Dreams really do drive reality in the very best of worlds… My guest blogger, Flora “the explorer” McKnight had a dream, which turned a doctor’s diagnosis into an opportunity; and brought her to another place and time. Read on.
I woke up in a sweat after yet another restless night. “I wish I was in the Antarctic” I muttered to myself while jumping out of bed to rush to stand in front of the freezer.
I showed all the signs and symptoms in my early thirties for “the change” but no doctor would test me. One doctor eventually trusted my instinct and finally, at the age of 38, I was diagnosed with peri-menopause. Many women who have suffered through or are still going through “the change” will understand that the night sweats are unbearable at times. Give me the moodiness or forgetfulness any day but please, not the dreaded night sweats!
So that’s how the journey of a lifetime began for me. As the sweats increased so too did my dreams of visiting Antarctica and as if by magic, a Facebook sponsored story directed me to New Horizon Expeditions website where they were organising a special once off trip to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Excitedly I clicked on the link and was completely drawn in. I had goose bumps reading about it and not only that but the date of the trip co-incided with my 40th birthday! Immediately I registered my interest and as soon as the information pack came back I knew that this was it, now or never, go for it woman, be cool! Booked, deposit paid, no turning back.
I had a year and a half to prepare for my trip. Slowly paying off lump sums, purchasing base layers, mid layers, outer layers, gloves, hats, ski socks etc. I even went to Finland to buy an extra warm down jacket in case I might be cold there. (Heaven forbid!)
Wednesday 28th Jan 2015. I stood at the agreed meeting point waiting for my fellow passengers and group leader to arrive. Now I can be a little bit of a worrier and so obviously thoughts started to enter my head like “what if this is a scam?”, “yer man has legged it with all my money”, “may as well go home now and hide in the fridge for 3 weeks”. Finally I spotted our group leader waving at me from the check in desk; drama over, take me to Antarctica!
Long journey to Buenos Aires for a two day stopover then on to Ushuaia (The End of the World) for another stopover and this was where we boarded our ship “The Ushuaia”. The build-up of anticipation from the airport right to this moment is indescribable. We had all waited so long for this moment and could barely contain our excitement. I myself shed a few tears but put it down to the dodgy hormones! Our leader kitted us out in magnificent “Shackleton 100” body warmers and matching hats. We were the envy of the voyage, everyone wanted one! We felt so special to be part of this wonderful expedition.
That “special” feeling continued as we slowly made our way to The Great White Continent via the notorious Drake Passage. Sea sickness comes in waves… Great, big, 30 to 40ft waves!! Some were affected more than others but luckily I was upright in the bar by later that evening drugged up with ginger capsules and dunking Jacobs ginger snaps in to my ginger tea! I shared a small cabin with a lovely German girl who obviously felt the cold more than I did and kept turning up our little heater full blast. As soon as she was asleep I would creep out of my bunk and turn it down again. This saga continued throughout the whole journey with neither of us commenting or asking “do you mind?” It was just the way it was and we were both happy with the set up!
As we cleared the passage we gained confidence in our sea legs and all were upright by the time a call of “ICEBERG, STRAIGHT AHEAD” could be heard from the bridge. We all rushed out on deck and sighted our very first iceberg in the distance. We were well and truly on our way South.
We made several landings over the next few days. Penguin colonies at Gourdin Island – Gentoo, Chinstrap and Adelie. We observed them go about their business picking up stones and feeding their chicks. Brown Bluff on Antarctic Sound was our first Continental landing and pretty special for all of us. Hydrugga Rocks, where we saw our first Fur and Weddell Seals. We sailed through the Lemaire Channel with views of massive glaciers on either side of our ship. The most spectacular scenery I shall never forget.
Our most Southerly point @ 65.15 degrees brought us to Wordie House on Winter Island. The house of James Wordie, Shackleton’s geologist, is kept as a historical site for the Antarctic Treaty system.
From there we moved on to Vernadsky, a Ukrainian Research Station. The station first discovered the hole in the Ozone layer! The station had a wee bar where a bottle of whiskey was produced and a rendition of “The little pot stove” was sung by Frank Nugent. (Mountaineer & explorer and member of the Irish South Arís – Irish Antarctic Adventure team which attempted to sail a James Caird replica lifeboat named Tom Crean from Elephant Island to South Georgia.) We were privileged to have him along with us on our trip.
Pleneau Island saw us zodiac cruising through hundreds of icebergs of all shapes and sizes while being chased by Leopard Seals! At Paradise Bay (aptly named) we cruised through the calmest of sea gazing at the huge glaciers all around us. I don’t think a word was spoken from any of us other than the odd “wow” and you could almost hear the gulps as people tried to swallow the lump in their throat.
