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NZ Day 1: Quite frankly, I had no idea what to expect

Allow me to begin by setting the stage; I'm 48 years old and I'm not a fan of working out. It's been over 30 years since I last hit the gym. On top of that, I've never been camping, and was born and raised in Hawaii, skiing is definitely not my thing. With all that being said, here is a snapshot of my first couple days of a practice trek in New Zealand.

I was surprised to learn that tasks I assumed would be quick actually consumed a significant amount of time, extending my ‘training day’ by several hours. The process of setting up and dismantling the tent, cooking meals, and preparing water for both myself and my guide, Janina, required approximately 3 hours, both in the morning and at night. Considering a minimum of 6 hours trekking, it effortlessly results in a 12-hour day.

From the start, I had to adapt and be ready to learn new things. For example, instead of setting up the tunnel tent I had been training with, I found myself learning how to put up a MacPac tent. Who knew tents could be so different. Janina, my guide, used what she called a T-slot method which takes a bit longer to erect as you have to dig 16+ deep holes in ice to bury spikes to ensure its secure in the unpredictable elements overnight.

There were a few basic, yet critically important things we now need to address before the South Pole, the first being sunglasses. Janina suggested we look for a custom pair of sunglasses made specifically for Asian noses. If I don’t come with the proper sunglasses it can lead to snow blindness, particularly in the South Pole. The sunglasses I had in New Zealand would cut into my face and fall off regularly throughout the day due to improper fit.

During the evenings, it would at a minimum get down to - 10 degrees celsius. I need to wear several jackers to maintain my body temperature. I didn’t get much sleep in New Zealand because I wasn’t fully prepared for the cold with the gear I brought.

I need to pre-tape my small toes each morning before trekking to avoid blisters - this is a big one that I did not initially consider.

I need to pack snacks that are soft fruit bars or nut butter based bars. Anything else would freeze in the cold and be difficult to eat. Snacks are important because I burn around 3,000 calories per day on average.

That’s a wrap on day 1, stay tuned for my next blog on day 2 of training in New Zealand.

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