Here is Simon by Little Lake – we posted a photo of this view when we first arrived and it looked very different!
We were very fortunate that the tremendous snowstorm predicted for last night did not occur – in usual Simon fashion, if we hadn’t bought the torches and the gas cooker we would have needed them! Best to follow the scout motto when dealing with wild weather and be prepared! We are prepared for next time! The temperatures have plummeted and it was -27 this morning when we set out on the bus, Simon to Arrowsmith and me to the parents walking group. I did wonder if anyone would turn up, but turn up they did, and we three mums, all bundled up, set off along the Rotary trail, a beautiful walk alongside the river. It was a very brisk walk on account of the need to keep warm and when the wind blew it was really, really cold! I did wonder if we were slightly mad (there is no need for any comment on that, thanks!)! It was the first (possibly only) time that I have had icicles on my eyelashes and I felt like an intrepid Polar explorer! In fact it made me wonder what makes someone want to go to the Arctic or pull sleds to the South Pole and back! Simon and I went to hear a talk at the Sydney Writer’s festival in May where one of the two Aussies who had done exactly that explained, with great wit and warmth, the story of their adventure to the South Pole. “Jonesy” described their previous expedition, crossing the Tasman from Australia to New Zealand in a kayak and then went onto their arduous training regime, the detailed preparations they made, their “diet” which allowed them to put on an extra 25kg but at the peak of physical fitness, which they lost by the end of their expedition, their sheer determination and courage, and the amazing moment when they finished together with the Norwegian polar explorer who, having set off at the same time as they did, passed them and then waited to finish with them! It was an extraordinary, inspiring talk, so of course we had to buy the book! Jonesy was charming when Simon asked him to sign his copy of the book “Extreme South”, he was impressed that Simon had just finished his Gold Duke of Edinburgh award – he only got as far as his bronze, he told us!
What inspires these adventurers to push themselves far beyond anything the rest of us would dream about? James Castrission, Jonesy’s mate and fellow adventurer, describes it thus: Within a few week of crossing the ditch (the Tasman) Antartica had begun to call. At first it was just a whisper, tickling and playing with me. Thoughts and questions popped into my head that me daydreaming for hours: what is that place like – the coldest, windiest, driest place at the bottom of the earth? What does breathing air at -50 C feel like? I wanted to experience the blizzards, ski over sastrugi and hear the dry snow crunch beneath my boots. The Tasman journey had taken four years to prepare for, and Jonesy and I learnt more about ourselves in those sixty-two days at sea than the previous twenty five years had taught us. (and then he wonders of they just got lucky with the success of their crossing!)
Perhaps the most valuable lesson the Tasman taught us was how to tackle and objective that we had no idea about, and I wanted to test those skills again. Sure, I could have done that in lots of different ways, but I wanted to commit myself to another world-class objective, to push myself even further in a completely foreign environment and experience that knee-trembling rush of fear and adrenaline that comes with being out of my comfort zone. The very thought of putting together an expedition down to Antartica make excitement flow through my blood, generating the same energy as when I first began to dream of the Tasman.
And I thought I was intrepid this morning!