would've shredded any toe that fell under it, and one pair of boots with Gore-tex fabric, which didn't inspire much confidence.

All's not lost though. It turns out there's a store right down my street which stocks ski gear at almost throwaway prices. I've never understood their business model, but I'm not complaining right now. I've managed to get a few pairs of gloves and socks, and a fleece jacket or two.

My final resort is to order gear from Alpha's friendly neighbourhood REI and get/request /implore/beseech Alpha to lug it to Nairobi.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Tying a shoelace is like Kilimanjaro, sometimes

Until a few months ago, Kilimanjaro was a personal goal. Having been out of the trekking circuit for close to 3 years, it was a challenge to get back in shape to be able to do a high-altitude trek. But once the training got underway, an opportunity was presented to do more than achieve a personal milestone. And that was to raise awareness and funding for a cause that's close to my heart - Rheumatoid Arthritis.

As some of you might know, my sister, Preeti, had Rheumatoid Arthritis for 7 long and painful years, until she succumbed to complications arising out of the illness almost three years ago. She was 32 years old. The last few years of her life saw her struggle to maintain her familar smiling face even as her joints got swollen and stiff, and her normal stride turned into an awkward limp. Activities that most of us do without even a second thought like jumping aboard a train or sitting cross legged or even raising an arm, fell under the list of movements deemed 'next to impossible' for her. Once, I watched with mounting dismay as it took her a full five minutes to take off a T-shirt and by then, she was panting and staggering with the effort.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is like that. It's also chronic and indiscriminate, striking without any precedent. There's 7-year-old Mazhar*, I've come to know through the Emirates Arthritis Foundation, who's had Rheumatoid Arthritis for the past 2 years. Initially, when it took him almost an hour to get out of bed in the morning, his parents attributed it to laziness. It was only when he cried incessantly and complained of pain even when his mother hugged him, did they suspect something was amiss. Now, the 7-year old, with large, curious eyes, has to sit in the sidelines and watch as his friends play football. Some days it takes him an hour just to wear his shoes. He misses school frequently, and his parents fret that he's unusually moody and silent.

Dr. Humeira Badshah, a rheumatologist with the Emirates Arthritis Foundation asserts that there are treatments that can control the disease, enabling patients like Mazhar to lead a life that's as normal as possible. Most patients respond well to the new treatments, and in time are able to return to school or to their jobs. The main deterrent however, is the cost.

My goal is to raise Dhs. 40,000 (USD 11,000 approx.) for Mazhar's treatment. It's a steep figure, but then, at 19,340 feet, so is Kilimanjaro. In aspiring to one, I'm hoping this other goal will be accomplished as well.

So here's a earnest plea to all of you reading this - if you can contribute a small amount, any amount, for Mazhar's treatment, it would be a huge help. If you can pass on this appeal to family or friends, it would help even more.

You can contribute in cash, cheque or wire transfer. The team at Emirates Arthritis Foundation is also trying to set up an online payment option. Until then, if you would like to contribute, simply write to me - absoluteleela {at} gmail {dot} com. Or to Cathy Leibman, Director-Operations, Emirates Arthritis Foundation - cathy {at} arthritis {dot} ae

I look forward to your generous support for Mazhar. Because a 7-year deserves to be in the playground, not on the sidelines.

* name changed on request

Thursday, January 03, 2008

You know it's a new year when...

... you can't find a single empty treadmill at the gym.

Long live resolutions.