A 60-something year-old University President from Iowa heading to Tanzania to attempt to climb 19,340 feet to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro?

That's me. David Maxwell, president of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

I will be accompanying members of the Drake University Football Team to Tanzania as part of the Global Kilimanjaro Bowl — the first collegiate game of American football to be played on the African continent.

As part of this experience we will engage in service projects — including building a wing on an orphanage for children of AIDS victims, building housing for teachers at a school outside of Moshi, clearing land for school playgrounds, and working with a local organization that serves orphaned street children.

We will cap the trip with a trip to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro with our partners (and competitors) the CONADEIP All-Stars from Mexico.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tackling Kilimanjaro

Just had dinner at 13,800 feet on Kilimanjaro. Couldn’t blog yesterday - tried at lunch but no signal. I don't have a signal right now as I write this either — Justin has a signal on his iPhone, but there may be a wire mesh in the tent walls (and I am not getting out of this tent — we hiked most of the day in short sleeves, but the minute the sun goes down, it gets very cold).

Meals are incredible. Served on tables, folding chairs — in the open at lunch, in a mess tent for breakfast and dinner. Great soups, lots of pasta, rice and beans, chicken, beef.

The night before we left, there was a “mountain meeting” with several people speaking from experience about the trek. But the evening started with some brief remarks of thanks from IRIS (Iowa Resources for International Service), the folks who arranged all the service projects. They also bring Tanzanian high school students to school in Iowa. One of the program’s alumnae, a wonderfully articulate young woman, told us “We are very, very grateful for what you’ve done here. But remember when you get home that there are many people in your country who need help too. You should never stop being of service to others.”

Yesterday was a three-hour drive to the entrance to the Rongai Trail, registration, lunch, and off we went. It was wonderful to get moving, to begin the next stage of the adventure. Two very young children followed us several miles up the trail, occasionally asking for chocolate. None of us had any...

You would not believe how many stars you see at night on Kilimanjaro. At one point we could see five satellites moving on various tracks across the sky.

We were told that today’s route would be easy — gradual ups and downs. They lied. :-) There was a lot of fairly steep climbing, much of it on volcanic boulders strewn in the path. It was definitely up and down. I think we gained about 2,300 feet in altitude today, but I’ll bet we climbed at least 3,000! I felt like a combination of mountain goat and old goat. Thank you Lindsey for 3-1/2 months of squats with a medicine ball on an inverted bosu, lunges and dumbbell-laden step-ups. They worked. The agility drills were crucial preparation too, as we leapt from rock to rock — the penalty for missing was usually water, mud or a nasty fall.

One of the guides asked me how old I was —when I told him, he said, “Wow, you’re a tough old guy.” I appreciated the first adjective. The rest of the sentence was not welcome. Fortunately, for the rest of the day, he’s addressed me simply as “tough guy,” which, while welcome, is a gross overstatement.

The 16 of us (Coach Rick Fox, Justin, Steve, Dr. LouAnn Freer, 12 players and I) are Group 1. Yesterday the guys decided that we needed a name. After some consideration, they decided on All the President’s Men (acknowledging that it leaves Dr. Freer in an odd position, about which she was very generous). I’m very honored. The guys have been great. They've welcomed Justin, Steve and me into the family of Drake Football, and it’s a privilege (and a great deal of fun) to be traveling with them.

Amazing day — it keeps getting better and better. We've been told tomorrow is easy. Right.

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