Trek Kilimanjaro : Part Two of our Climbing Kilimanjaro series
Our second part starts as our guest, Cindy Vranken, reaches the summit of Kilimanjaro and tells the tale of her rather exciting and unexpected trip back down to civilization. If you missed Part One, you can check it out here. Our Part One webpage has all the nitty gritty details you need to know about climbing Kilimanjaro and dealing with altitude (including altitude sickness). Be sure to download the FREE Trekking Kilimanjaro Travel Planner ( see click box below)!
Meet Cindy Vranken! She's the AMAZING woman who was overweight, hated to exercise, had never hiked or camped, yet set her sights on summiting Kilimanjaro AND successfully did so on her first attempt!
Learn about why Cindy did it and how she mentally and physically prepared for her attempt to climb Kilimanjaro in Part One of this podcast series. In today's episode we learn about her scary and ultimately rewarding journey back down the mountain – it's a Not to be Missed Episode!
Cindy's group was comprised of business owners. As an incentive and motivator, each chose a favorite charity to climb for and raise money for. Her group included:
Cindy Vranken (my interviewee)
Esther Groenewegen (main photographer)
Hugo Bakker (Cindy's ‘Instigator')
Mariska Van Gennep
We've just touched on a bit about climbing Kilimanjaro on this page. You can listen to the rest of Cindy's AMAZING story by clicking on the podcast link at the top of the page.
There's LOTS more details on the Part One page you can access here. It has the trails, altitude and altitude sickness info plus much more to help you plan. Be sure to also get the FREE Climbing Kilimanjaro Travel Planner by clicking on this box!
About our guest, Cindy Vranken:
Cindy's business: Megacindy
Selling from the H.A.R.T method
CIndy and her entrepreneurial friends climbed for a cause! Here are some of their causes:
Mariska van Gennep: (whose business has the same name). Mariska is an author and public speaker about caregiving. Website: https://mariskavangennep.nl . The charity is https://alsopdeweg.nl
Jan Everts: Climbed on behalf of https://wins.foundation/en/
TIME STAMPED SHOW NOTES
00:55 Did Cindy summit?
05:43 Was it worth it? What was it like to summit?
06:47 Empowerment and achieving large goals. Inspiration and how to reach a goal.
08:10 How did Cindy get back down? The COLD!
09:45 Cindy can no longer wait and starts RUNNING.
11:11 Cindy feels invincible
12:04 Cindy ignores the danger
12:54 Cindy's feet are hurting
13:33 Cindy is unable to hike down: stretcher
14:40 The stretcher and surrender of control
16:00 Cindy thinks she's going to die
17:53 What was it like to make it back down? Apprecition and gratitude
22:20 Any regrets despite the terrifying return?
23:12 Cindy is changed forever and releases her fears
24:40 Cindy gains confidence in her new body and mind
25:16 Cindy advises potential Kilimanjaro trekkers
26:16 How to reach your Big Audacious Goals
27:13 Encouragement to do more adventure travel and it changes Cindy's life for the positive
28:48 Hiking is special
29:15 About Cindy and MegaCindy, her business
31:04 Kit asks listeners for a ten minute chat. Contact her on the link above or at Kit[at]activetraveladventures[dot]com or call two-five-two-five-one-five-sero-one-six-six in US and leave a message with your name and your phone number if I don't pick up.
COMPLETE TIME STAMPED TRANSCRIPT
Kit: 00:00 In our last episode on Kilimanjaro, we learned that Cindy may have made it to the top of the summit of Kilimanjaro, but I teased that she did not get back on her own two feet. In this Part Two episode of our Kilimanjaro Trek, as Paul Harvey says, we get ‘the rest of the story' and what a story it is! I can't wait for you to hear it. So Cindy and our Part One of this series on trekking Kilimanjaro, we learned about your training, your preparation, your, your mental attitude, and the changes that you had to make, your inspirations… We learned you were 80 kilograms overweight, that you had never hiked or camped before. You hate to exercise, and yet you decided to take on one of the most difficult challenges most normal hikers could ever do. So here's the question everybody wants to know, did you make it to the top?
