'Trips of lifetime' pay charity bonus

20:43, Feb 11 2013
Big trek: Alyce Gibson, front, with two fellow climbers relax at the Mandara huts after a walk through the jungle. It was the first sleepover point on their slog up Mt Kilimanjaro, and altitude sickness had not yet hit.

A "pretty cool lifetime experience" for Alyce Gibson and other students paid for a borehole that made life easier for thousands of people in a town in Kenya.

Last year, with 20 other fellow students from London's University of Westminster, the former St Orans College pupil climbed the world's tallest free-standing mountain, Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania.

Their combined sponsorship raised more than [PndStlg]25,000 (NZ$46,798) for the charity Dig Deep. It paid for a borehole and a clean water supply for five schools, a health clinic and a centre for children with learning disabilities in Ndanai, Kenya.

In August, Alyce is on the march again for Dig Deep. She is in a group of 32 British university students who will hit the Inca trail to Machu Picchu in Peru. They have set themselves a target of raising [PndStlg]2290 each, which will net well over NZ$100,000 for the charity's work in Africa if they pull it off.

Alyce left Maungaraki and worked as an au pair in London to fund university studies. She has just graduated with a Masters in Journalism from the University of Westminster.

Climbing the 5895-metre Mt Kilimanjaro (Mt Cook/Aoraki is 3754m) last August was "a lot tougher than any of us thought," Alyce, who is visiting her family in the Hutt, told us.


"You hear stories of 10-year-olds climbing it and we took that a little bit to heart."

But it was no walk in the park. Their up-and- down timeframe was unexpectedly squashed from six days to five, several climbers got wickedly sun- burned and altitude sickness took a big toll.

On days three and four, Alyce said most of the group had to be on the move between 16 and 20 hours. By this stage, Alyce could not hold anything down - not even the water their guides kept telling them was crucial.

After five hours to eat and sleep, the party got up at 11.30pm for a walk to Gillman's Point, not far from the peak, Uhuru. It was supposed to take about four hours; it took most of the UK group double that.

Alyce says that but for a kindly and large African guide, "holding my arm in a vice-like grip", she would not have made it. Exhausted, that was as far as she could go.

Only nine of them made it right to the top.

They all learned a lesson: do more training.

Machu Picchu, 2430m, is high enough above sea level for flash hotels in the Cusco region to offer oxygen in some of their rooms.

"It's a more up and down climb than Kili - we've been warned there are a lot of stairs."

Training includes treating the London underground escalators as "strictly off limits. We take the stairs".

Alyce acknowledges that participants in this kind of tourism-with-a-community-cause have critics. Cynics would say such adventurers could just donate the money they'd spend on air fares.

But she says the fact participants also get a memorable experience out of it is the reason such large amounts of money can be raised. The Machu Picchu walkers each aim to raise [PndStlg]2290. It is hardly likely that 32 people would give and raise anything like that amount without the trip.

The cliche "win-win" applies here. Such trips have become Dig Deep's largest source of funding. Nine expeditions are planned this year.

Alyce said a bonus of the trips was enduring friendships. Her Kilimanjaro group still gets together once a month.

"We came from all over the place, but as soon as we started off up that mountain, it was like a family."

See www.digdeep.org.uk

To help Alyce reach her target, go to: mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/ alycegibsontreksmachupicchu

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