It is important to train for extreme conditions in extreme conditions. It is possible (although unlikely) that we will be walking in -40 degrees. It is more likely that it will be -10 ish. And so I’ve come to Australia…
…and I have realised that without big, thick, -40-type socks my boots are a little too big. And a little too hot. And I feel a little ridiculous walking around in them next to people in thongs (no smirking Brits… that’s flip flops to you….).
My training walks, thus far, have been in 20, 24 and then a glorious 28 degrees. I’ve walked around Richmond, East Melbourne, Parkville, Carlton, and the City. All my old haunts from my younger university years. I’ve had a nosey around my old college and poked my head into our old local where my photo is still on the wall (along with my whole female Newman College cohort that year, winners of the Holmes Trophy!!). I’ve skirted construction site after construction site – new shopping centres, new accommodation, road works, the new metro tunnel… it feels as though the whole of Melbourne is being dug up and developed.
It is all change here, and yet it all feels the same. The same brightness even when it is overcast, the same multi-cultural mix of people and food, the same history of blue stone buildings, tiny cottages, and terrace houses (with lattice), the same trams and tram noises. And definitely the same towering gum trees with their crackly bark, fragrant leaves, vibrant blossoms, and slim, pale trunks. These things haven’t – and hopefully – won’t ever change.
But I think my time here so far has helped me to realise how extreme and remote this trek will be. The few people I’ve mentioned it to (like the lovely lady in Fitzroy Gardens who took this photo) looked at me with amazement, incredulity, and then (or maybe I’m projecting here….) a great deal of respect. You see, from Australia, ‘the arctic’ is so far, so remote, and so isolated. But then, it is from Britain too…. OK, so this is a guided walk. OK, so we fly into the town we leave from (I’m sure the woman in the park pictured me at the helm of an ice-breaker…). OK, so we fly out 4 days later. But it is still pretty amazing. In the busy-ness of life, and the frantic-ness of ‘squeezing in another training session’, I may have lost sight of the extent of this challenge.
‘Walking in the arctic’ has become the new normal…except that it’s not really normal at all, is it?