Zombies on Kilimanjaro

Zombies on Kilimanjaro

A Father/Son Journey Above the Clouds

On a journey to the roof of Africa, a father and son traverse the treacherous terrain of fatherhood, divorce, dark secrets and old grudges, and forge an authentic new relationship.   


Foreword by Wade Davis, author of Into the Silence, winner of the 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction.

A father and son climb Mount Kilimanjaro. On the journey to the roof of Africa they traverse the treacherous terrain of fatherhood, divorce, dark secrets and old grudges, and forge an authentic adult relationship. 

The high-altitude trek takes them through some of the weirdest landscapes on the planet, and the final all-night climb to the frozen summit tests their endurance. On the way to the top father and son explore how our stories about ourselves can imprison us in the past, and the importance of letting go.  The mountain too has a story to tell, a story about Climate Change and the future of humankind - a future etched all too clearly on Kilimanjaro’s retreating glaciers. 


Zombies On Kilimanjaro is Canadian Tim Ward's account of "climbing" Kilimanjaro with his son via the Lemosho Route. As an established travel writer, Ward at least has the credentials of having done some adventure travel in the past, including hiking in the Rockies, Alps, and Himalayas. Although the discussions with his son about meme theory seem somewhat artificial and distracting from the "climb" itself (Full disclosure: I don't like the word "meme" or reading about how memes make the world go 'round), Zombies is a touching tale of father-son bonding and an evocative depiction of the physical and mental strain involved in "climbing" Kilimanjaro. There's also some great snippets of information about climate change and the receding glaciers on the mountain. My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars ~ Global Goebel Travels (blog), http://www.globalgoebel.com/2013/02/my-words-about-their-words-kilimanjaro.html

An intriguingly and perhaps misleadingly titled memoir about climbing the highest freestanding mountain in the world with his 20-year-old son, Josh. There is certainly much to enjoy in this well-meaning and heartfelt memoir. A week after reading it, what remains with me is the compelling description of the final ascent to and descent from the peak, when there was no time or energy for conversation. ~ , /www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-reviews

Let's face it, Zombies on Kilimanjaro is a book title that sort of makes you want to find out what its about, doesn't it? It certainly intrigued me sufficiently that I took a copy away with me over the New Year break. And although the book isn't actually about zombies - at least not the shuffling, brain-eating, George A Romero, undead kind of zombies - I did find it an excellent holiday read. So much so that it made me put "climb a mountain" on my list of New Year Resolutions. The full title of the book is Zombies on Kilimanjaro: A Father/Son Journey Above the Clouds. It is a real-life story of a father and son climbing Africa's famous snow-capped peak and, although it is partly a description of a journey, and partly a father-son bonding tale, it is also a book about what it means to be human. In particular, it is about how memes affect human psychology. Most people think of memes as things like pictures of humorous cats shared on the internet. On their trek up the treacherous slopes of Kilimanjaro, author Tim Ward explains to his adult son Josh that the real concept of memes is that they are ideas that have made humanity what it is today. Tim says: "A meme is a special kind of idea. It’s an idea we can pass on to other people, things like information, skills, facts, gossip, scientific knowledge... Memes are bits of mental DNA that are passed from one mind to another. Genes form the building blocks of biological life. Memes are the building blocks of human culture." The pair talk about memes quite a lot on their journey - when they aren't suffering too badly from cold, sleeplessness and altitude sickness, that is. They talk about the beneficial aspect of memes - that without them great technological advances might never have caught on - but also about how memes can turn people into something like zombies. Some ideological memes, such as the Fundamental Christian Creationist meme for example, can get in the way of people thinking rationally about scientific concepts like evolution. Tim and Josh go on to talk about ways of escaping the memes, hoping that climbing high above civilisation might somehow allow them to break free and be truly individual. The journey turns out to be tougher than they anticipated. Struggling in low temperatures and high altitude, shambling along in the line of tourists on the same path to the peak, the zombie metaphor begins to feel more like a physical reality than a philosophical allegory. Yet, facing the hardships together, father and son do have the kind of epiphany one expects to have after climbing a mountain. They reveal secrets from their pasts, learn to overcome old grievances and come to an understanding of each other that enables them to form a deeper friendship. I found the book inspiring and, while I probably won't climb a mountain anywhere near as difficult as the one described in its pages, I very much enjoyed the shared Kilimanjaro meme. ~ Lucya Szachnowski (Badwitch), www.badwitch.co.uk

