Very, very, very much off topic I wanted to share something quite important to me.
The first time I did anything vaguely adventurous was actually quite random and unexpected, to this date I have no idea what drove me to make the change in my life that I did but it was THE key point in my life where I redirected who I was going to be and what I wanted to do, there was no ‘master plan’, no ‘dawning of who I wanted to be’ it just happened. Up until 1994 I was a bit of a dropout, didn’t do well at school, managed to blag my way into a fairly good job that I could have done well in at British Telecom but decided that it wasn’t for me due to the fact that in involved actual ‘working’ which I wasn’t too keen on at that age….After that I bummed around a bit as an Electrician catching cash in hand work around London and generally living hand to mouth and buying cigarettes and beer with my weekly earnings whilst trying to keep whatever dodgy car I had at the time on the road.
Now here’s the strange part, I had always known about a charitable organisation called ‘Operation Raleigh’ who would send ‘youth’ away to interesting places and make them do mad things that totally put them outside of their comfort zone – It was part of a charitable group of companies that was originally something to do with Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh and as such was well respected. I can’t remember how or when I applied but I got selected for a selection weekend down in East Grinsted, got through that with a very strong feeling that I was far too ‘un-middle class’ to be taking part. I then had to raise three thousand pounds to be able to go….Which I believe was around September time 1993, and the expedition was in March 1994….To which most people thought I would have had no chance given I hadn’t actually earnt that amount of money in the previous 5 years….
I got a copy of the ‘who’s who’ book from the library, wrote down all the names and addresses of the most likely charitable funds and famous people who would give me some of their hard earned cash, I wrote off to them with a ‘pack’ of information, a return paid envelope, a handwritten letter and proof of my expedition acceptance – I could barely pay for the stamps to post off the letters but nonetheless they were sent off in their hundreds. nothing happened for about a month and I was getting all a bit downbeat about the whole thing until a few replies started to come back…..Most said ‘Thanks but sorry’ but some had cheques…..Some had big cheques, some fifty pounds, some one hundred, I’m pretty sure there were a few two hundreds and there was a big day when a five hundred pound cheque came through and I needed a good ‘sit down’ to be able to acknowledge that one….!!
Time passed and I raised the majority of the money through begging, with a little bit outstanding Raleigh allowed me to go on the premise that I would continue to collect the remaining funds on my return (I never did!)…..
So why am I dishing out all this information? Well because it was 1994, and to be more precise it was exactly twenty years ago in March 1994 when I flew to Zimbabwe as a twenty one year old completely green East London kid who really didn’t have a clue what he was getting into. I’m sure all of us can look back on key moments in our lives and say “That was the moment when I decided X” or something similar…For me I will never ever forget sitting in the seat of the aircraft as it rolled down the tarmac at Heathrow whilst I was playing “U2 – Where the Streets Have No Name” at full pelt through my Walkman (Yes it was a Walkman…Ssshh) and feeling one of the biggest adrenalin surges I’d ever felt as we lifted off.
To this date any ‘big adventure’ has always seen me spend the first five minutes of the journey’s commencement in a quiet corner to myself and play the same song knowing that I’d be going on a life changing adventure again – nothing beats that, nothing….
So, 20 years on exactly – I have the diary with me that I wrote as a young idiot on his first adventure, I have all the bad and embarrassing photos on a hard drive and also the time to put it all up here on my blog….I’m thinking I’ll add a few comments about what I remember too as a lot of what happened I’d never documented, sorry if it pulls away from the purpose of this blog and it being about Antarctica but hopefully it’s not that boring, I’m sure you’ll tell me if it is 🙂 So here we go:
Raleigh International – Zimbabwe Expedition 94B
Arrived 06.05 Harare Time, No sleep, checked into hotel, army truck to a swimming pool for a swimming test then drove through Harare city centre to Raleigh Headquarters (Derry farm) – We’ve been split into groups, our first project is to go to Gonerezhou national Park to build elephant hides on Sunday – We get to make dinner for the whole expedition tonight.
Dinner was a good group effort though we did burn a massive pot of beans which made some people ill. Woke up at 6am for a two mile run, breakfast was sausage egg and beans cooked by someone else. Learnt radio comms stuff, had some first aid training about diseases and things – Went for a bit of a walk but came back because Tony was sick due to the beans…
Up at 6.15 with a really bad sore throat, hard to swallow, must be due to the temperature change but could be beans. Breakfast same as yesterday, Practical on CPR and log rolls for people with broken necks, went to the lake to take some photos. a couple of beers in the evening.
Went into Harare to buy some things, I bought a rock (?) for Zim $25, a T-shirt, a sarong, some sandals and loads of chocolate then went back to the concentration camp for dinner. packed for tomorrow’s trip to Gonerezhou and then sat chatting with Ben Clayton Jolly our expedition leader – A few beers then bed.
6/3/1994 (exactly 20 years ago as I write this)
Up at 0415 hours, loaded the truck with rucksacks and tents to head to Gonerezhou. Breakfast at 0500hrs and finally left with Gonerezhou survey team at about 0730hrs. the truck was like a sardine tin with people crushing my gear. A few stops and we finally got there at 1930hrs. A giraffe was killed near where we decided to camp shortly before we arrived by three lions. We set up camp with Keith and Eric. They went to go and cut some meat off the giraffe for our dinner. Giraffe tastes a bit like pork but you can’t really tell when it’s in beans. Really was fed up with everyone on the back of the truck today but I might be grumpy because of the double malaria tablets today (Paludrine and Chloroquine) went to bed feeling very hot.
To be continued 🙂