BENGALURU: Seated in Cubbon Park, waiting for her husband and children to finish cycling, Dr Anindita Bhateja, who weighed 100 kg in 2009 never thought that one day she will be summiting Mt Kilimanjaro. She achieved the feat along with her friend Dr Anita Krishnan on June 28 this year. It was a seven-day-long expedition. She weighed 70 kg then.
She prepared herself for the expedition for six years. She started working on losing her weight and then prepared herself to trek, before she attempted the feat. She first started with walking in 2009. At 39, with a strong belief that it’s never too late to try something new, she started her journey as a runner. “I walked 2.5 km in 45 minutes. This later led to running. I have done about a dozen half marathons and couple of 10 km runs since 2010. I started trekking in 2014 and then I attempted to climb MtKilimanjaro in 2016. I chose this mountain as it doesn’t require any mountaineering skills to climb this hill and it is a flat stretch. We would trek every day for 14-16 hours,” she says.
While climbing the mountain was challenging, getting down the slope was equally difficult she says as the mountain has loose rocks and stones. “But my guides Prosper Peter Malando and Frank Jumbe guided me well and went according to my speed. They have been climbing the stretch for over 10 and 13 years respectively,” says the general physician from the city.
Last 200 metres of her expedition is something that she will always remember. “I faced breathing problem just 200 metres before I reached the peak. But I decided to not give up. I dragged myself towards it and climbed till the peak (19,341 ft). Drinking water of course helped,” she explains.
But this is not the first time she attempted the feat. Her first attempt was in January this year. On the fifth day she was exhausted and decided not to climb. She couldn’t stop thinking about going back after she returned to Bengaluru. To overcome her guilt, she decided to take up the challenge again in June. “I met Prosper Peter Malando and Frank Jumbe during my first attempt and decided to trek with them again in June. I loved the way they work so much that I have even started a company now called Afrikan Adventures with them and my second summit was as part of my startup,” she says.
With her first summit she learnt that she required some breathing exercises to sustain the harsh weather. She also learnt that the route that she had chosen — Machame route — was a little tougher so she decided to take another route — Rongai route -- this time.
Apart from just learning how to trek to the hilltop, Prosper and Frank have also taught her to smile and stay happy in any situation they are in and love their job. Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is not all that she aims at. She has Everest Base Camp, Inca Trail in South America and eight lakes of Kashmir in her bucket list.
Dr Anindita also wanted to get over her fear of heights and water. She went scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef with her children last year and obtained her certification.
While, through her startup, she helps people fulfill their dream of climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, she says that physical fitness and endurance are important to climb to the peak. “Any strength exercise will help them prepare themselves physically. But being mentally prepared is equally necessary she says, adding, “The weather there is cold and harsh. It can go up to -15 degrees. They would not get an opportunity to take bath and also have to change clothes in tent.”
Ask her about trek fee, she says it varies on the number of people in the group and on how many days they want to trek. “If a group of four is trekking for seven days, it would cost them around `1.5 lakh. Best time to trek is from June end to February,” she says.