Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day 32: Mother Nature decides my pace... Storm again!

89:02.473S 81:28.666W

Crossed the 89th parallel at 11h15 today, going like a rocket and now into the final straight. It felt pretty special to be at this 'strange' position on the bottom of the world... It sounds probably 'stupid' but I did have this sense that its curvature / shape is different as it's so close to the Pole... I'm not going mad... Just letting the thoughts out freely

Elevation: 2736 metres. I'm definitely on the South Pole plateau, hey! It's just so different in skiing surface too...

"You say like a rocket: Ok, so why haven't you moved much on 'the map' then...?"

Oh well, another dreaded northerly storm put an end to what I'd hoped would be another 34 or so kilometre day. I should learn my lessons: 1st one: never tell you guys what a beautiful evening it is. And secondly: don't try to predict my arrival day! Mother Nature doesn't like me to think I'm in control...

At the start today there was a light following Northerly wind, which gradually strengthened bringing with it total cloud and virtually zero visibility conditions. I saw it all happening but somehow wanted to deny the day was going to be cut short. I skied through for a bit, but found I was disorientated to the point I was zig-zagging like a drunken. It was quite amazing how suddenly my mindset switched to thinking how nice it would be to spend another 'day' (?) in the luxury of my cosy little tent on the ice on my own! There REALLY is something special about that... Wind howling outside and 'us' being made into a sastrugi again, probably the only one around here this time! I just wish I had more food stocks, and that long gone whisky... I'd need nothing more... Well for this 'prison'!! Food is a bit tight, but will be OK, provided I'm not stuck here for more than a day more. I've got this strange conflict: I want to enjoy this time in the tent out here in nothingness, but also want to get to the Pole. I REALLY do know I'll miss the specialness of being and doing EXACTLY what I'm doing RIGHT now, and again, the reality of the situation does provide a 'wakeup jolt': I'm in this minute tent, in this vast wilderness, inhospitable weather outside, a few layers of thin fabric separating the two environments, and I'm insignificant as far as this world is concerned... Hmmm, that's maybe what makes up a large part of the specialness...

I'm hoping the 2-4 days waiting for Ruth at the Pole will be almost as pleasurable, but it will be closer to 'your guys' life: there'll be people around, and I'll have a boredom distracter: My Kindle. So I can read! It's waiting for me at the Pole, together with 'a few other' indulgences. Yeah, I've also been contaminated, and am a bit normal! But hey, I have to get there first... Focus!

I spoke about the ice occasionally rumbling as 'we' cross over it, well today I had a real big one: it was as if a whole ice building was collapsing underneath 'us'. The noise like a pack of structures falling went on for seconds, and I was fully expecting to see cracks all around, but nope, nothing, it's all under the surface. Maybe it's not as serious as it sounds, but from the sound of things there must be a significant cavity somewhere below. I did imagine skiing along and we sort of 'detonate' a large area of collapse that just consumes me, the sled and nothing more heard! I guess the fact this isn't supposed to be a crevasse area; I've never seen surface cracks when this happens; and it hasn't happened to others before me, allows me to pushing it off the fear list.

As I write this and think that tomorrow is Christmas eve for you guys (yes, me too, but it's quite different for me) I think how busy your lives must be, and it must be so obvious from this and other emails how minutely micro my world is... Strange, hey, and yet I'm not missing busy-ness, and all that goes with that... Doesn't mean to say that if my world was in amongst all that I wouldn't be enjoying it... But let me say: I'm not missing it... Maybe I'm a bloody weirdo...? Maybe it's because I know I can't have it, but the nice thing is, I must be somehow 'balanced' out here because I feel content... But life IS very SIMPLE!

I'm not sure how long this storm will last, but I know I'm not in charge, so all I can do is have a flexible plan for what WILL happen: Unless the sun appears and wakes me earlier, I'll wake up as usual at 6am, and see what things look like. The remotest chance of being able to see to ski, and I'll cook breakfast and headout asap. If it's still 'inhospitable' I'll give breakfast a miss, go back to bed for a few hours and check again... And repeat until I can go..... So if it goes on a while you may get a surprise email and maybe even another photo or two....

