As on previous expeditions, I have stayed up almost all night worrying about whether I have remembered not just every life saving piece of equipment, but all the small tiny things that could make life so much easier. Life saving gear is hard to forget with multiple checks, and check lists, and reminders. What is easier to forget is the cable that connects the Iridium satellite phone to the HP slate for sending emails, or the bit of string to tie the utility knife to the clothing so you don’t lose it. All little affectations or adjustments that aren’t fatal, but can be very annoying if forgotten.
I finally got 2 hours sleep before getting up again, and finalising my packing. All my expedition equipment has been split as evenly as possible across 2 bags so that if I lose one bag in transit, I am still able to function. I have also had to take a further bag with clothes, toiletries and other items for London and Punta Arenas which will be left behind when I go to the South Pole. There is no point in dragging a 3 kilo laptop for 1,000 kms when I cannot plug it in or get WiFi reception. And in case anyone else is wondering, like my niece, the answer is no, my BlackBerry messenger will not work in Antarctica!
Despite staying up all night, I still had to rush to make it on time for my flight. 61 kilos of checked in baggage, though 18 kg of that was taken up by books that I am bringing to friends who are buying them in London. Luckily, Oman Air (WY) who are sponsoring this expedition had waived the excess baggage as part of their commitment to me, so I was through and on the way to London.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I used to work for Gulf Air (GF) in a previous life, and after working on the refurbishments of the aircraft in GF, I was asked by Boeing and Airbus to work on their interior customer improvement programs. At the time, I was told I was one of only 80 people in the world that had run a program like that, and I was the youngest by about 20 years! Not only that, but Gulf Air was winning awards left right and centre in 2004 and 2005. I say all that not only to boast, but also to highlight I know what I am talking about.
What I have noticed in Oman, is that we tend to criticise a lot more than we acknowledge achievements. That is said not just from my personal experience, but also from observation. I have had all sorts of silly comments thrown at me, such as I was born in London, I am not fluent in Arabic, I haven’t lived in Oman etc as reasons why what I have done is not worthy of recognition or worthy of indifference…none of which have anything to do with my achievements as a human or a national. It is just a strange trait we have to bring people down. The Australians call it tall poppy syndrome. They love to see people succeed, or grow tall, and when they do, they like to cut them down.
Similarly, I hear lots of complaints about Oman Air, and I am sure I have agreed with some too. But what we must recognise is WY’s achievements as well. They have been voted the world’s best business class. The WORLD’s best. When has Oman ever been the world’s best at anything? I am sure there are some examples, but they are rare and we should congratulate them. I KNOW WY is the best business class product, because 7 years ago, the very same seat was introduced on Gulf Air as a FIRST class seat.
What WY also has is inflight connectivity. This means that you can watch live TV or use your mobile phone as if you were roaming! I spent so much time texting that I had run out of credit by the time we were over Europe! I will have to have a word with Nawras about topping up while I am away!
London was nowhere near as cold as I feared, but my Timberlands disagreed. Going from the heat to the cold, the rubber/plastic soles crumbled away, as the temperature change made the material brittle and I eventually had to throw them away. Another example of how the right equipment is essential, especially in extreme environments.