Polar training in Northern Canada…

I’ve been training in Nunavut, Inuit territory in Northern Canada, with my guide Matty mcNair (Also known from Top Gears’ race to the North Pole).

The temperatures during a Polar-expedition (and also this Polar-training) range between minus 20 down to minus 48 degrees Celcius. These extreme circumstances tend to get you frozen within 30 seconds (standing still). And so it requires some learning how to deal with.

Pic 1: The pair of orange boots donated by a South African diesel mechanic. He’d been wearing them during a 16-month job on Antarctica. ‘Return safely, girl’ he said as he gave them to me. And I must say, the boots feel great! Orange clown boots that are warm and invite comment at the same time. I’m very proud to have them, with their history…

Pic 2: The ‘Beach Gas Bar’. Inuit buildings in Iqualut resemble many of the constructions I’ve encountered during the African leg of my journey. And with similarly imaginative names!

The training made me kinda nervous. I’d been joking for 3 years that, before taking on the polar expedition, I’d just ‘warm up a bit’ in Africa. Double true. By now, I’ve become more shivery than ever before. Even in South Africa I’m the first to climb into a sweater when others are still fine in their T-shirts at night.
The transmission from +35C to -35C appears to be stupendously enormous. I have some doubts.

The people

Lessons about Hypothermia; severe, rapid supercooling, invoking memory loss, and lethal unless properly acted upon. How do you manage, how do you know it’s happening to you right then and there. How to spot its symptoms in your team mates? An erroneous treatment can lead to cardiac arrest. Exciting! Educational!
Lessons about various kinds of
skis and bindings and their weak points. (Since nothing functions a full 100% in these extreme colds, which spare parts will you carry?).
Burners: ones lifeline for cooking, melting snow for drinking water, heating oneself, ones’ clothes, ones’ tent.
A rapid materials maintenance course.
A class taught by two guys who are off to the North Pole in a bit:
they literally strip down to their underwear, showing off
layer after layer of clothing and clothing solutions . We get to touch and feel everything, including their gauzed underwear, heehee! Matty shows us traditional Inuit dress, explaining the pros and cons of organic fabrics vs modern synthetics. Gore-tex NO! Thinsulate NONO! Fortunately, I’d already been looking into these things, so most information isn’t lost on me.
Now I have to figure out my
my ultimate personal dress system, the perfectly exact skis, gear, tent and all such. The clothing part I am about to test now. At the moment I’m borrowing most of it from Matty. The stuff I brought needs to be customized: My long-sleaved thermal underclothes need to be unified into a single catsuit, as the shirt keeps crawling from the pants and up my back. Ain’t it a thrill.

I’m in Matties home in Iqaluit, surrounded by 9 more Polar trainees of which some aspire to go North Pole and some South.
– Pinah, a girl from Turkey but currently residing and studying in New York, – Dong, a self-employed Chinese boy who dreams of the Arctic and Everest. A dutchman (Willem), who’d like to see the North Pole since it’s bound to be gone any day now. Another Dutch person (me), continuously being mistaken for an Afrikaner for some reason (oh well), A young Brit (A.J.) who has fresh memories of the feats as performed by Scott and his heroic ilk and who wants to be a next generation hero, to tell his tales to school kids in the UK. There’s Micheal, a Kiwi and presumably the oldest among us, who’ll be walking the last degree (about 120 clicks) to the North Pole. Then there’s some Canadians: Eric, who lives an works in a reserve: A girl called A.J. who has made two attempts at Everest, wrote a book about that, and intents to visit the Pole now: A young woman (Sarah) who works in Oil (but has a great sense of humour!): A young and ambitious career woman with a wild sense of adventure (Catherine), who wants to cross the Ice in Greenland with some friends someday soon.

A bunch of people who intend to enjoy the **** out of life!

We’re facing the two guys who will be off to the Arctic in a few days, telling us their story. Day by day, up to the day of their departure, they visibly grow more serious and nervous.
The North Pole is known to have huge cracks in the ice, appearing out of nowhere, maybe right in between you and your partner, or between you and your gear-packed sled. There’s enormous icebergs that need to be negotiated while pulling ones’ 100 kg+sled.
Did I mention polar bears?

Me? An Eskimo?!?

So, what in the name of everything holy am I doing HERE.
Plan was, go to the South Pole, which -as it happens- has NICE LAND underneath it! No creepy white bears, but NICE PENGUINS!
Truth is, that in the coming weeks I’ll be here, on top of the arctic sea on a mini-expedition and hardcore survival training to prepare for my own polar expedition.