Now back to the philosophical thread: Belonging and ID in the context of managing one's life for maximum Freedom. (And by the way, that's a big assumption of mine, that most people want MORE freedom? I'd like your views on this? Would you like more freedom in your life? Honestly now? 100% Freedom being the ability to Act, Speak, and Think without ANY restraint, and we all live somewhere 'back' from that maximum reference. Where do you fit on the scale?)

Belonging then: This is simply being a part of one or more human being group - essentially a relationship of mutual need and acceptance. The most fundamental and intimate being the relationship with 'oneself', belonging within one's own skin, to the least intimate, just belonging as a citizen of the world. Inbetween those two we all have a range of belonging situations. As I'm always reminded: The human being is a social creature, so belonging is a fundamental human need. Yeah, accepted, but is there a limit to 'healthy' belonging? Too much belonging can reduce one's freedom, by the need to constantly meet the demands / expectations of the 'group' to continue to be accepted.

I sense in this complex world we now live in the NEED to belong is at an all time high, probably because of the breakdown in family / society fundamentals, and a complex world confusing people.... Strong statement, but JUST my views. To me this is borne out by the power of brands, fashions, the narrowness of what's cool, the draw of celebrities, the unbalanced popularity and hero status of 'ordinary celebrities', the following of highly marketed professional sports teams, Facebook's easy virtual friends, etc, etc, etc.. 'People' seem so desperate to belong to 'something'... In my humble opinion, this extraordinary need to belong comes from 'people' not knowing who they really are, so using these icons as their ID associators / references.

Then there is the other dimension of belonging: We all need money to live, and because of the power of the capitalist hegemony, money is almost, if not, central to society today. Belonging to groups / individuals who can lead one to money, whether that be just your boss at work, your breadwinner husband / wife or your business network connections, the 'better' you belong to the easy path to monetary freedom. So if that is the case, it would seem possible that 'people' will do anything just to belong to get the reward. In the process 'they' modify who they are so as to be accepted in these groups... Cynical, maybe, but partially true to.....?

The society 'we' live in today is a classic hegemony, and it's so clear what defines success and what you have to do to get there...There are messages about this in every newspaper, TV, movies, etc, etc. There is a societal pressure that keeps people on a materialism 'rat race', that fuels the hegemony, and destines most to a life of subsistence work: working to sustain an ever-increasing 'standard of living', so 'we' can fit in (belong) better in society...

You, or I, or our friends may be exceptions to this world... But I think it takes a strong and courageous personality, and a different 'life approach'.

So, all this leads to a huge NEED to belong, and in the process one probably forgoes a lot of Freedom!

I got to the point in 2004 where I could no longer belong within the hegemony's values, and so turned my back on 'that society' to go and explore 'something better'... A daunting adventure in hindsight! Where does one start looking for a 'new world'? I chose adventure as the medium and Nature as my teacher! I sensed cutting myself from virtually all belonging, and material needs, grabbing the associated freedom, and then putting myself naked in front of Nature, through solo sailing, cycling, polar stuff, etc, in the world's wilderness', I'd learn REAL 'stuff'....

Well, surprise, surprise, just like now in my tent, with the wind still howling outside, the simpler life became, and the more naked I got, the more I developed a REAL relationship with myself. I began to belong in the most primary place possible, within myself! I joke with many about the concept of 'Romantic dinners for One', but the ability to not only do that, but ENJOY the occasion, I believe is a test of strong internal belonging!

On my adventure, and exploring for another 'life world', I sense at some point around 2006, I experienced the lowest level of external belonging in my life. I was a solo sailor / adventurer, wandering without a home, other than my yacht, no country of residence, and just free. I'd left the hegemony world.

So right, where is all this going?

Well, what I experienced was that as I belonged more within, my 'desperate' need to belong with 'many and everyone' diminished, and the more I simplified my life, the 'richer' I became! Now I don't want this coming across as me being a social recluse, or I don't need friends, hopefully you can see from my communications I love interaction with others. It needs to be real belonging relationships, where we can truly be free infront of each other... Be ourselves, the one who we know deep within. Anything short of that, and my freedom may be compromised!

