In raising awareness for our cause, we were very fortunate to acquire a few sponsors along the way. This expedition of ours wasn’t going to be cheap and we needed all the help we could get. At that stage I wasn’t too sure about the other team members, but I was concerned about the costs involved. After quite a few meetings and lengthy discussions, I realized I wasn’t the only one with worries. It was all very exciting nevertheless, and talking about all the right equipment and clothing that we’d need was just half the fun. We had been sponsored Australian Emu boots which are probably the warmest shoes and most comfortable boots I’ll ever own, Gortex jackets and pants from The North Face and sunglasses from Oakley. We were all now experiencing a great sense of camaraderie in our training sessions together plus going out and hitting the shops together to make sure that we were buying the right thermal underwear, hiking boots and other equipment.
In our training sessions on the indoor ski slope, we had to learn how to walk tethered to a rope together and how to use snow shoes and ice axes. It was going very well and I could feel my training sessions starting to pay off. Since we were going to be kayaking in Antarctica, we had to brush up on our skills in that area too. We were going in December, and therefore wouldn’t be encountering extreme weather like one often sees on documentaries, but it would still be dipping to temperatures of between -5 and -10 degrees. Still pretty nippy and what called for the right protective gear. My main concern was falling into the water whilst kayaking. After falling into frigid waters like that, it doesn’t even take 1 minute before one starts going into hyperthermia. Then there was also the issue of sleeping alfresco on an iceberg. I was really looking forward to that, but we had to get a taste of what it would be like. That meant sleeping overnight in the park of the indoor ski slope.
That afternoon we arrived at the slope with all our gear. We would be sleeping in tents on yoga mats inside special thermal sleeping bags. I had decided in all my wisdom to double up and bring an extra yoga mat for myself. With my weak back, I didn’t want to know how I would feel the next morning after sleeping on the rock hard ground of the ski park. With all my other gear plus the weight of my extra yoga mat, I had my work cut out for me in terms of weight. We had all been issued with our own big blue kit bags which resembled these big military tog bags that they issue. We were now known as the Jewels of Antarctica and our logo was on everything. So we all struggled into the park, lugging our baggage behind us. The indoor ski slope has huge floor to ceiling windows on one side, making it visible to the public and shop goers. While we were setting up our camping sight for the night, we attracted attention in the form of people who were taking photo’s, plus a newspaper arrived to witness our activities and interview one of our team members.
We had a hectic schedule ahead of us, as the next morning we were due to attend the Pink Polo which was being held in honor of breast cancer to raise awareness and funds. None of us were expecting to get much sleep, and I knew that I was going to find it challenging, but pushing ahead was now the name of the game. After camp had been set up, we had a photo shoot and then went about settling down for the night to try and get some sleep. We all slept two in a tent and in the end it felt to me like some sort of freak sensory overload experiment. I literally felt like a guinea pig in a big glass cage while scientists were peering in to gauge my reactions. There was a snow machine that was on 24/7 to generate snow. This blasted along all night long and was loud. The lights were not switched off either and I lay there with my back aching and shivered from the cold. Half way through the night we managed to drift off and when I woke up in the early hours, the roof of the tent had started to cave in from the weight of the snow. I had to do something and so, raising my legs I kicked up at the roof to dislodge some of it. 6:30am was wake up time, and we all stumbled exhausted and ill rested out of our tents. It was time to take a hike up the slope and then come down again and pack up the camp sight. Oh boy!