We (that is, me and my co-aspiring bi-polar conquerors) start our training with enthousiastic fervor, but little do we know that most of our ambitions are about to melt away under the sun or morph into something totally different entirily. Polar expeditions aren’t exactly categorized in the same league as picnicks or rated an ‘uncomplicated fun expererience for all’…

Night time. I’m cutting holes in my garments and put in big zippers. This way, out there, I can just zip open the appropriate area to take care of the appropriate needs. Instead of freezing my ass off everytime I need to pee. My whole Personal Clothing System (PCS) needs revision. Even though I’d done plenty of research into this back in Cape Town, it’s just a slightly different outlook trying to become an expert at it from the tropics in summer.
I’d read plenty, seen so many websites that it made my brains hurt.
Most of the Gore-Tex stuff stops respirating in these colds, and is therefore dangerous.It’ll make you sweat, moisture you can’t get rid of. Thinsulate has the capacity of absorbing 15 times its own weight in water, which you wouldn’t want to carry with you over a period of 50 to 60 days.

?You sweat, you die!? Matty declares convincingly.
The major important lesson here is that sweating means freezing. Supercooling.
So there’s a problem.
The tropics have taught me to sweat in order to cool down. Which is kinda important, survivalwizish.
Having been educated into a professional dancer, my body was taught to sweat to cool down for stamina.

So there I am, skiing around on -32C Arctic plains, stripping off almost every piece of clothing of my PCS, trying not to get wet, but I’m still transpiring (Did I mention there is a slightly scary aspect surrounding the concept of skiing in your underpants when it’s freakishly COLD?).
Therefore, before taking off on our mini-expedition, Matty dresses me in a gray, patent leather jacket. To be worn UNDERNEATH all the other clothes, as a layer of insulation, making sure that my sweat stays on my skin, and out of my clothes. Kinky! I’ll be going to the South Pole in a patent leather suit!

Anyway, it actually works.
I’ve got no idea why, but somehow I’m the most hot-blooded of the ten of us.
For the duration of the expedition I’m now skiing in only the jacket and my thermal underwear-catsuit. And a facemask, since my nose somehow refuses to acknowledge any exposure to cold.
Everytime we take a break (at a 5 to 60 minutes ratio), mayhem ensues: put on as many clothes as humanly possible before freezing to death. After that: pile on and consume all the food and drink you can get your hands on: Chunks of cougat, chocolate, peanuts, salami and hot chocolate. Calory consumption on a typical day like this averages 6 to 7k, and even if the stomach says no, thou shalt eat!

Foto 1: Sarah will now demonstrate the patent leather jacket!
Foto 2: Pinah cooking in the tent

Amazement, after having worked towards one goal for so long, about getting a peek of the last phase, standing in the snow. It gives so much energy. This dream is about to get real, finishing this project in a unique way.

We train outside, every day.
One day, there’s enough wind to use a kite with our skis. Matty’s concept is that it’ll enable us to return to the coast of the antarctic continent, later on, so that’s a cheerful thought.
Kiting is a bit like waterskiing propelled by a kite, on snow instead of water. As I’m more of a ‘langlaufer’ than a downhill racer, I have to practice seated on the ground, before actually giving the skiing a try. Basically, I’m bum-kiting, and it’s like going down a slide. It’s all great, though the skis are still a big challenge. I will master this.


Our mini-expedition.
I’m loading my sled with 2 huge tents (a three-person tent and a communal tent), food, clothing and sleeping gear (enormous sleeping bag!), gasoline burner, kettle and three bags of dog food. It’s appr. 110 kilos, about what one has to bring on an expedition.

Day # 1: We trek over giant icebergs and ice formations, dragging our sleds.
I learn a lot about the techniques of sled-dragging, about how to get the heavy pulk (sled) over the ice blocks without breaking ones’ skis or legs. By simply moving my weight, from the hips, using myself as a levering weight.
When things get too heavy I switch from big to small paces, giving me better control, power and grip, so the sled keeps sliding on. Getting a sled to move again from inertia is hard. Then, when my legs and weight can no longer pull it, I stick my ski-handles in the snow and use them as levers. Scaling the big chunks of snow require the use of ones entire body, all day long, and there are moments that we have to help each other to keep going. Fortunately, we are a cheery bunch, even though people are getting more quiet…

My fellow tent mates T.A. and Pinah. The view from our tent.