Cindy: 00:55 Yes, I did. Yeah, it was really a amazing as well as its was a honestly what we decided because normally the normal procedures, when it's a summer day, so you start that at midnight, you start at 12, at midnight and normally between six, seven, eight in the morning you reached the summit. So that is the procedure for the normal groups. But as I said, we were a group that was quite weaker, slower, so they decided instead of a leaving midnight and because at the end of the day we were already exhausted. We're gonna leave now that midnight, but we'd leave in the morning. So we're gonna leavethe earliest in the morning at 7:00-7:15. We're gonna leave. So that's during the day when the sun is there, we can go up and it will be easier because when you start at midnight, of course it's freezing and it's going to be the hardest. So yeah. So we started in the morning and actually, we arrived at I think it was – I need to check- but I think it was 6:45 in the evening. It was just before dark, so, and I was the second to finish from the group. So, there were still people behind me for 30 minutes or more, so I did have a picture on the summit when, when you still see a little bit of me and, and on the summit. But, it was amazing. It was amazing. Yeah.
Kit: 02:43 So what are you thinking as you're seeing that you're getting closer and closer to the summit sign?
Cindy: 02:50 I must say because the thing is, they wanted us to stay together. So we reached the last part before going actually to the summit. It's called “Stellar Point” and so they wanted to us to stay together and it was, I believe around… I'm not quite sure because of course they didn't want to say the time or, but I believe it was around three in the afternoon, 3:30, something like that. And so then I talked to the head guide and I said, “Listen, I said I cannot take it any longer waiting for the other people,” because sometimes we had to wait, like, we walked five minutes or 10 minutes and we have to wait five minutes. So I said I want to keep moving, so just give me the summit guide. So I even forgot his name, but actually he was so nice.
Cindy: 03:49 So I said, let's give that person to me. So he stays beside me. When there is a problem, but I want to keep moving. And so they agreed. So it's hard to explain perhaps what I, like I said I was exhausted. But when I reached that point I was like, now I'm going to reach the summit. Nobody can stop me. And I was determined to reach it before it was dark. So I knew I had to keep moving, so that's what I did and just a few hundred meters. So all of a sudden my summit guides looks and he says, “Cindy, can you see the sign?” And I just saw it and it was like perhaps, I don't know, a 150 meters, something like that. I started running but normally you cannot run, you know, it's like “poly poly” [slowly in Swahili] one step and then the next step.
Cindy: 04:49 But I would, the last energy that I had in my body, I had two sticks as well and I started like crazy, like a crazy person, like really like one, almost running any. And he was like, relax, relax you. But I was so excited like I want to reach the summit and the. So with the last energy in my body, I just went there very quickly and, and I just, I fell down on the, there is like a rock there and I just fell down and I started crying and yeah, it was amazing. Amazing. It was amazing.
Kit: 05:33 And once you were there, was it all worth it?
Cindy: 05:37 Yes. Yes, yes. Actually. So there was another person and another person so the two men, they just arrived a few, like 30 seconds before me and they just asked me how do you feel and I just screamed, but it was a scream that's like, it was so from inside, I cannot repeat it anymore. It was so deep a scream like a I did it, you know, I couldn't believe I did it. And so how did I feel? I think the feeling, I cannot describe it. It's just amazing. Like you feel like you have so much power. Nobody can stop you. There are no limits. No. Like I can reach everything I want. I can reach all my dreams. There is nothing that is impossible for, for me. That's how I felt.
Kit: 06:39 I've never done anything as difficult as you, Cindy. But I love the feeling of empowerment and the self competence you get when you achieve one of your goals. When you're doing something like this.
Cindy: 06:51 Yeah, yeah. I felt like, yeah, I felt so amazing. Like wow, if I put actually a. and that's what I always tell my customers is like a, you know, you have to be a sure, determined like “What do you want? What do you want in life?” And then just put a goal and go for it and just believe that you can do it and let nobody stop you and just take action and keep moving. And that's what I saw. What I felt like was like, I can do anything I want as long as it. And as long as you put your mind to it. I mean, I'm not a sportsperson I didn't have any experience. I was overweight. But I did it. I did it. So everybody can do it. Everybody can reach his dreams… can reach what he wants as long as you put your mind to it, as you put effort to it, as you focus on it, as you take the right action. And that's what I really believe deep inside of me, that, that you can reach anything that you want get.
