Guillaume Olivier has quite the lockdown story. While most of the country was binge-watching Netflix, he became the youngest South African to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro.
Guillaume, 9, from Fish Hoek, had the idea germinate during church one day after learning about explorers at school, and he shared the idea with his family.
His dad, Guillaume Senior, has always told his family that, “if you can dream it, you can do it”, so he threw himself into the support role with fervour.
At time when the world was shutting down due to the arrival of Covid-19, doors continued to open for this determined youngster, who trained doggedly throughout the lockdown.
“I am incredibly proud of and impressed by him,” said his dad, Guillaume Olivier Senior on their return. “He showed such commitment. Some days when I could see how tired he was, I watched him stop and read the wristband his mom had given him. Then he took a breath, and carried on. I was especially proud of him to know where to dig for his power, when he needed it,” Mr Olivier said.
The wristband read: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Their training during lockdown really paid off, when, rather than walking Skeleton Gorge, Guillaume and his dad were running circles around the house and working on the treadmill and step machine.
The father and son even wrote an Afrikaans song during their training days, which they sing together on their Facebook site.
In March, when Guillaume and his dad set travel dates, they chose August 21 for their departure, not realising at the time that it
would be in the middle of Covid-19 lockdown. However, as luck would have it, CemAir had scheduled a repatriation flight to Dar es Salaam for Tanzanian nationals who had found themselves stuck in South Africa because of lockdown. So father and son were able to piggyback on that flight.
Because of the Covid-19 travel restrictions they had to get special approval from the South African and Tanzanian governments to make the trip. After all the approvals for flights and permits were granted, they set off on their adventure.
Guillaume Junior boarded the plane as a little boy with a big dream, and returned standing a little taller, having conquered the mountain and realised his dream.
He said he loved Tanzania, especially people and the food. He has returned home with a number of Swahili phrases.
“I really learned to stick to the commitment I made by doing this,” he said.
His training had prepared him well for the physical part of his adventure, but he hadn’t been prepared to be so far away from home for so long or for the cold and altitude.
“The other thing was we had trained to walk fast, and the slow walking was a challenge too,” he said.
Mr Olivier explained that on the last day they had been walking 500 metres an hour, which had been frustrating, but his son had remained very calm and focused.
Guillaume’s mom, Zene, was thrilled to have her husband and son home.
“I am so proud of them,” she said. She called her husband the best dad and husband in the universe. “What will you not do for your kids – a Godly man, husband and father.”
She told her son that he had inspired her in so many ways.
“Your dedication and passion is an example to all of us,” she said.
For now, Guillaume is happy to be home.
“I am now waiting for God to plant the next dream,” he said. “But now that we have done Kili, Everest is definitely on my list.”
The dad and son team started their climb on Sunday August 23 and reached the summit early Friday morning August 28, making daily posts to keep their family and Facebook followers updated.
Uhuru Peak, at 5 895m, is the highest point in all Africa.
The updates can be seen in retrospect on the Facebook page, @Live your dream – Guillaume Olivier.