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Fathers+sons/7320481/story.html Fathers and sons Book explores a relationship fraught with dilemmas BY KATE HEARTFIELD, THE OTTAWA CITIZENSEPTEMBER 30, 2012 Early in his new book, Zombies on Kilimanjaro, Tim Ward asks, “What does a parent have to offer when the parenting is done?” It’s the book’s guiding question, and one reason the author set out to climb Africa’s highest mountain with his 20-year-old son, in an attempt to create a new relationship between the two of them as adult men. Zombies on Kilimanjaro Changemakers Books $16.99 Editor’s note: Tim Ward will be at the Ottawa International Writers Festival Oct. 27. in a panel with Tzeporah Berman at Knox Presbyterian Church at 8:30 p.m. Early in his new book, Zombies on Kilimanjaro, Tim Ward asks, “What does a parent have to offer when the parenting is done?” It’s the book’s guiding question, and one reason the author set out to climb Africa’s highest mountain with his 20-year-old son, in an attempt to create a new relationship between the two of them as adult men. Ward follows the question with a jarring metaphor. He describes the scene in Return of the Jedi, when the dying Darth Vader asks his son, Luke, to remove his mask “so that he can see Luke with his own eyes — and in the process, reveal his scarred and damaged face to his son. I wanted that kind of authenticity with Josh, but I had to admit, I did not know how to get there from here.” It’s a big clue to the reader that Ward and his son have a lot of work to do, that the problems go beyond mere empty-nest syndrome. What kind of father-son relationship could be so damaged that the final scene between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker looks like something to strive for? It soon becomes clear that Ward is working through a lot of history with his own father, and that he and Josh have not come to terms with Ward’s divorce from Josh’s mother, or the decision Josh made as a teenager to go live with his mother full-time. As father and son tell each other their life stories — from their own perspectives — they are able to forgive and understand each other. Meanwhile, they’re walking up Kilimanjaro, coping with the physical and emotional discomfort that comes with that, and asking themselves whether they’ll be strong enough — and lucky enough — to reach the summit. Ward’s decision to tell much of the story through dialogue makes the memoir awkward in places. Ward picked a topic of conversation with Josh in advance so they’d have something to talk about on the journey — another clue that this relationship is far from healthy. He wants to talk about his latest obsession, meme theory. Josh seems interested, and from time to time the ideas do have a bearing on the point Ward is trying to make: that the stories we tell about ourselves sometimes get in our way. It’s a notion that will be familiar to readers who’ve studied Buddhism and yoga — which makes sense, given that Ward is also the author of What the Buddha Never Taught and Savage Breast: One Man’s Search for the Goddess. But much of the time, the chatter about memes and big ideas feels forced, as do the passages about the effects of climate change on Kilimanjaro. It never becomes a book about ideas, in the vein of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and that’s OK. It’s strongest when it shows Ward struggling to decide whether to treat his son as a child or an equal. Does he tell everything about why the marriage failed? Does he help Josh with his physical struggles on the mountain, or does he sit back and let Josh deal with it himself? Does he argue about what went wrong with their relationship, or accept that each of them has his own version of the truth? Not every parent will climb Kilimanjaro with a son or daughter, but every parent will ask similar questions about when to act, and what to say, and when to just back off. Kate Heartfield is the Citizen’s deputy editorial pages editor. Twitter.com/kateheartfield. Email: kheartfield@ottawacitizen.com. © Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen PreviousNext Early in his new book, Zombies on Kilimanjaro, Tim Ward asks, “What does a parent have to offer when the parenting is done?” It’s the book’s guiding question, and one reason the author set out to climb Africa’s highest mountain with his 20-year-old son, in an attempt to create a new relationship between the two of them as adult men. ~ Ottawa Citizen

Which is harder: climbing the highest freestanding mountain in the world or becoming friends with your adult son from a divorced marriage? In this eight-day tale of courage, conversation, and compassion, Tim Ward does both. His story sounds a rousing call to take responsibility for the natural and social worlds that our children are inheriting from us .

~ Kimerer LaMothe, author, Family Planting: A farm-fed philosophy of human relations

Tim Ward walks up the mountain with his 20-year-old son, and together they explore the power of stories. Amid hallucinogenic walks, bizarre gastronomy, and sing song Tanzanian guides, they illuminate the power and the delusion of the stories we often tell ourselves, and how in letting old stories go, we can find the key to transforming our world.  ~ Carter Roberts, President, World Wildlife Fund US

As with all of Ward’s books, it’s challenging, exhilarating, brave and profoundly human – I came away from it feeling stimulated, enriched, and also genuinely honoured that an author would take me on such an intensely personal journey. The father-son relationship comes leaping off the page, and the intellectual dimension sizzles and crackles

~ Ian Weir, author of Daniel O’Thunder

A father-son walk in the clouds. The metaphysical stuff, the meme stuff, I loved it. Really made me think and reflect. I read it like I was eating m&ms or potato chips—compulsively. I think this could have a wide audience. A non-fiction Sophies World.

~ James O’Reilly, Publisher, Traveler’s Tales

In Zombies on Kilimanjaro, Tim Ward weaves a healing tale for contemporary men. Part adventure travelogue, part intellectual exploration, part courageous personal revelation, Ward’s memoir of climbing the African mountain with his 20-year-old son captivates the reader on multi-levels. Zombies tackles the treacherous terrain of fatherhood, philandering, divorce and shadow as Ward demonstrates the healing power of the story well-told. At a time when our culture desperately needs a new definition of the positive masculine, Ward steps up to the plate. Women will also be heartened by his journey on a rugged path that ultimately leads to personal responsibility and adult relationships. I loved it! Its a perfect example of redefining the positive masculine. So honest! So open and vulnerable! So brave! So needed by all the lost men of today. I hope this spawns a whole literary (and other cultural memes) movement.

~ Marsha Scarborough, author of Medicine Dance

My overall impression was one of admiration and enjoyment. I believe you are a father in the truest sense of the word – one who can stumble, try again, err, admit the truth, release and move on. In reality, you are a great dad to Josh, but more importantly you are a great friend to him. Your courage on the physical level was inspiring but your bravery on the emotional level was profoundly moving. You brought us into your family’s life and memes, with grace and humility. I was engaged throughout most of the book by your humour and honesty. When you told Josh that he wasn’t really him (although it was scary for him) I couldn’t stop laughing. The crazy things we parents do! And your scene from a “demented African version of The Sound of Music” was hilarious!

~ Dee Willock, author, Falling Into Easy

Tim Ward
Tim Ward Tim Ward is an author, publisher, teacher, and traveler. He has written five books about his travels through Thailand, India, China, Tibet, ...
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