I sold my car to live my Himalayan dream. Your dream is worth everything! ~ Gitonga Wandai, Hikemaniak Beyond.
Happy Thursday! 😀 Welcome to our new blog series, “The Traveler’s Chair.”
In this recurring series we’ll feature some of our favorite travelers, in Kenya and beyond! Are you ready to ramble? 😀
First in the Traveler’s Chair is Gitonga Wandai, the ‘hikemaniak’ who sold his Starlet to trek Mount Everest Base Camp! Inspiring, right?! Come along for the ride…
I met Gitonga Wandai, some years back, through my brother. Since then, I’ve followed his work with Hikemaniak Beyond, and his daring adventures continue to dazzle and inspire!
‘May we love Mount Everest, and may Mount Everest love us back’, is Wandai’s famous phrase before he embarks on any adventure.
Adventures of The Hikemaniak
Who is Gitonga Wandai?
I am a traveler with a weakness for the mountains; a minimalist, a nomad, a father, an adventurous soul and lover of the unknown living in the now!
Have You Always Been A Hiker?
No, I am a trained Demographer, and before I started hiking fulltime, I worked as an M & E Expert.
However, my love for adventure was born way back in 2004, when I joined the International President’s Award (PA), at Kenyatta University. The values and experiences of PA made a huge impact in my life.
I would recommend it to anyone in High school or College.
The Birth of Hikemaniak Beyond…
Towards the end of 2015, I felt the strong call of the mountains, but I didn’t know how to go about it… Moreover, I was struggling at work, and didn’t fit in anymore.
There was only one explanation- I was a maniac who loved hiking! Hence, in mid- 2016, Hikemaniak Beyond was born; an adventures company that organizes mountain climbs, hikes, and adventure sports like skydiving, paragliding and water rafting.
I’ve faced my fair share of challenges and fears. But like with all matters of the heart, you have to take a leap of faith. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t, but with each experience, I keep soaring higher. ~Wandai
Tell us about your experiences on the mountain…
If I said that I’ve had it easy with the big mountains, especially Kilimanjaro, I would be lying. With the biting cold, sharp blizzards, struggling body organs due to low oxygen and long summit time, it takes sheer willpower…
I’ve been up to Uhuru point 7 times and each time I question myself: ‘Why am I here again…?’
But over time, I’ve developed a relationship with the mountain and in our conversations we’ve agreed that I belong there… This truth warms my heart and gets me through the tough times, plus it always turns out to be a beautiful summit.
What’re some of your worst experiences?
In August 2016, I set out to climb Mt. Kenya’s Batian peak. As we neared the peak, it snowed in heavily with fatal rock falls… So we had to turn back. This taught me how to make tough judgement calls and that safety comes first. You can always return to finish what you began.
On another occasion, while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, one of our Hikemaniak clients got severe altitude sickness that developed into Pulmonary Edema, resulting in emergency evacuation from Tanzania to Kenya.
It was Hikemaniak’s first major trek. This took me by shock, but the experience has since informed and bettered our safety preparedness.
The Everest Base Camp Experience…
How did you raise money to trek the Everest base camp?
In 2016, told my friend Mercy: ‘I’m saving to trek the Everest Base Camp at the beginning of 2017. If I won’t have enough cash, I will sell my car’.
As fate would have it, by December 2016, I didn’t have the money. So I put up my car for sale on OLX. But all went quiet. The car’s insurance was up for renewal by 1st January 2017.
But I delayed a little bit… But by the 3rd of January, nothing had happened! Furthermore, I knew I was pushing my luck with the authorities…
I was starting to doubt my odds, when I got a call from a buyer… I honestly didn’t take him seriously, though it was the only offer I had on the table.
The guy showed up the following day, and turned out to be a childhood friend from Sunday school! It all happened so fast! He filled KRA forms etc., we exchanged cash and voila! It was done; my 1996 Toyota Starlet was sold! 😀
The next day I bought plane tickets and got the visa!
I believe that, when you really want something the whole universe conspires in your favour- this was true for me.
What did it take to plan the Trip?
A year of research! 😀
I researched trekking the Everest Base camp on Travel blogs and the Nepal Tourism Department website for gear, flights, meals, accommodation, how much to pack, the trail and whether I’d need a guide & porter…
I later decided to do it on my own, without either guide or porter!
Tip: Focus most of your research on the basics and leave room for imagination and self-exploration.
Through social media I made connections with Nepalese friends, like Umesh, a year before the visit! 🙂
And Waithira Njunu, a Facebook friend, wrote to me asking me if I was interested in meeting Steve Obbayi, a Kenyan who’d attempted the Himalayas.
She arranged for us to meet at her downtown stall in Imenti House. You could feel the mountain’s beauty in that small stall, as we talked for hours. With a Kenyan face to the Everest trek I felt more confident. 🙂
Who left a mark in your life on the Everest Trek?
I got help at nearly every step… One of my clients from the United States shared a contact in Nepal, where I spent one night, thus saving on accommodation costs.
At the domestic flights in Tribhuvan Airport, Kathmandu I met Joe, Vish both from Uk and Marcel from Germany. With aligning interests we decided to trek together, making the trail moments ever so lively.
Joe, a Film Maker, later asked to do a documentary about me, titled ‘Gitonga’; currently in editing. He’s such an inspiration; he resigned from a finance job to pursue his love for film!
Towards the end of our Trek, we spent an evening with the first man to do a winter summit on Everest. He is a former tourist police officer with the Nepal Police Service.
That experience affirmed my dream of summiting the Everest someday. My #Everest2022 dream still lives on!
What are some of your overall best moments?
There are so many… But hiking with my son is among the best! 😀
His first hike was going up Mount Kilimambogo at only 3. Though my friends and I carried him most of the way, he was thrilled! 😀
Now at 7, we just returned from summiting Little Meru and Rhino point in Tanzania together. Such uniting experiences have made us the best of friends. 🙂
What travel hacks have you picked along the way?
- Pack light
- Get the right gear
- Make a reference list to ensure you’ve packed the essentials
- Befriend locals & ask questions about the weather, meals, accommodation…
- Read others’ past experiences BUT do not let it cloud your own
- Allow yourself to awed by the mountains, views and the people 🙂
Any last words for aspiring hikers and climbers?
Have the courage to do the things that make your heart dance. Life is a series of heart dances. 🙂
I hope Wandai’s story has been refreshing to you! 😀
Who would you like to sit next in our Traveler’s Chair?
Share your suggestions and adventure stories with us… Don’t be shy, leave a comment down below! 😉 😀
<<Stay Inspired Always>>
P.S. You might also enjoy>> Adventures of the German Backpacker in Kenya