Brave dad joins daughter on a trip of a lifetime to Mount Kilimanjaro
ALL dads know when the phone rings at 5am the chances are their beloved – and convincingly apologetic – daughters will be at the other end sheepishly asking for a lift home.
Most will curse, turf their heavy legs out of bed and drag their work-weary body into the car. A dressing gown for a cape, they transform into superdad.
So when devoted father and local Labour councillor Ray Oxby got an early morning call from daughter Rachael, 28, it took a moment for his mind to adjust.
Besides being seven years past the "taxi-request phone call years", Rachael was a solicitor in Oman – how could he possibly drive there in time?
His slumberous fog lifted, and through it came Rachael's excited voice: "Dad, Dad! Will you climb Mount Kilimanjaro with me?"
For Ray, there was only ever one answer: "Of course I will darling". And he smiled and turned over. He was the best dad in the world.
Those five words were the beginning of a journey that would take Ray and Rachael miles from home, but closer together than ever.
Ray said: "I knew she had been feeling a little lonely in Oman. I wanted to support her as any dad would."
After a night in Zanzibar, they flew to Tanzania's Dar-Es-Salaam, caught a flight to Katmandu Airport for the last night of "luxury" before heading off to base camp.
The ambitious pair signed up for the Rongoi route, a gruelling six-day challenge to climb 19,600ft to the summit – a climb that claims 20 lives each year.
Filled with optimism and a healthy dose of trepidation – Ray's superhero alter-ego couldn't help noticing the perilous cliff edges, creeks and quarries his daughter tip-toed along – they set off.
Ray continued: "Every day we climbed for six to eight hours and while the physical fitness was a challenge, it was nothing to the altitude sickness. From day one I couldn't keep anything down.
"We had to jump from boulder to boulder, through water cuts and ravines. I watched as my daughter jumped and prayed she wouldn't miss. There was a significant risk of falling and breaking a bone. It was quite stressful and in many ways traumatic to see."
Despite the worry, Ray, the oldest in the group and not a natural at exercise, felt immensely proud of Rachael and himself.
"It was the most sustained exercise of my life with some very pleasurable moments with my daughter," said Ray.
"I was constantly looking for the risks and didn't see the environment around me. It was only afterwards, when I looked at the photographs, that I realised how beautiful it is to see a sunrise over a layer of cloud."
On day three, Ray was starting to feel the effects of altitude sickness. Unable to keep his food down, he grew weaker with dehydration and more disorientated. His lower lip started turning blue and he was in urgent need of hospital treatment.
The next day, the worried porters refused to let him carry on.
In an emotional departure, Ray, had to leave Rachael to finish the trek without him.
He said: "I don't remember much about it. I heard noises and voices but I didn't know where I was. It felt like a dream. I turned to my daughter and said, 'This is your challenge'.
"It was an emotional, dramatic split and one we both felt."
The porters helped Ray on the ten-hour trek down, and although a hospital was on standby, he refused to go. "Intensely worried" about his daughter, he waited for her return, finding comfort in a hot shower at the hotel.
Rachael finished 24 hours later, and ran into the arms of her father. His superdad cape floated peacefully in the wind behind them.
The trip raised £2,000 for the NSPCC and not only brought Ray closer to his daughter, it taught him not to take Grimsby for granted.
He added: "I am extremely proud of Rachael and myself for doing it with her.
It was great to come together to share this challenge.
"The experience brought it home to me how fortunate we all are to have creature comforts like a nice cosy bed and warm shower.
"The people there, the porters who helped me, cannot afford an education and have to pay for hospital treatment.
"We take what we have for granted. It was an overwhelming experience and one I will never forget."