At night T.A. and I set up the tent (T.A. is rather petite and is therefore already inside fireing up the burners). Apparently I’m the farmer here, doing the heavy construction, shoveling snow on the flaps so the tent won’t just fly away on the wind, shoveling snow into the tent for Pinah to defrost, for cooking and drinking water.
I decide to go out and finish the day off taking a picture of the camp under moon light. I get more and more distant from the camp in an attempt to get the moon into the frame, but end up making a rather hard drop onto the slippery ice. It feels like it takes more than an eternity before I can do more than just mutter ‘ouch-ouch-ouch’ and get up. My right shin and knee hurt like hell and as I struggle back to the tent, supercooling as I go. That’s one valuable lesson on day one. I’m extremely happy to be back in the tent, hoping I haven’t damaged my knee.

Day # 2: More Ice bergs and blocks. Fortunately my knee is alright, although it’s about to experience every shade of black and blue soon. On the other hand, go try and wipe this grin of my face. Snow craze?

Day # 3:
This night we camp out next to a polinia (a hole in the ice caused by water currents).
After group meeting, as I walk back to my tent, I’m overwhelmed by a stupendous light show. As long as I can hold out in the cold (cautiously hopping and skipping to keep warm as long as possible) I’m watching the northern lights dancing on air. I’ve never seen magic like that!
It isn’t hard to imagine how the Inuit believe that these are the souls of their heroic ancestors, never before have I seen something so ethereal, such an impressive natural apparition. The green light, transforming into every colour of the rainbow and back, dancing and rendering different images, drawing, writing on air, thinner than wind or cloud. Sometimes it flashes so brightly, it looks like it’s heading right toward me. Unbelievable. It’s like they are talking to me: ‘Welcome, thanks for coming, for watching the show. You’ve got a long way to go, but you’re almost done. Don’t forget the beauty and fragility of this world’.

Night in the tent. I have a difficult time trying to get to sleep. My complete musculature is on the verge of unanimous crampdown. Gotta keep stretching and pulling. Yessiree, this is definitely different from driving a tractor.

Day # 4: Plenty of commotion this morning: Eric shows his hands, his fingers riddled with giant blisters and two of them a dark blue. On one of his fingers the total circumference, even under the nail, blue black. It’s serious frostbite, which can cost him his fingertips.
Since temperatures have been only a ‘moderate’ minus 20 degrees C for the last three days, some people have underestimated the risk of touching ANYthing with their bare hands. One can even freeze-burn oneself by touching ones sleeping bag bare-handed, and the wounds are exactly like ‘real’ burns. Quite impressed, I look at Eric’s hands and learn my lesson. Wear gloves, always!

I’m going for a swim!
There isn’t a lot of time for existential contemplation on the Arctics, it’s cold like **** so we got to keep moving. But… a swim?
Matty stuffs me into a gigantic red bathing suit.

If I really want to take this polar challenge I should not fear the deep, cold water. Not that I’m totally in for this. The South Pole has crevasses, not waterholes. But as I dive in, I find out it’s heaps of fun (not getting wet, not sinking). Within 30 minutes all childhood fears of falling through thin ice are eradicated. I climb from iceberg to iceberg, standing on it until it sinks, sing a song. Everyone laughs.


That afternoon, Matty and Eric leave us behind. Because of Eric’s frostbite, he needs evacuation to prevent re-freezing of his blisters which could possibly lose him his fingers. Matty called for help by satelite phone, and late in the afternoon two snowscooters trailing sleds arrive. Dong, the Chinese guy, returns to Iqaluit with them. He’s been there and done that. “I’ve had my adventure, what else is there to be done?”
So this is where story really starts: Now we’re on our own. Matty won’t be coming back. “That’s the best way to learn”, she says. She leaves a satelite phone with which we have to make a sched call every night. Exactly according to the rules of a real expedition.

?Victor Charlie Charlie, this is ?South Pole by tractor? over.?
We set up camp at sixteen point thirty hours.
Our coordinates are: November seven four degrees, three nine decimal, four three minutes.
Our conditions are good and we are in high spirits.
Tomorrow we?re planning our 10 nautical mile day towards Ward island.
In case of a white out (a thick fog that obscures the horizon) we planned an alternative route towards Hope island, coordinates (bla-di-bla). The temperature is minus three eight with a windchill factor of minus four five. How are things at the home base? Did you arrive safely?
We hear about how Matty, Eric and Dong had a terribly rough ride back, through almost -50C, but now they are safely back in the heated dining room…

We spend the night together in Matties home-made green group tent out on the plain. It’s big enough to sit upright in. The roof is being held up in the center by a ski planted straight up in snow. There’s no ground covering, so we sleep in snow. The big tent is cosy,it allows for all of us to sit in a circle round the burners, and discuss stuff.

Let me introduce you to, the Green tent crew:

Left to right, up to down: Sarah, Michael, Catherine, Willem, Manon.

