The Antarctic Series #3: Looking Back at the Preparation

Like any trip to the wilderness, good preparation counts for over half of the success of the expedition. Preparing for this trip brought some sense of deja-vu to the times when I was in the mountainering club in my high school in Jakarta many years ago. The difference is that I always went to somewhere in the tropics, and I was quite a few kilograms less back then. Fortunately this trip will not be as physically demanding compared to the mountaineering trips I did (I surely hope I am right on this).

The other difference is about the gears and the layers needed. When you explore the tropical rainforest, a layer of mountaineering shirt usually do the job. Not for this trip. The “2041″ Team has helpfully send us all a list of gears and layering required (two pages long), and for someone that does not do winter sport like me it means take a deep breath, reconcile bank accounts and credit cards, and then do the shopping.

I should not take for granted the fact that I reside in a North-Western European country where getting the appropriate gears for an Antarctic trip is not as complicated as some other team members that reside in the Middle East. However completing that list was not really a straightforward ordeal:

Hiking boots. Having hiked few mountains and explored rainforests years ago, I very much appreciate the value of a pair of comfortable and sturdy hiking boots. You don’t want to compromise on this one. The problem is that I have flat and wide feet that I suspect executives and designers at hiking boots company consider as low-volume consumer segment, and therefore limiting my options. Anyways, after looking in several stores and trying several pairs, I got myself a pair of Meindl boots. As any hiker knows,  a pair of boots takes time to fit the shape of the feet, and I am taking risk here by only getting the boots few weeks before this trip.

Geiters. A geiter is a gear you wear over the lower part of the pants and covers the upper part of the boot. Its function is to prevent water, snow, and dust to come into the inside of your shoe. Two good friends actually offered to lend me their geiters, but as you can imagine, size in this case matters because the geiters need to fit with the diameter of your lower leg. For most people a size small to medium pair of geiters are sufficient. Not for me. This reminds me of the time when I had a pair of horse-back riding boots custom made, and the shoemaker reluctantly asked for additional fee because it will require extra leather to make boots that fit my lower leg. Back to the geiters – the store basically had to order the size large / extra large for me, and they arrived just two days before I departed.

Thermal underwear. Simply put, the most expensive set of underwear I ever purchased. But this is also an area where I do not want to compromise. In extreme conditions, an itch is likely to be more than just a glitch. If New Zealand sheeps can provide that comfort and warmth, then so be it. 

Hiking pants. Here I come across the classic: my mismatch of waist size versus the length of the pants. With jackets, it’s not too bad if the arms are too long, but with pants, it pretty much disturb your movement – let alone comfort – , but most of all can be hazardous. If I were in my native Jakarta, all I needed to do is drop the purchased pants by my tailor in the morning and pick it up after lunch. But since it was the Netherlands, at least a week needs to be allocated to get the problem fixed. 

Flags. I carry with me three different flags for photos in the Antarctic, all three have their own stories. The first one has travelled all over the wilderness, and in fact this one came from thousands of kilometers away. It is the flag of my former high school’s mountaineering club in Jakarta, Group Pencinta Alam Pangudi Luhur, or GPA PL for short. Having been flown usually under the tropical sun, this poor flag has no idea what’s going to hit it. The second one is the Indonesian flag. Living in the Netherlands, where does one get an Indonesian flag? The Indonesian Embassy, of course. Thanks to the Charges de Affairs, HE Mr Umar Hadi and his helpful staffs I secured a brand new Indonesian flag to bring with me. The third one is the Shell flag, a company that has been supporting this expedition for a few years now, and moreover supports me to participate. I would never forget the face of the security officer at Shell’s headquarters when I asked to borrow a flag – a request that doesn’t come their way every day, I suppose. All three flags are now packed nicely in a dry bag.

One duffle bag. Two weeks of clothing, including thick layers of warm outfit and other gears will now need to fit in one duffle bag as recommended by the organizer. Though I am relatively a frequent traveler, this time I need to leave my Samsonite at home and got myself a soft duffle bag. To my surprise, when checking-in at Schiphol airport it only weighed a nice 17 kg.

March 3, 2011
Buenos Aires

 Michael C. Putrawenas

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