So in this whole exploring process, I found another life, one where I largely managed to retain my hard won freedom, while having a new more grounded and less demanding basis for belonging. I'm only sharing with you my experiences, not trying to TELL you what's right or wrong. How could I? Life is coomplex and individaul. Please comment as you see fit, from your heart....

Gee, guys I hope there is something in all this which is remotely of interest / value to you, but it's been very special writing this to you from my little house on the ice, in the middle of a storm... I almost sense I was given this storm break, to send this 'story' off to you...

I often get told: "Oh you can only do all this with wealth, so it's for an exclusive few." If time permits, I'd like to share next time my views on this, and why that isn't true!

I do hope I can continue towards the Pole tomorrow. Still 105 km.

Cheers for now...



  1. Howard great to see you are now so close and still mentally and physically very strong. Some interesting thoughts about belonging and one which I can see and fully agree with and what this brings to individuals. Of course one of the key elements to all this, in my view is about being content and happy. This is different for every one, the saddest part of belonging is the spoon feeding of the media success (financial) and third rate celebrities and how these are now becoming role models for our your people, our future and they believe this will make them happy which invariably it does not.
    Hey I do like the nice things in life as we probably all do but with the understanding this does not bring happiness and content on its own. On a lighter note I have just been peeling potatoes, carrots and other veg for xmas dinner tomorrow Julia thought it would be great idea to invite all my family to a sit down xmas lunch. It will be fun but there are 28 of us.
    I wonder shall I put a tent up in the garden thats probably the only place I will get any piece especially as they are all staying the night. !!

    Keep safe and great to hear all going so well

    sp. x

    Julia sends her love.

  2. Howard,

    .... I thought that the washboards in Sudan, or the rocks in Northern Kenia were incredibly difficult during our TdA07. But I guess this is peanuts compared to sastrugi! What you are pulling of is just amazing. Not only because of the physical and mental challenge, but even more because of what you and your 'followers' write about 'What are we here for?'. Thank you for so much inspiration! Good stuff to read just before X-mass.

    Keep safe and enjoy your last 100+ km every single step.! So much respect for what you are doing!!


  3. Hello again, Howard. Thank you for these very interesting blog entries. Your honesty and willingness to "say it straight" is what makes it so fascinating to read. I agree with your thoughts on "belonging " in society completely, and would like to expand by adding another dimension to it. Sometimes, at birth, a baby is deprived (no matter the circumstances) of that very first "connection' with a human in this world, namely the bond that is created when a mother first lays eyes on her new born, I believe that baby will, throughout his or her life, be searching for that 'connection', that sense of belonging. On a very deep lever, probably cellular level, the knowing, the feeling that "something" is missing, never goes away and you end up searching throughout your whole life to find it. Some people search consciously, others search unconsciously through the haze of addictions/achievements, possessions/status/marriages, etc to find a way to 'belong' that will take the 'pain' away. The foundation of that first bonding with your mother is of course unconditional love. So it is no surprise that the subject of LOVE is the other strong thread in the life long search search.

    Another ingredient that I would like to add to our pot of philosophical musings is the effect of communication technology in society. Cellphones and computers have robbed the younger generation of developing empathy . What does the future hold for humans who communicate without experiencing the emotional impact of their words on others?

    In the meantime, I hope you have had a good rest, and are busy pounding the snow and ice as I write this. The adventure is almost over, and I identify with your feeling of wanting to get to the finish line and yet feel reluctant for the adventure to be over. I experienced those same feelings during my Atlantic crossing. Thank goodness for memories!
    Take care and I look forward to hearing how your day went. Lynn x

  4. Merry Christmas Howard ... the clock has just clicked 1 minute past midnight, so officially Christmas Day here in Oz. Thinking of you & can't wait to hear your next news. So close to this goal (there'll be more we know :-)). Just know that you have a great many people thinking of you today - enjoy it.
    Cheers for now
    John VJ

  5. Hi Howard
    I so enjoy following your adventures and reading your blog for its insights into your thoughts and experiences. It has been very interesting for me to watch your inner growth since our trading days together in Sydney. I recall the weekend you spent your first night alone at sea on an Open 50 yacht off the coast of Sydney and think of how far you have travelled since then, both physically and spiritually. Thank you for inviting me on your quest.
    Merry Christmas from all onboard "Run to Paradise".