Many expeditions save on fuel by not heating the tent but Matties motto is: Better carry along extra fuel than an equal amount of sweat in your clothes. So we have a bit of time to dry out our gloves, neck warmers, face masks and socks every night. Which makes quite a difference in the mood and stamina department. Not to mention atmosphere. As soon as the burners are turned off, you want to be in a sleeping bag before the cold hits. I’m sleeping with all my clothes on, in a fat feather sleeping bag: In a plastic bag to keep my perspiration out of the sleeping bag (though the leather jacket does a good job too). Over my head is a mega- superthick balaclava, my nose covered by a neck warmer, and I try not to breathe on my sleeping bag to keep the vapors off.

Day # 5: 04.45 am. A long day ahead of us.
We have to do 18 km (10 nautical miles) with our 100 kg sleds. Packing has become fairly efficient so the camp has vanished onto the sleds in no time. We’d like to take off as soon as possible to start the day off well.
Up to now we negotiated 4 to 7 nautical miles a day, mainly due to the gigantic Snow piles we needed to cross, but on a regular expedition one should at least make 10 NM a day in order to get to a pole before the season ends. (In case of Antarctica: November to February – spring and summer. In other seasons it’s too cold and dark, 24 hs a day. This is why I can only go in November. And there’s the fact that I need to find more sponsoring…)
We set off. I’m second in line…

My brain keeps repeating that I’m a tractor. Not as fast, but unrelenting! This has become some sort of running gag, since every time I take the lead we cover more territory than otherwise. Huh?
It’s a nice, warm day today: only -20C. (certain extreme circumstances tend to tilt ones perception…). Gradually I strip off my coat, my fleece, wind them around my body in case I have to put them back on in a rush, for instance when the wind returns.

Willem in front. Me right behind. (2nd on the right)

Slowly we approach the plain, the open ice sheet on the Arctic sea, which is supposed to resemble Antarctica somewhat. We’re not looking for cute penguins though, it’s polar bears we’re watching out for.

Pic 1: 5 minute break every hour. Drop down on ones pulk and accumulate as much calories as one can find. Salami, frozen cheese, peanuts, chocolate.
Foto 2: Is A.J supercooling?

Eric’s frostbite, as seen from the slightly safer haven

Left to right. Top: Eric, Willem, A.J, Sarah, Michael, Dong, Eric (Save the Poles.com, guide). Bottom: Matty (guide), Pinah, Manon, Catherine, T.A)

Many pictures were taken by several people in the group. Big thanks!!! Additional info: leave a message in the guest book and I’ll send details.

to be continued!!!

Back from Polar training….

Just came back from Polartraining in the Arctics. Only thing I did coming back from the ‘wild’ is pack my things, take a shower and now I’m here behind a computer. (Still in Inuit-territory)

My spirit is ‘high up’!
It was extremely incredible.

I’ve got a book full of stories…!

In Zuid-Afrika…

En toen ging alles ineens snel.

Een Zuidpoolexpeditie opzetten, en alles wat er bij komt kijken, logistiek, papieren zaken, opzetten en achtergrond werk voor boek en lezingen, fundraising, organisatiebladibladibla, er komt allemaal heel veel bij kijken en het is veel werk. Toch word ik erdoor geïnspireerd. Nieuwe contacten aangaan, mensen leren kennen met hun eigen kennis en passie voor hun vak. Dingen doen die je nooit eerder had kunnen bedenken te doen. Heel veel leren, ook over stressmanagement in het realiseren van het schijnbaar onmogelijke… ‘t is zó mogelijk!

M’n gids Matty zei laatst heel treffend: als je pioniert, zoals jij nu doet; iets voor het eerst probeert te realiseren dan kost dat meer moeite dan het gebaande pad volgen. Dan heb je meer schijnbare tegenslag, maar dat hoort gewoon bij de alledag van het lopen over paden die nog niet eerder gebaand zijn. Geniet ervan! It’s fun!

Er waren issues met de permit van de tractor om in Zuid-Afrika te blijven. Ik probeerde wat ik kon via telefoon en email maar kreeg ineens een beslissing in huis, via de ADAC in Duitsland die dit soort dingen normaal (heel normaal) regelt; de tractor krijgt geen verlenging om in Zuid-Afrika te blijven.
De mensen van SARS (autoriteiten in Zuid-Afrika) kunnen niet geloven dat mijn tractor werkelijk naar de Zuidpool gaat. Ze denken dat ik ‘m in Zuid-Afrika commercieel wil gebruiken, wil verkopen? (n-n-nnnooooit!!!)