A visit to the Argentine owned Brown Base, named after Irish born Admiral William Brown (creator of the Argentine Navy), saw us climb to the top of a snow covered steep hill and slide on our bums back down! A truly unique experience and yes, this was the day of my 40th birthday. What a way to celebrate!
On Deception Island we climbed a black glacier covered in volcanic ash. Walker Bay gave us our first sighting of Elephant Seals. Pendulum Cove saw a few brave souls take the polar plunge which of course I participated in!
Antarctica is often imagined to be a quiet, solemn, white continent yet it is far from that. The thunderous echoes of falling glaciers, the barks from the seals, the nattering from the penguins, the blows from whales, the many birds swooping overhead, the clear crisp icy blue of the glaciers, the aquamarine of the sea at the base of each iceberg, the browns and greys of the rocks, the black volcanic ash, the red from the krill, the pink from guana (penguin poo!) all contributed to the amazing sounds and sights of this wonderful, beautiful, inspiring Continent.
I feel privileged to have spent time on this unspoilt continent. Privileged to have spotted Orcas, a Skua attack and kill a penguin chick, a school of dolphins play beside our ship at night disturbing the phosphorescent in the water which gave us a transfixing display that can only be described as the Aurora of the sea. Privileged to have met some amazing new friends and to have gained a small insight to the harsh conditions our heroes Shackleton and Crean endured.
Did I fulfil my dreams? Absolutely. Did I fulfil my purpose? Absolutely. Well, if only for a short time during the polar plunge and sneaky behaviour with a cabin heater but never mind, life blows hot and cold ~
“Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all”. Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Guest Blog by: Flora McKnight (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I am now a week into the New Year and fair play, the resolution is holding steady. I’ve been open sea swimming several times, climbed a mountain at a cracking pace, walked and trotted around the first #parkrun of the year, resumed my swimming lessons at DCU and returned to CrossFit. I’m not crazy, just Continue reading
I was so angry with myself this week
In November and December last year, I ate my way through the stress of starting up a new business (www.teenagates.com), I ate my way through the sadness of saying goodbye to old colleagues, and I ate my way through the celebration of spending Christmas with my family and the excitement of my new start. Happiness or sadness, I turned to food. Result? I put on TWENTY pounds in two months (over 9kilograms).
It wasn’t really about being lazy or inactive either. I was tearing around the place and doing lots of cycling and swimming; although I probably wasn’t putting as much effort into it as I usually would. Looking back at the last few months, it was definitely food that was the problem. I easily returned to my old 23-stone lifestyle of skipping breakfast, not bothering to plan my day’s food, grabbing a roll at lunch, eating out, trying to starve for a couple of hours as guilt set in, and then caving into food cravings and ordering a take-away just before bed – the worse time of the day to be eating.
Amazingly I didn’t notice the weight-gain for a while. It’s incredible how easy it is to slip back into denial. I noticed a couple of tops and dresses getting tighter, but thought they’d shrunk in the wash!
It wasn’t until I went kayaking before Christmas and had to get my mate Fiona to prise me into my buoyancy aid, that I noticed something was wrong. Even then, I stayed off the scales for a couple of weeks, telling myself I’d get the weight off first before taking the acid test. How dumb is that? Of course that didn’t happen, and I didn’t brave the scales until December 28th to measure the shocking extent of the damage done. I reached that point once before, on my way to morbid obesity. Back then I put my head down, right into a chicken snackbox and munched my way to oblivion. At least this time I’m facing the truth.
I’ve reintroduced the word ‘diet’ into my vocabulary.
In today’s world, it’s not polite to say ‘diet’ and it’s virtually unforgivable to say ‘fat’. But for me, I need to face both words and deal with them. The alternative is to slip back into the void that leads to obesity, depression, diabetes, fatty liver, high cholesterol, heart disease, increased risk of cancer and stroke, and inevitably, if I don’t put the brakes on, death. Being badly overweight really is that serious. I’ve been there before, I’ve faced death in the face and walked away from it, taking a different road that brought me to a whole new journey of adventure of discovery, and I’m not giving that up. I’m not giving up my mountains either, and the particularly large one that I plan to climb later this year… (Mount Elbrus in Russia with Irish Adventurer Pat Falvey of ‘The Summit’ film and book.)
The anger came when I went back running with my athletic club. In 2013 I started the Le Chéile ‘Couch to 5K’ programme and went on to run 10k and take part in adventure races in Wicklow and Killarney. Now here I was on a dark, rainy, winter night – back where I started – huffing and puffing over my boobs, as I heaved my way around the track, gasping for breath and limping over my sore knees. There was embarrassment too, as everyone else streaked ahead of me. I hated every second of it. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that next week will be easier, and the week after will be easier still. Not easy, just easier!