Kit: 06:51 I couldn't agree with you more, Cindy, and now you're at the top and it's dark and you still have got to get back down. Tell us about that, Cindy.
Cindy: 08:20 Yeah, that one's actually, that was the biggest lesson for me because I thought, okay, I have reached the top. So it's like you're excited, you're screaming, you're emotional- all emotions come out. And, and then all of a sudden I felt the cold and it was 6:45. I was there like 10 minutes taking pictures, blah, blah blah. And then the others were coming in. But I felt like I started freezing because during the day you put on clothes, you put off clothes. So there was a lot of sweat, you know, so you are wet and then all of a sudden I felt my body like, “Oh my God, I'm freezing. I'm freezing.” And I started shaking. So, the problem was that the other part of the group, like three people that we're not yet there, and the head guide was not yet there, so, but I felt like I need to go down because I couldn't breathe. I just had one thing in my mind: I need to get down, I need to get to the camp and a want to breathe… to go back to 4,600.
Cindy: 09:24 Of course it was dark, and they said, “No, you have to wait.” And, and I was like, “No, I'm not going to wait.” There was something in my mind, I, I cannot explain why I did it, but I was determined I'm not going to wait for the group and not because I started shaking and everything. I said “No, and I'm dying. I cannot stand the cold.” So I told my summit guide, I told him, “Help me. We're going down.” And and he was first hesitating, but, I say, “I cannot stand it anymore. Please, please help me. I need to go down. I'm freezing.” So, I just started running, Kit. I started running, running down the mountain, like really running, but at a certain moment I started gliding, you know, like when there is a lot of, so you go down and then you have the rocks and then you slide like you slide, but with my feet, so there were a lot of parts when I was, we went really very fast because when I started running I get a little bit warm again. And so that's what I did. I didn't look behind. So at a certain moment because I didn't realize that that was very strange because I'm a person that likes security. I think security is very important. And I was really… I'm a person that has also has a lot of fears. But it was like I felt invincible. I didn't think about the danger, because if we would have, I felt invincible and I'm at a certain moment I started realizing, “Cindy, what are you doing?” If something happened, if the two of you, because honestly four or five, five times we fell. But the guide took me and we were able to get it, so, and I was thinking it crossed my mind like, “What are you doing?”
Cindy: 11:28 Because, then all of a sudden he hit the guide. We saw somebody was screaming at us, and so I told my guide, “Don't listen, just keep running!” And he said, “No, no, we have to wait!” And then we just waited two minutes and he said, “Listen, you have to wait for the group. It is dangerous because if you fall, you're only the two of you, it's dangerous. And so on and so on. And I just told him, “Listen, I don't care about the danger. I want to go down.” So it's so contradictory to the person I am and my values. But it was just, I think the cold because I didn't want to feel the cold. And, and so the person, decided to come with us. So there were then two guides and myself.
Cindy: 12:13 And so at a certain moment, I think it was, we have been running for one hour, I felt like a lot of pain in my toes, because I was sliding all the time downwards and I was running, I was putting a lot of pressure on my toes and, but it felt like, okay, we have to keep moving. So I felt it a bit, but I didn't care about it because my only goal was to be in the tent to have something hot… warm… you know. And so I continued, but I felt like, “Oh my God, my feet are hurting.” So by the time arrived in the camp… Honestly, I think normally you do it about, I don't know, like three hours I think to get back, I think I did it in one hour and a half so I couldn't walk anymore and my feet started hurting. So I took off my shoes and then I see that my toes and everything, it's, it's blue, it's completely swollen and blue. So I had hurt both my feet and that was a problem.
Kit: 13:22 So then what happened?
Cindy: 13:23 Okay, so the next day, they looked at my feet and they immediately decided (the head guide and the other guides, that she cannot go on foot because we were going down for the whole day: it is going to be a very rough day to go downhill. And with the injuries that I had on my toes, it was impossible for me to do that on foot. So they decided they're gonna bring me down with a stretcher.
Kit: 13:23 That had to be a fun.