Een tractor kan niet reizende zijn? Had ik dat niet eens eerder meegemaakt, Egypte?
Maar ik snap het dilemma, want jta een tractor die naar de Zuidpool wil, ja daa-aag dat kan toch helemaal niet?!?

Wel dus. Maar de emails bleven liggen. Mijn doorgestuurde links werden niet bekeken. Bij telefoontjes kwam ik niet voorbij receptionistes. De receptionistes waren erg leuk trouwens: ?Op een tractor naar de Zuidpool? Wat een geweldig verhaal! Amazing! Tell me more!?
De officiële man/vrouw die ik daarna wel of niet sprak wilde enkel van email contact weten.

Een paar weken de tijd om dit dilemma op te lossen. Als de permit verloopt kom ik in grote problemen.
Een paar weken de tijd. De tractor tijdelijk naar Namibië verplaatsen kost me zeker 2 weken rijden, en ?t blijft ‘n tijdelijke oplossing.
‘Verscheep ?t ding terug naar Nederland’, zei m?n moeder. Na vier jaar rijden om ‘m daar te krijgen? 38.000km rijden en dan de trekker weer naar Nederland halen, vlak voor zijn vertrekpunt naar de laatste etappe, dat kan toch niet?! ..nog los gezien van ‘t financiele aspect.

Als ik de mensen in Zuid-Afrika maar letterlijk kon spreken, kon langsgaan op kantoor. De mensen bij ADAC zeggen: je moet gaan, er is niets meer wat we nog voor je kunnen doen.
Gaan. Mensen op kantoor letterlijk laten zien wat ik aan ?t doen ben, de grote artikelen in Zuid-Afrikaanse media, de foto vd loco-burgemeester van Kaapstad op de tractor bij aankomst op Kaap de Goede Hoop, de dvd met tv-opnames daar? Doén! Laat zien dat deze tractor op weg is naar de Zuidpool!

De tijd dringt. Ik wil nog niet denken aan wat gebeurt als dit niet lukt! Twee dagen later spring ik op een vliegtuig. Ik zou eigenlijk eind oktober een paar weken naar Zuid-Afrika gaan omdat er heel veel regelzaken zijn, met mijn spullen, het trekkerbedrijf dat de trekker wil ombouwen, filmcontacten etc, de hond. Dat moet allemaal nu dus, in deze paar weken voor mijn lezingen.

Rennend, onderdak vindend voor de kittens bij Joost in Amsterdam, en in Vriezenveen. Vliegend (nou ja, in ‘n auto) langs Arnhem om, wauw hoe geweldig lief, de sleutels van Jan en Corrie’s huis op te halen in Kommetjie! Dan rennend langs de dierenarts met een van de kittens en dan, hoep, door de douane en aan boord van een vliegtuig. Onwerkelijk.
Vliegen vind ik eng. 20.000km in 9 uur, mijn hart springt open: dat werelden zo ver uit elkaar zo dichtbij kunnen zijn!

Ik ontwaak in de armen van Biba!

Een dag later sta ik met de mensen van het trekkerbedrijf in Kaapstad te overleggen!