I was angry too over all my pretty dresses. It is not the washing machine that is to blame, I just don’t fit into a size 12 anymore, and no matter how I rant at the designers, it’s not their fault. I used to fit into dresses that I don’t fit into now. How the heck did that happen? Subconsciously I must have been grabbing the stretchy, looser stuff, without noticing what was happening to my waistline.
No more denial. I’ve bagged up all my pretty dresses and tailored suits and stashed them up in the attic until I’m fit to wear them again. In the meantime, I’m looking at empty hangers as a reminder of where I want to be – and I am NOT buying new, bigger clothes. So apologies in advance if I turn up at your event in running pants!
Since January 1st I have been eating well. Porridge, chicken, eggs, brown rice, brown pasta, a little olive and coconut oil, some oily fish, nuts, fruit and lots of vegetables and salad. I have also been drinking at least 2 litres of water each day. Most importantly, I am facing up to the fact that I need to eat slightly less than my body requires, because I have a storehouse of energy stored around my belly that needs to be unleashed! That means I don’t give in to cravings, and sometimes it’s ok to feel a little hungry.
I’m back in the gym, back on the hill, swimming, cycling, and hiking to my heart’s content. I’m back running with Parkrun on Saturdays, I’ve rejoined Le Chéile AC, and I’ve joined up with a global event on Facebook to run ‘100 days of miles’ in 2014.
There are absolutely no food ‘treats’ in my diet, instead I’ve set targets with much better treats in store. I collect the first tomorrow. I promised myself that if I lost 10lb across January I’d get a mountain bike. Well I’ve lost 9lb in 9 days – so tomorrow I’m off to the Giant Bike Store to pick up my new baby; and my new baby will help improve my fitness as I work to target number two…
I’ve realised writing this, that I’m not angry with myself any more. I am determined….I’m getting back on track, healthy and fit, and I’m looking forward to the road ahead.
Launches her new company
BROADCAST AND MEDIA TRAINER AND MOTIVATIONAL COACH
After 30 years of bringing news to Dublin, Radio Broadcaster, Author, TV Presenter and 98FM Head of News Teena Gates launches her new company: TEENA GATES – BROADCAST AND MEDIA TRAINER AND MOTIVATIONAL COACH.
Teena Gates has spent a quarter of a century broadcasting, training, and mentoring the best news teams in the country at 98FM and this new departure is a natural progression for her. TEENA GATES Broadcast and Media Trainer and Motivational Coach offers targeted training in presentation skills, public speaking, journalism and social media.
The popular journalist turned adventurer is also expanding her existing role as a motivational speaker – and is already much in demand to share stories of her success in losing 13 stone, battling serious health issues and climbing to base camp Mount Everest. From 2014 she will also accompany walking holidays with Travel Department as a motivational guide.
Teena believes her experiences in training for and achieving her goals translate well to all walks of life: “We all have our mountains to climb, both at home and in business, and we are all capable of achieving more than we ever dream or imagine” she says.
In the New Year Teena will be stepping out on her own as a trainer and motivator for both broadcast and corporate clients and she is delighted that Communicorp media group and Learning Waves Skillnet will be among her first clients.
The Head of News at Dublin’s PPI Award Winning Newsroom will begin her new training career on January 1st with the launch of TEENA GATES – BROADCAST AND MEDIA TRAINER AND MOTIVATIONAL COACH.
Myself and Concern/Uganda buddy Vera Baker are heading off to Kerry tomorrow evening to climb with the extraordinary adventurer Pat Falvey on his beloved mountains.
Vera and I have been building up our hours on the hills in preperation for climbing Mount Elgon as part of our tri-adventure in Uganda for Concern next month. Two weeks ago we climbed Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain – and that was the plan for this weekend too. But Pat might have something slightly different planned. He mentioned Purple Mountain and Tomies – a beautiful hike through gorgeous Killarney, with stunning misty views of the Gap, and the purple-hued shaly rock, after which the mountain gets it’s name.
Looking at the magical view of the Gap from the top of Purple, here, I feel my breath catch in my throat with excitement and emotion. Only some of us feel this way about mountains. You either love them or hate them. Sometimes I hate the way they make my body feel…. but I’ll always love them.
The first time I climbed a hill – Spink Mountain in Wicklow with Rosaleen from the Hope Foundation, I stood at the summit and told myself with complete certainty that I’d be back when I was 80…. I weighed 19 stone at the time, and getting to the summit had been excruciating. Then Rosaleen turned me around to look down across the lakes of Glendalough and said in a soft Dublin/Scottish burr “look how far you’ve come girl”. It meant so much more than that as I looked off across the lakes…. and there were tears.
There will always be tears, and there will always be fears, but thank God – there will always be mountains. x