Cindy: 13:58 That was actually, that was the hardest part. That was for me the biggest lesson of the Kilimanjaro. It was not going up the hill, but it was the fact that I had to surrender to a six strangers that were running like crazy down the hill from. So we decided to go really from 4,600 meter to 1800 meters. So they were running like crazy on a wooden stretcher. And for me, honestly, I thought I was going to die and that was the hardest part because I was screaming, I was shouting. I got so many bumps on my head. I thought I'm going to be in a coma before I'm down the hill. So at certain times I stopped them. But the problem is they cannot slow down. If you go down the hill you cannot say, “Oh, we'll do it slowly.” You have to do it very fast and sometimes somebody falls. So then I just flip and for me it was, I thought honestly I thought I'm going to die. It's finished. And I looked down sometimes it was like 40 meters down. So I, I just thought I'm not going to survive. And, and so that was for me the hardest lesson just to surrender, to give away my control because I'm a control freak. And so in, in the preparation towards the Kilimanjaro, I had done everything that a person can do to prepare because I want to keep in control. I couldn't do anything. They just put me on the stretcher with ropes so I couldn't move. Yeah, it was a nightmare. It was a nightmare for me. Yeah.
Kit: 15:50 So when you're saying 40 meters down, is it like you're on the trail and that on an edge or a ledge where it's 40 meters down, like a cliff on the side?
Cindy: 16:00 Yes, yes. There were many times that it was it cliff on the side and so there are some very technical parts and then they were discussing, they put me down on the stretcher and I was lying and then they were like, okay, I understood it, like they were talking to each other, “We should do it this way, we should do it that way.” And then they were arguing and because I mean there are rocks everywhere so I was so afraid that if one or two persons, they slip or they fall down. And so you have a two persons on the right. Two persons on the left, one in the front and one in the back. So if one or two persons in the right falls, then you flip over, you see? So yeah, I mean it was terrifying. It was the most terrifying experience of my life to be honest. And the certain moments. So I started shouting and in the beginning they say stop and then they stopped. I tell them I'm hurting and are you crazy? And they say, “We're sorry, but we have to. We don't want to hurt you but we have to go down. We want to help you”, and this and that. So they say relax, relax. But it was crazy. Like my head was shaking up and down and up and down. Sometimes I flew like half a meter in the air. But they did what they could. I honestly believe they would give their life for me. But that experience felt like for me was the hardest experience I've ever had in my life, really.
Kit: 17:44 Obviously since we're talking, you made it down the mountain, what was it like when you finally made it back to civilization?
Cindy: 17:51 It was like surreal because when I was down I, I arrived many hours before the others, and then there was a celebration and singing and then we went with the bus to the hotel and where you can breathe. And so I arrive, I remember I arrived at my hotel and I see a bed and I see coffee and, and I mean it's like, it's crazy. It's crazy. And there is a swimming pool. So you take a shower. So I arrived and I was so I lay in the bed and it was amazing the feeling to lay on a bed. And then I was like, “Shower!” “Shower!” because I really shower every day. So there, I wasn't able to do it for five days. So it's awful, it's awful! So I think I took a shower for one and a half hours.
Kit: 18:53 I was in the shower just to feel the water and the next day. So on the Saturday we went to the motel. So on the Sunday I felt like everything was… I was grateful for everything. I was grateful for the warmth, I was grateful for the breakfast. And there was just, it was like, there was silence in my head. I didn't have any thoughts. It was like I was not on the world. It was, it was… I cannot explain how I felt, but it's so amazing. So we have a “Oh, there was a pool!” and just laying there, there was nothing I wanted to do a on a Saturday. I talked to my boyfriend and I told him that I was okay, but that's it. I didn't have any plans. I just lay on a stretcher… on a bed… near the swimming pool and I just laid there.
Cindy: 19:58 I didn't talk to anybody. I didn't have any thoughts. It was really strange feeling like a feeling of appreciation of being. Appreciate that I'm able to breathe. I appreciate that you have food, that you have warmth. I cannot explain it. It was very special feeling.
Kit: 20:20 That mindfulness and the appreciation you get is one of the reasons that I love to backpack so much because it helps you to appreciate all the little things in life once again. It may not last a long time, but for that euphoric period, it's wonderful and you don't get that unless sometimes you struggle and you frankly suffer a little bit as you do sometimes when your backpack.
Cindy: 20:40 Yes. Yes. And, and, and actually that feeling so on the Sunday, I think it was a special feeling because I had to, how would you say the, especially the road downhill on the stretcher was for me, a very traumatizing experience.