In South Africa…

And then all went really quick…
Setting up a Polarexpedition, and all that’s involved in doing so, logistics, paper business, setting up and preparing the books (2nd) and lectures, fundraising, organizationalbladibladibla, it all is a lot of work. But it inspires me. Making new contacts, getting to know different people experiencing the passion they have for their jobs. Doing things I?d never imagined I?d be doing. Learning lot?s, also about stress management in trying to realize the seemingly impossible?. It?s so possible!
My Polar guide Matty mc Nair put it in a striking way recently: ?When your pioneering, the way you are doing right now, trying to do something for the first time it?ll cost you more effort than if you?d be following a paved road. You seem to face more problems, but they?re part of everyday life when walking off the beaten track. Enjoy it. It?s fun!
There were issues with the tractor?s ?temporary residence permit?, the substitution. I did what I could by telephone and email but then heard what was decided, through the ADAC in Germany that normally (very normally) arrange these matters for you, that the tractor won?t get the substitution to be allowed to stay in South Africa. Because the people of SARS (the South African authorities) simply can?t believe my tractor?s really going to the South Pole. They think I?m trying to make commercial use of it, am trying to sell it? (n-n-n-nnnever!!!)
I understand the dilemma, really. Come on, a tractor travelling to the South Pole, helooo-ooo that?s not possible, surely?!?
It is possible. But the emails remained unanswered. When phoning I didn?t get past the receptionists, who were really friendly by the way: ?On a tractor to the South Pole, that?s such a great story! Tell me more. Iesh, amazing!? The official person I spoke to afterwards only wanted contact via email.
A few weeks time to solve the problem. When my permit expires I?ll be in big trouble.
A few weeks time. Driving the tractor to Namibia will take me a minimum of 2 weeks, and it will remain a temporary solution.
?Ship the damn thing back to Holland?, my mother said. After four years spend to get it there? After driving 38.000km?s bring it back to the Netherlands, just before it?s departure point to the last leg of the journey, that?s shouldn?t happen surely?! ?and now I?m not even talking about the financial aspect of doing such a thing.
If I could just speak to the South-African authorities, go by the offices. The people of ADAC say: you have to go, there?s nothing more that we can do for you.
Go. Show people in person what I?m doing. Show the big articles in magazines, the photo?s of the deputy major of Cape Town on the tractor when arriving on the Cape of Good Hope, show the DVD with SA TV features? Do it! Show that this tractor is going to the South Pole!
Time?s short. I don?t want to think about what happens if this problem isn?t solved! Two days later I jump aboard a plane. I was supposed to come to South-Africa for a few weeks around the end of October because there are many things to arrange, with my belongings, the tractor company that?s ready to modify the tractor, open film contacts etc, fetching my dog. All that needs to happen now, in the few weeks before giving my lectures in the Netherlands.
Running, finding a home for the kittens I?ve found in Amsterdam. Flying (well, in a car;) to Arnhem, to, how very sweet, get the keys to the house in Kommetjie of Jan en Corrie! Then running to the vet with one of the kittens and then, hop, aboard a plane. Surreal.
I?m scared of flying. But 20.000km in 9 hours, my heart bursts open: that worlds so far apart can be so close!
I awake in the arms of Biba!

A day later I?m discussing matters with the people of the tractorcompany in Cape Town!

Tractor Dog is having Puppies!!

June 2005 I set off from the Netherlands on a journey to the South Pole, by tractor. My sole companion was a puppy I got in Tanzania, an Africanis Domesticus named Biba..

While I was shortly away for fundraising activities Biba fell pregnant. Biba is keeping mum about the father, apparently a black Labrador who had his eye on her. My vet says we can look forward to beautiful puppies. So….

Here they are!

She’s so stoked! Love at first sight, and second, and more…

Seems I’ve found homes for all the puppies in SA, but they’ll stay together for a bit longer!

Training in style…

Trainen in stijl: Tractor banden slepen op het strand nabij Kaapstad, de beste training voor slepen met sledes tijdens de Poolexpeditie.

Toen ik de eerste keer hierover hoorde, over dat mensen zich voorbereiden voor Poolexpedities door met tractorbanden te gaat slepen over de heide of het strand, moest ik heel hard lachen. Wat heb ik toch een ultiem Antarctisch voertuig gekozen! Die tractor komt voor alles van pas. Zelfs voor trainen voor het laatste stuk.

Na drie jaar tractor rijden kunnen mijn spieren wel wat training kunnen gebruiken. Vooral de spieren in mijn liezen zijn kort van het stuiteren tegengaan op m?n stoel.
Mentaal beleef ik een soort van euforie. Trainen aan de rand van de aarde, zo voelt het vlakbij Kaap de Goede Hoop.

De zee bij Kaapstad is al koud van de Antarctische stromen. Zwemmen is de enige manier om te wennen aan de kou. Aan land is het warm. Deze week 35C.
Mar van der Meijden, een Nederlandse die hier woont, heeft me uitgenodigd bij haar zwemclub. Zij gaan wekelijks het ijskoude water in. Na de Pooltraining en Nederland zal ik dat ook doen, dagelijks!

Morgen ga ik op Pooltraining bij Matty. (ietsje warmer gekleed)

Tractor afladen..een nieuwe fase begint
Mijn tractor word een dag voor vertrek opgehaald door de garage die helpt de tractor om te bouwen voor de reis. Een hele rare gewaarwording, alles van de tractor pakken, alles. De komende weken ondergaat de tractor allerlei test zodat ze precies weten wat zijn verbruik is, hoe goed alles afgesteld is. Wat er nog nodig is. (binnenkort uitgebreider over trekkers mailen!)

Dezepup word het vriendinnetje van Biba de komende weken. Schattig he?

