I woke in my bunk that morning and could not for the life of me figure out where I was in the first 30 seconds. The gentle rocking and serious lack of head room didn’t even give it away. I was dazed and confused! This was not an uncommon state of mind for me to wake up in these day! I wiped the porthole and looked out. I’M IN ANTARCTICA! Of course I was! I had just spent the last five days sailing past Cape Horn and across the Drake. How could I have forgotten, even in the earliest seconds of my waking day!
There was no mistaking the scenery outside. It was magnificent. Awe inspiring!
As my consciousness slowly caught up with the rest of me, the reality of my situation came crashing through my drowsiness, I smiled. I was not only in Antarctica! Today was V-Day. Today was the day Rhonda and I would land on it’s shores! Today I was going to ride my motorbike on Antarctica!
This day was about achieving a personal goal andrealising what initially seemed an unrealistic goal. It was about taking the rough with the smooth, fighting the fears, concerns, hurdles and naysayers and getting rewarded for it. I was going to actually do it and nothing else at that moment mattered! From now on I knew I could do anything if I wanted it badly enough. Hard work and sheer pig headedness will take you a long way. That, and treating people with respect along the way. It may sound corny but it goes a long way! Be yourself. Be genuine. Be open. You never know who might come back to help you realise your dreams!
Jumping out of bed I treated myself to a shower, prepared my camera equipment and then went about making brews for the rest of the crew. I was keen for them all to get up! THE DAY HAD ARRIVED!!! I made the tea as loudly as possible!!!!
Rhonda was still strapped to the aft and covered in cling film with a black bag duct taped to her head. Just the way I had left her. I set about unwrapping her and washing her down with fresh water courtesy of the water maker on board the Ice Bird. I was pleased to see that the WD40 and wrapping had kept her rust free and fairly dry considering what she has just been through. I was ecstatic to find she started, as ever, on the button on the first turn! I had kept the battery below deck and as soon as it was reconnected we were good to go as if nothing had happened! Good old Rhonda the Honda! She had crossed the Drake and not even missed a beat!
My stomach lurched as I realised it was time to get Rhonda off the boat and in to the Zodiac. This was an extremely daunting prospect. It was a particularly small tender, designed for 6 people, and a long way down. If we got it wrong, Rhonda would not survive a dip in this icy cold sea. If one of us fell in we would only have minutes to get out before the situation became life threatening. Now there were going to be 5 of us and a Honda in this tiny vessel and we were going to attempt to balance her as we crossed over half a mile of floating ice chunks to our landing spot in Paradise Harbour.
As with the loading, we used the boom as a crane and winched her up and over the life rails before slowly lowering her down in the open arms of Olly, who gently guided her in to position in the centre of the Zodiac. So far so good. It was all going smoothly and I was growing in confidence that we might just be able to pull this off. We still had a long way to go before we were home and dry though.
Once safely in to position, Pete (a big strong Aussie), Sally (a small but agile Aussie), Cath (the Aussie skipper) and I climbed down and got in to position around her. Cath took the controls while the rest of us held the bike. The crossing went without a hitch. It was difficult to see the ice chunks as Rhonda was obscuring her view but she navigated through them well. The beauty of this place hit me once again as we passed by the bluest of icebergs! I laughed out loud with sheer delight as I took it all in. This situation seemed unreal and yet here we were! This was my dream. This was BETTER than the dream!
I have no idea how long the journey took but I would guess about 20 minutes. The rest of the crew were already on the bay. They had been shuttled over beforehand and were now our welcoming party. Ready to receive us!
We made it ashore easily and with brute force we lifted Rhonda out of the Zodiac! Touch down! The Honda has landed!!! I threw my arms in the air and unashamedly whooped!!! There was nothing left to do!
I stood there silent for a moment
with a big grin on my face and in my own little world. I snapped back to reality when someone said “Come on then!” I grabbed my helmet and jumped on! I didn’t need any written invitations. This landing spot was perfect. It had a narrow stretch of sand and rock and there was no wildlife around at that time. We really wanted to do this properly and with respect for our surroundings.
I turned the key and away we went! It was about 200 yards to the corner. I rode it steadily along the sand and as I reached the head and prepared to take the corner I stopped and stared at the view before me! Wow! There was a massive ice cave! I turned and shouted at the guys “We have to get some shots of this!” They were already on my tail!
I road her for a short time only but it was the best ride of my life!
The photos were taken and the champagne was opened! Rhonda was given a glug and the rest was shared amongst the crew! The people who had all had their roles to play in making the final leg of the dream a reality. They had all put so much time and effort in to help.
Before long Cath was taking some of the guys back and the others went off in search of some penguin shots as a few had landed on some nearby rocks and had been observing the proceedings. I was left alone with Rhonda. I patted my old friend on the tank and thanked her again for being such a loyal friend. I then decided to have another little ride while we had the stretch of sand to ourselves. I walked to the corner and set up the camera. As I turned back I realised a curious penguin had come ashore to check Rhonda out. How wonderful. I didn’t crowd him too much and kept my distance as they made their acquaintance and the little penguin waddled off again. Back to the water and away.
All too soon we too were back on the water and waddling away from my little stretch of paradise. Once more the place was deserted and no one would have known we were ever there. No one except the little penguin who I like to think went home telling tales of strange red dragons on the shores!
Continent No. 5 complete. WE MADE IT!