Cindy: 21:01 So I had to take that in, but I mean even when I arrived home, so the next week, so I think we arrived on the Thursday. We arrived back in Belgium and honestly for two weeks I was so happy. Just the fact that I could breathe, I was thankful and fact that when I lay in my bed I have a water bed. So, it's hot. And, and just drinking a cup of coffee, you know, it's, it's amazing. And, and indeed taking a shower and I was so grateful and it's amazing.
Kit: 21:39 It helps you count your blessings.
Cindy: 21:40 Yeah. Actually. Yeah. Yeah. It's, I wouldn't have realized that it was like I was floating on a cloud of happiness, appreciation. Then my boyfriend was like, “Hey, come back to the real world.” You know, it's I must say when I'm talking about it now to you and I'm reliving it and so it's an amazing experience. Amazing feeling.
Kit: 22:10 So even though you had the most traumatic event of your life, as you said earlier, any regrets at all about doing this?
Cindy: 22:18 No, none at all. None at all. No regrets. Actually, one of the big themes in my life is to let go of control. And two, how do you say… to have more self confidence and do to really also for me security is important. And so I was always, to be honest, I achieved many things in my life, but I'm really like, I was like a scared person. Like I was afraid of heights, I was afraid of almost anything. And so having that experience and surviving as a one reason or the other, when I came back, for the first time in my life, I felt safe because. Yeah. So when they were getting me a downwards, so at first I was very scared and I was crying and shouting and everything.
Cindy: 23:17 But then at a certain moment I realized I'm still on the stretcher, I cannot move. So if I scream it doesn't matter because if I fall, I fall and I die. So then I realized like, what if I could trust that I will reach it safely? And so I changed my thoughts and then it became more bearable on the stretcher. And so I think for me that was the biggest lesson because I know I have a big mission here and so I just realized like, I don't have to be scared to die because I won't die. I still have a lot of things to do here. So that's experienced gave me more self confidence and the feeling that I'm safe. It's very strange that I needed that experience to really feel in my body that I'm safe, whatever happens, I'm safe. And also I have more trust in my body.
Cindy: 24:18 So, before I climbed Kilimanjaro, I didn't really like my body and, and I wasn't really conscious of my body to be honest. And after climbing the Kilimanjaro I realized that, “Hey, my body is so strong!” because that body carried me onto the summit, you know, even though it was exhausted and of course I have a very strong will and willpower and am I in a good mindset but, but I have a strong body as well, so that gave me more confidence in my body and myself and, and it gives me a more secure feeling and, and that's great because that also helps me in my business to take sometimes more risks and, and just to trust that all will be fine. Everything will be fine. Okay.
Kit: 25:07 Is there any advice you'd like to give the audience about what you wish you had known?
Cindy: 25:12 Yes, so my advice would be like the one thing I didn't do was prepare for the cold. And so if you are a person that dislikes cold, make sure that you have a lot of warm clothes, a lot of thermal underwear and that you take a hot water bottle. Oh, that's a very good advice actually, like we call it a water bag, you know hot water bag? So that you can ask the guides to fill it with hot water and you take it with you in your tent so it helps you to keep warm. So warm clothes, a warm sleeping bag and, and a hot water bag or something like that.
Cindy: 25:56 So that would be the advice that I would give them and for the rest, just if you want to do it, make a plan and make like small goals in between. Because if you say like, “Okay, I'm going to climb Kilimanjaro”, and start today without a plan, it's very difficult. And on your own I think it's also very difficult. So find somebody that has experience, that can help you make a plan, put some small goals in between, focus on what you eat as well. So I, I lost a lot of weight. I ate very healthy. So if you do that and you also do the altitude tent because that was a tip that nobody did it from the group. And that was the reason why I, on the last day, the summit day, I was the person with the least problems because the altitude tent helps you to prepare your body for the altitude. So that would be my advice to you.
Kit: 27:03 Has Your Kilimanjaro Adventure encouraged you to do similar adventure trips in the future?