1. In de laatste twee weken voor vertrek komt Biba steeds Malamuts tegen om mee te spelen. (soort Husky’s en die heeft Matty ook) Ze vind ze hoogst fascineren.
2: Een van de verzamelde dromen…

Even een fast-forward.
Ik stap op het vliegtuig in Kaapstad.
Uren later stap ik over in Johannesburg.
Uren en uren later wrijf ik in mijn ogen en graaf in mn brein. Ik heb het gevoel in een tijdscapsule te zitten. Door een klein raampje kijk ik naar buiten. Ik ben in Frankfurt en voel Nederland ademen. Drie en een half jaar was ik weg, nu ineens ben ik er vlakbij, alsof ik zo ineens door de tijd ben gesprongen en ik ben anders en alles is anders. Ik kan het haast niet geloven. Wie en wat ik nu ben. Paar jaar ouders en op weg naar WAAR? De Arctische cirkel?

Ik stap ik het vliegtuig naar Ottawa.
En dan sta ik al op het vliegveld, uren en uren later, de benen stijf. Langs mij loopt de schattigste drugs/douanehond te snuffelen. Een blonde en laag op de poten beest met flaporen en een jasje aan met Canadees logo. ‘We worden bevrijd’. De douane is meer dan vriendelijk en wat kan ik daar beter mee omgaan dan met de Europeesche efficientie en afstandelijkheid, brrrr.

Ik loop naar buiten.


De koude lucht die helder is, de manier hoe je koude lucht inademd, hoe dat voelt, een herinnering. Het is -4C, de natuur is me gunstig gestemd, ik kan iets wennen.
De deur van de vliegveld shuttle-bus word voor me open gehouden dooor een jongen met Afrikaanse (weet niet precies waarvandaan) roots.
En ik moet een opmerking maken. Het lijkt namelijk net alsof ik Zuid-Afrika niet verlaten heb. Of ik gewoon uren later door dezelfde schuifdeuren naar buiten loop en ineens is er SNEEUW! En de jongen kijkt me verbaasd aan.
Terwijul ik instap denk ik: oh nee, misschien is gewoon een Canadees, zijn die roots van hem generaties geleden vergeten. Heb ik hem dan beledigd. Als hij zou weten hoe Afrika (ja in algemeen) is dan zou hij het compliment zien. Socialer op straat. De openheid, de humor, het contact.
In de bus moet ik even hardop zeggen. Wauw, de eerste keer sneeuw IN JAREN! Wat geweldig.
En dan vertel ik tegen de enige andere passagier, een overdonderde Canadees. En langzaam hoor ik de chauffeur smelten. Lacht hij om een opmerking die ik maak.
Ik zit alleen in de bus, we rijden door de straten van Ottawa. De lucht is zwart, de straat vol kleurrijke lichtjes. Gezellige kleine gebouwen en winkels. Een kasteel midden in de stad. ‘ Wauw’ wijs ik naar de cahuffeur. We praten. Hij komt uit Burundi heeft hij verteld, woont hier nu 7 jaar. Een jonge jongen die goed Engels praat. Maar ook Kiswahili. Ik vertel hem dat ik bij de backpackers logeer en niet het Mariot hotel. ‘ Let’s go zegt hij’. ‘ Tuende’, zeg ik. We lachen allebei. Het gesprek is geweldig. Iemand die me meeneemt van Afrika naar Noord Canada. Iemand die mijn verbazing en verwondering begrijpt.
Ik sta buiten de bus, voor de backpackers. Mijn kand laat deie van de jongen niet los. Goed gaan he, fijne avond, wie weet tot ziens, fijne avond, geluk met alles.’ Ik loop de weg over en hij stapt in de kleine bus. Op de middenberm pak ik wat sneeuw van de grond en kijk ernaar. Helder wit, plakkerig, koel. Ik kijk verbaasd om, ZO’n grote grijns, mijn hand uitgestoken. ‘ Wauw sneeuw’ roep ik! De jongen lacht.
‘Goed gaan’. ‘Jij ook, daag!’

Ik slaap in de backpackers, de winkels zijn dicht, kan geen handschoenen meer kopen, oeps.
Nu is het ochtend en ik stap zo weer richting vliegveld. Dan ga ik naar Iqaluit, Nunavut, en naar Matty. En naar -20 graden of -58C.
Wat is dit leuk!

Dreaming of a snowman on the Antarctics…

“Next year between Christms and New Year I hope I’m there, building a snowman on the South Pole with the ‘dreams of the world’ in it’s belly!”

Wanting to help make this dream come true?
Then give yourself, or a friend, a ‘dream-gift’!
(For 5 euro you’re wish will be planted in the Antarctic’s!) To do so, go to the tractor-shop: https://tractortractor.org/shop/

Merry Christmass everybody, MERRY Christmas!