  6. Hi Howard. Merry Christmas. Thanks for sharing your amazing journey. I'm looking for total freedom:) I agree that it is always here but I believe in the future it will be available for everyone and the love between people will stem from a more authentic place. I work to practice this every day and in my relationships with others...and to transform the money system that we have to reflect this ideal:) Safe travels. Love and gratitude from Wanaka.

  7. Hi Howard, hope that storms settles and lets you continue your amazing journey to the South Pole. I have just prepared the stuffing for the turkey, which i will cook tomorrow. I love doing this work. The transformation of all the ingredients into the flavoursome dish they become is a miracle. All if life is a miracle, if only we took time to recognise it and feel part of it. Only three days left for you to remain immersed in your wilderness experience, enjoy every second of it, it is so special a privilege to be where you are. We will drink a toast to you tomorrow. Continue in safety. warm wishes.. p and b

  8. Happy Christmas Howard! You're one of the few of us who will be seeing a white Christmas this year - its about 7C in London. Best wishes for the final 100k. James and Paola x

  9. Hi Howard,

    What an epic adventure so far, coupled with honest and thought-provoking comments - an enthralling combination! Very glad that I had the good fortune to meet you on that CPT - JHB flight as you flew out to Chile. Merry Christmas from Cape Town and all the best for your remaining kilometres. Richard

  10. Hi Howard

    Merry Christmas from Sydney.

    Good to see you are nearly there and sound of body and mind. Your blogs make it clear you're on top of things.

    I'm off to Colombia so this could be my last message. A few years back, a trip to Colombia was regarded as a dangerous adventure but now that the guerillas no longer have the run of the country it's simply a normal holiday. I must say that I look forward to it just as much as I did in earlier years when the trip had the added excitement of one running the risk of being kidnapped, tortured and killed. In fact, now that I think about it, I think I prefer it the way it is now....I guess age dims the sense of adventure.

    As I've said before, I admire what you've done, and am in awe of your achievement and thorougly enjoyed sharing (emotionally)the journey with you but I'm afraid that the only way I'll ever physically get to the South Pole is if global warming turns it into a lush green continent with at least 3 star motels along the way. Let me congratulate you in advance on your arrival to your destination. Paul

  11. Hi Howard,
    we are enjoying your updates - keep up the good work, and have a cool Christmas Day!
    Cheers, Garth & Liz

  12. I just spent Friday evening and all day Saturday with favorite relatives. Drove the two hours home only to stop and visit more relatives. I had to turn on my computer to see what you did today, Howard, and want to visit, usually wishing you were here so the conversation could be instantaneously back and forth, but right now my eyes are fighting to stay open. However, I wanted to tune in to say Merry Christmas Howard! Everyday wishing you speed, safety, discovery, and joy! TV is playing one Christmas song after another with nothing but a close up picture of a blazing fireplace, I love it, but now I only have one eye open,..zzzzz Sandy T.

  13. Hi Howard,

    Merry Christmas from Brisbane Australia. We've loved sharing your journey and we wish you a safe arrival at the South Pole. Keep safe and know that we're all thinking of you.

    From John, Anne and the rest of our family

  14. Merry Christmas Howard from New Zealand xxxx Janet and Chris

  15. Hi Howie,
    Like your specialness story.When you get to the South Pole,food no more an issue?Is there a town,if so the name?Will Google.Yep Christmas eve is as simple as you make it.I believe in keeping things simple & not complexed.Suppose your under lying principal-Choice!
    Sorry have only got to your simple part.
    Would love more freedom with no rules,unfortunately not free yet.Restricted by the prison & the guard.On the scale1-10,would say most people at 3,Howie say you at 9,I would be 6.My assumption & opinion.
    Belonging,enjoy this theory!Believe in not being main stream but respecting others when need be.Being comfortable with yourself for periods.Periods,never done what you have done for those periods of time.Doing what needs to be done to cover commitments & put food on the table, having fun & learning.
    Well done on the 105km.Relieved ,trying to catch up & be current before you get to the S pole.Do appreciate your food situation.You know what I mean.