Voice 1: In 2012, Australian pilot Adrian McRae came up with a brilliant but absolutely mad idea. His plan was to combine his two great passions – flying and hiking - and earn money for charity in the process. He decided to organise a mass hike to the top of Africa's highest point, Mount Kilimanjaro, and then paraglide off the summit.
Voice 2: McRae realised this scheme would take a lot of organising, but he knew it would be worth it. And he wanted lots of people to get involved. The fundraising event would be open to anyone who was qualified and interested in taking part.
Voice 1: Once plans were in place, McRae hoped to involve a group of about two hundred pilots/hikers. Any more would be unmanageable. Each pilot who signed up would have to pay a five-hundred dollar deposit, and commit to raising at least five thousand US dollars in sponsorship.
Voice 2: Adrian McRae is not a person to sit around on an idea, and once he had mapped out the route for the hike and worked out the rigorous application process to select people for the event, things got moving pretty quickly.
Voice 1: The hikers would take seven days to get to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, and then paraglide down to the lower slopes of the mountain. The expedition would also include more than seven hundred and fifty support staff, porters, cooks, medical assistants and guides. Helicopters would be on standby for rescue services if needed.
Voice 2: Kilimanjaro is 5,895 metres high, and one of the problems facing the hikers would be the thin air as they reached the top. This really would be ‘the adventure of a lifetime’ for anyone taking part. McRae gathered together a small team of dedicated experts to plan every stage of the expedition.
Voice 1: The first big step for the organisers was getting permission from the government in Tanzania for the event to take place. This was no mean task. “We have never permitted paragliding on Mount Kilimanjaro before’, explained Mr Paschal Shelutete, the Public Relations Manager for Tanzania National Parks.
Voice 2: McRae organised a meeting with the President of Tanzania, Mr Jakaya Kikwete, at the State House in the country’s capital, Dar-es-Salaam. After explaining the scheme, and outlining plans for a portion of the money raised to be donated to charities working in Tanzania, the Tanzanian authorities gave permission for the fundraising event to go ahead.
Voice 1: At the beginning of February 2013, the largest group ever to climb the world’s tallest free standing mountain set off on their adventure of a lifetime. But disappointment was waiting at the summit. Strong winds prevented the planned paragliding from taking place, and the hikers had to descend the mountain the same way that they had come up.
Voice 1: But a small group decided to stay on top of the mountain for one extra day to see if conditions improved. On February 7th, they too decided to hike back down to base leaving two brave adventurers, Nepalese pilot Sano Babu Sunuwar and Matthew Lyimo, his guide alone near the peak of Kilimanjaro.
Voice 2: The pair climbed up to the summit and managed to launch into the air despite the strong winds. They drifted gracefully down into the valley, all eyes watching the historic descent.
Voice 1: 'The Wings of Kilimanjaro' might have ended in disappointment for some of those taking part, but Adrian McRae shrugged off any feelings of frustration when he summed up what the expedition had all been about. "It was not about setting records. It was about raising money for charity and giving some of the most accomplished adventurers in the world one of the biggest and coolest adventures they will ever have."