Manon, Biba & tractor

Letter from Zimbabwe…

This week I got a letter from Zimbabwe sent by John Winter:

“I reckon that these are the last days of TKM and ZPF. The darkest hour is always before dawn.”

We are all terrified at what they are going to destroy next……..I mean they are actually ploughing down brick and mortar houses and one family with twin boys of 10 had no chance of salvaging anything when 100 riot police came in with AK47’s and bulldozers and demolished their beautiful house, 5 bedrooms and pine ceilings, because it was ‘too close to the airport’, so we are feeling extremely insecure right now.

You know, I am aware that this does not help you sleep at night, but if you do not know, how can you help? Even if you put us in your own mental ring of light and send your guardian angels to be with us, that is a help, but I feel so cut off from you all knowing I cannot tell you what’s going on here simply because you will feel uncomfortable. There is no ways we can leave here so that is not an option.

I ask that you all pray for us in the way that you know how, and let me know that you are thinking of us and sending out positive vibes… that’s all. You can’t just be in denial and pretend,believe it’s not going on.

To be frank with you, it’s genocide in the making and if you do not believe me, read the Genocide Report by Amnesty International which says we are IN level 7 (level 8 is after it’s happened and everyone is in denial).

If you don’t want me to tell you these things, how bad it is, then it means you have not dealt with your own fear, but it does not help me to think you are turning your back on our situation. We need you, please, to get the news OUT that we are all in a fearfully dangerous situation here. Too many people turn their backs and say: ‘oh well, that’s what happens in Africa.’

This Government has GONE MAD and you need to help us publicize our plight, or how can we be rescued? It’s a reality! The petrol queues are a reality, the pall of smoke all around our city is a reality, the thousands of homeless people sleeping outside in 0 Celsius with no food, water, shelter and bedding are a reality. Today a family approached me, brother of the gardener’s wife with two small children. Their home was trashed and they will have to sleep outside. We already support 8 adult people and a child on this property, and electricity is going up next month by 250% as is water.

How can I take on another family of 4 and yet how can I turn them away to sleep out in the open?

I am not asking you for money or a ticket out of here, I am asking you to FACE the fact that we are in deep and terrible danger and want you please to pass on our news and pictures. So PLEASE don’t just press the delete button! Help best in the way that you know how.

Do face the reality of what is going on here and help us SEND OUT THE WORD.. The more people who know about it, the more chance we have of the United Nations coming to our aid. Please don’t ignore or deny what’s happening.
Some would like to be protected from the truth BUT then, if we are eliminated, how would you feel? ‘If only we knew how bad it really was we could have helped in some way’.

(I know we chose to stay here and that some feel we deserve what’s coming to us)

For now, we ourselves have food, shelter, a little fuel and a bit of money for the next meal, but what is going to happen next? Will they start on our houses? All property is going to belong to the State now. I want to send out my Title Deeds to one of you because if they get a hold of those, I can’t fight for my rights.

Censorship! We no longer have SW radio (which told us everything that was happening) because the Government jammed it out of existence, we don’t have any reporters, and no one is allowed to photograph. If we had reporters here, they would have an absolute field day. Even the pro-Government Herald has written that people are shocked, stunned, bewildered and blown mindless by the wanton destruction of many folks homes, which are supposed to be ‘illegal’ but for which a huge percentage actually do have licenses.

Please! do have some compassion and HELP by sending out the articles and personal reports so that something can or may be done.

‘I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something.. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God,
I will do.’

Edward Everett Hale

(Please forward this everyone you know so it gets around the world in a few days!!!)

A glimps of the past….

For the first time during my journey I can show you some moving footage! (well, if it’s moving I can’t tell;)

Still haven’t found out how to edit these small movies, but hereby a glimps of a morning in the Sudan (December 2005).
Driving away from a bush-camp along the river Nile, Northern Sudan.

At the beginning still, of my journey through Africa, with the support-car still there. Nostalgia!
(I had a team 3,5 months of this 3,4 year long journey).

Now supportcar Saar has a baby, for excample; Abel is his name! Hij was born three days before I drove into Cape Town (Oktober 2008). All lives continued in their unique directions….

I moved alone with the tractor and the dog, and all the people I met along the way of course;) Boy, was I slow!

Check out You-tube movie on site: tractortractor.org/english

Camp along the Nile, Northern Sudan (dec. 2005)

Welcome to my office…

So, here I am. In my home-made office in Kommetjie!

Kommetjie is a quiet beach town between Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope. Well, quiet, I could go pubbing anytime I feel like. My garden is neighbouring ‘the Green Room’ a lovely place for lunch or dinner that stays open till late.
Olly, the young owner lived and worked for a long time in Amsterda