Cindy: 27:16 Actually, I must say there was something special about being on the mountain and by doing this, it honestly changed my life completely in a positive way. So when I came back, the first thing I did with my personal trainer, I said we have to find something else to, to make another challenge. And so far actually because we were looking at doing some hiking or things like that, but I said, “Oh, I'm going to run the marathon”, but, but that's completely different, you see, that's completely different. So so far I haven't decided yet. So also I was considering like I'm going to do it again next year. But yeah, on the, on one hand, I mean, like I said, it's an amazing experience and I'm on the other hand, of course it took me a lot of time, and brought me a lot, but also it takes me a lot of time and running a business and preparing for the Kilimanjaro is quite a challenge. So yes, my feeling is that I want to do more adventurous things in the future. For now I have settled actually though my goal is to run first half marathon. That's my goal for the next month and that months. So. And then the marathon. But I must say that the hiking, there is something special. So I think I'm going to look at that as well.
Kit: 28:42 Shameless plug, check out some of our past episodes and the Active Travel Adventures podcast and you're gonna get lots of ideas, Cindy. Cindy, we have a worldwide audience of over 50 countries right now listening to the Active Travel Adventures podcast.
Cindy: 28:42 Wow!
Kit: 28:56 So even though I'm based in the United States, we do have a lot of listeners in your area, which is Europe. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your business and how people can reach out to you?
Cindy: 29:04 Yes. And thank you. So my company's called Mega Cindy. So megacindy.com is the website and so my mission is to teach entrepreneurs how to sell. So the skill of selling I believe is an essential skill for an entrepreneur. And so that's what I do. I work with groups. I work online and the online program, “Happy Salespreneur” and then I also have a offline groups that I go to. So that is my mission really, to help entrepreneurs learn how to sell their goods, their services themselves so that they can really enjoy life and do whatever they want to reach their goals. So if you need some help regarding sales or whatever, you can reach out to me. Now at the moment, I'm a serving the Dutch speaking markets, so Belgium and Holland. Probably in the future I will go international.
Kit: 30:07 I sure hope so. Your English is wonderful! I wouldn't be surprised if you hear from some English speaking folks that say “Now, Cindy, now!” Your story was just as fascinated going up the mountain as it was coming down the mountain. Thank you so much, Cindy, for coming on the show. It's been a real inspiration for everyone.
Cindy: 30:29 Thanks a lot, Kit. I mean, it's with all my heart and I really hope – and that is the reason why I agreed for the podcast- is I really hope I can inspire some people to climb the Kilimanjaro. It will be great if they can let me know because I mean that's my mission, just to inspire people to reach their goals and dreams and so I'm very grateful for being on the show and thank you very much for everything.
Kit: 30:59 So y'all heard Cindy. If Cindy has inspired you to climb Kilimanjaro, be sure to email her to let her know.
Kit: 31:04 Okay. I've found Cindy story amazing and that's why I broke it into two parts. I was going to try to add on the safari on this part, but we're already at about 30 minutes and by the time we wind up I didn't want to go longer because I have an incredible safari interview as well, so I'll be back in two weeks to do that. I would like to ask you one thing. I've been doing this now closing in on three quarters of a year and I want to reach out to you and talk to you directly. If you would be willing to give me 10 minutes of your time on the phone. Could you please email me your telephone number and a good time of the week that I can call you and your time zone and let me get on the horn with you and we'll talk?
Kit: 31:42 I just want to ask you some questions about what you think of the show, what you'd like to see more of, and learn a little bit more about you. So if you'll either email ame at Kit@Active TravelAdventures.com, or you can leave a voicemail at two, five, two, five, one, five, zero, one, six, six. If I'm awake, I will pick up the phone. If not, it'll go to voicemail and so don't worry about what time of day you call. It'll do what it's supposed to do. I have it on “do not disturb”. If I'm not there, I'd love… I truly would love to hear from you, so if you can spare me a few minutes, please reach out and it would mean a lot to me.
Kit: 32:16 If you're interested in getting the Kilimanjaro travel planner, you can download that from the website or it'll come automatically with the monthly newsletter and so at that I'll sign off. This is Kit Parks. I'll be back in two weeks on Thursday with the final installment of Tanzania instead of doing Kilimanjaro now, we'll do the wildlife safari and cultural exchange. That is a great add on to the Kilimanjaro Trek. I'll see you then. Bye Bye. Thanks for listening. Adventure On!
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