Tomorrow, bright and early, we fly. First to Heathrow, then Helsinki, then the town of Rovaniemi, from where our trek begins. Rovaniemi (population 62,000) is the capital of Finnish Lapland. It’s located just south of the Arctic Circle at the confluence of the Kemijoki and Ounasjoki rivers. Blah blah blah. What really matters here is that Rovaniemi is the Official Home of Santa Claus.
Poor old Father Christmas. A man who receives thousands if not millions of begging letters every year, but I’m guessing not quite as many thank you letters. So on Friday, in between acclimatisation, last-minute kit shopping and a spot of dog sledding, I shall deliver two notes written by my girls to thank the big bearded fella for his unceasing generosity.
Speaking of which, there are a few people I also need to thank. Because there is no way I would be ready to take on this challenge if it wasn’t for them.
So here are my own short but heartfelt thank you letters…
To Kayleigh McCallum
For the beautiful illustrations dotted throughout this blog. (www.kayleighmccallum.com)
To Pies, Nina, Sam, Cliff and Susan
For the various bits of essential kit including clothes, bags, headbands, glove liners, skin cream and hand warmers.
For the loo brush and the homemade, vacuum-packed, high performance energy balls.
For the Percy Piglets and Colin the Caterpillars.
To Gordon at Helly Hansen
For donating the merino base layers.
To Gail Littlejohn
For all the massages – even the ones I needed gas and air for. If anyone is after health or fitness advice or some seriously good muscle ‘TLC’, Gail’s your woman. Ask me and I’ll give you her details.
To my lovely GP
Who didn’t bat an eyelid when I broke down in tears last week because I had a cold.
To Boots Opticians
For rising splendidly to the challenge when I phoned up to ask about wearing contact lenses in the Arctic. The receptionist asked the optometrist and the optometrist asked the contact lens specialist, and they all dropped what they were doing to look up the latest research. They got me an appointment that very afternoon, fitted me with 7-day-wear lenses (that’s the answer), and sent me away with all the tips, advice and spare lens solution they could muster. I was impressed.
For lending me her amazing, top-of-the-range expedition kit. Also, for starting sentences with phrases like “when I did the Everest Marathon…”, but still managing to make me feel like I’m in her league – which I am most definitely not. For reminding me that everyone’s comfort zone is different; belatedly taking her English GCSE is apparently as daunting for her as this trek is for me. And for the nuggets of advice only a properly intrepid polar explorer can give you. If it wasn’t for Fi, I wouldn’t be taking superglue for cuts, dental floss as emergency string, or butter for slipping into hot drinks round the campfire.
For being a brilliant place to work, putting up with my tedious daily training updates, and supporting CHAS so generously.
For not minding when I accidentally signed up to do this trek in the first place. For not complaining when I disappeared for long weekend walks. For the early morning planking sessions. For all the words of encouragement. For giving the girls extra cuddles while I’m away. For being you.
To Sarah (AKA Aussie in the Arctic)
While I have doubted the wisdom of taking on this challenge quite a few times, I have never once regretted my choice of trekking buddy. It’s fair to say Sarah and I have covered a lot of ground over the last 22 months – both geographically and conversationally. We’ve debated politics, shared secrets, discussed snacks, scoffed picnics, mapped our futures, got lost, crossed rivers on fallen tree trunks… yet never once come close to falling out. That may all change in the next 6 days, but something tells me she’s way too awesome for that.
To everyone who has sponsored us
When the going gets tough up there, with nothing much to look at except blankets of snow, we will picture each of your magnificent, munificent selves, recall your motivational messages, and imagine all the wonderful things that CHAS will be able to do with the money you have given. If that doesn’t keep us plodding onwards, nothing will.
My most conscientious readers may remember that in blog post 3 I set myself a target: that by the time I stepped on the plane to Finland I would (1) have raised between £500 and £1,000 for CHAS, and (2) be able to do one full press up.
I’m happy to say that as of this moment our fundraising total stands at £1,968.24. So THANK YOU. (It’s not too late to add via JustGiving if you wish.)
As for the other thing…
Love, Olivia xxx