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We’d settled into life onto the yacht and we got closer to Antarctica.

Wednesday 24th January 2001

I awoke and I tried to work out what time it was. I hoped I had slept through to the next watch change and I was quite relieved to see my clock at 10:28am when I got up. I had a shave and ate something.

Our watch’s job was to get lunch ready. So Lynn and I began chopping things up for sandwiches. We got a whole load of food ready an I went around taking orders. We made up sandwiches and distributed them. I think the appetites are returning – people ate a lot more!

I had a bit of time till our next watch – 1pm.

It was a glorious day, blue skies, hardly a cloud to be seen. Unfortunately this meant no wind.

I got into all my waterproofs etc and went on watch. It was like being on a cruise! The sun was warm and people lay about on deck. The water is incredibly blue. We are gradually making our way across. There isn’t much wind. The main thing we’ve done on our watch is let the yankee out. Not much else. Just sat back and enjoyed the glorious weather.

Absolutely nothing happened on our watch. I went up to the bow of the boat (I think that is the right term for the front) and sat and watched the sea and let my mind wander.

I sat right at the front and looked back at the boat rocking and making progress over the water. I watched birds flying around and I just watched the deep blue water. It was a beautiful rich deep blue colour. I enjoyed sitting at the front of the boat.

Then back and sat around some more. I got quite hot with all my fleece and wet weather gear on. Sat around and the afternoon moved along. The entertainment was the Yank and Irishman sparring in a verbal duel. They are a funny pair.

Eventually dinner time came and Matt had cooked up a delicious shepherds pie thing, it really was nice. Ate that and sat up with the others. I also say up and ready some of Brenda’s ‘Hockey News’. Ice Hockey is a totally different world, I know nothing of it at all.

Eventually our watch finished at 7pm exactly the way it had started – except that the Yankee was out! It was still a gloriously sunny day. It had been very quiet – a little wind and the engine had been on all the time.

I looked at the ocean around me, wherever I looked I could see the ocean, from horizon to horizon and all in between. The big restless, blue alive ocean!

I then went and had a shower and since the engine had been running there was hot water. My shower was brief and rather swayee, but very refreshing.

The sun is about to set – I’m going to watch the sunset and then go to bed, I’m on the 3-7am shift tomorrow morning. Hopefully there will be a bit of action.

I watched the sunset – it was quite nice, but it was getting cold. I bade goodnight to those on deck and to bed.

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After arriving in South America. I had a couple of days in Buenos Aries before my connecting flight to Ushuaia. So I had some time to meet my Royal & SunAlliance colleagues and get acquainted to South America.

Monday 15th January 2001

I was woken up at 9:00am by the knock on my door, it was my breakfast. I had ordered a lot of food for breakfast and I gobbled it up. I probably over-ordered, the serves were quite large.

After eating breakfast and getting myself ready I called Jason Storah – from Royal & SunAlliance here in Buenos Aires. He called me back and we arranged to meet for lunch at 1pm.

So I went exploring. I went out a different way to yesterday. I walked along Florida to Plaza Libertador Gral. San Martin. It was a delightful park and from there I could see Tarre de los Ingleses – it looked a bit like Big Ben. I wandered around and had a look at the station – Estacion Retiro – quite an impressive structure.

Then wandered through the park some more and then back down Florida to the hotel. I waited for Jason and at around 1:15pm he arrived.

I went out and met Kent Hendricks and another guy Mike. We caught a taxi in the traffic and went to a restaurant on Peurto Medero. The traffic was a lot worse than yesterday – that was because yesterday was a Sunday afternoon!

Anyway sat down at this restaurant with the others and talked. It was really pleasant – we were there until nearly 4pm. We talked about life in Sydney and Buenos Aires. We talked about Mission Antarctica and also about Royal & SunAlliance. We talked about the markets, politics and economics. It was really good.

The food was pretty good – I certainly ate well. The meat was of of good quality, but they have different cuts in Argentina.

After we finished lunch we got a taxi to the Royal & SunAlliance offices in B.A. I got there and Kent was my guide, he introduced me to a whole bunch of people. I gave out my little koalas to as many people as possible.

The operations in Argentina are small, but profitable! I met people from all over the organisation and I met James – the Personal lines manager. Most people spoke with some English – but there were many in the office with no English at all.

I met the portfolio kind of manager guy, the call centre people – I saw the call centre (certainly much smaller than on levels 3/4 in Chatswood).

I had a good time meeting people and I lost track of time somewhat. Kent was going to take me out to dinner at 10pm!! I bade him farewell and I wandered around the streets of Buenos Aires for a bit.

I walked up to Congreso de la Nacion – a very large and impressive building. It was a really pleasant evening and I walked around the park there.

Then I caught the Subway to ‘Peru’. The Subway was cheap and quite a novelty. Nowhere near the quality of a Tangara – but it moved you around. Manual doors and open windows – a good experience though.

Then I wandered down Florida – it was really buzzing. I soaked up the atmosphere and I watched some of the buskers. A juggler and I saw a ‘free’ Tango show. A couple on the street – they were good. They also had a guy doing Flamenco (?) – a lot of foot stomping anyway!

Then it was 8:30pm and I went back to my hotel room. I’m a bit concerned of how I’m going to pay for this hotel. I tried calling Jim Hughes but I got his voicemail.

I waited around and got a couple of phone calls from Kent. Initially we were going out at 11pm or so – but he called later to call it off. I was a bit relieved – so I had a shower and went to bed. I tried calling Jim Hughes again – left one final message and then off to sleep.

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The day had finally arrived. My Mission Antarctica trip began…

Sunday 14th January 2001

I got up at 6:15am and ate breakfast and got ready.

Everything was pretty much ready. I bade Heather farewell and then Mum and Dad and I drove off to the airport. It was hard to believe that Mission Antarctica was finally happening!!

Got to the airport without incident and I bought some locks for my bags and also $150 worth of film.

Then I checked in to Business Class! It was so weird to not have to wait and just go straight through.

So I was checked in on QF115 to Buenos Aires and I was going!!

I hung about slightly nervously with Mum and Dad for a while and then I went through the gates on my way to Argentina and then Antarctica.

I went through customs, got my GST back on my camera and I went to the Qantas Club (being in Business Class – I could do that). That was quite nice, I wondered where everyone else were going and why they were flying. I thought my trip unique!!

My flight QF115 was slightly delayed but eventually all was nearly ready and I boarded. Being in Business Class has many advantages – i.e. not having to wait!

I got into the plane and then found my seat. The seats are so large and comfortable and there is masses of leg room!! I sat down and made myself comfortable. The after a short wait – we were off! I was actually going to Antarctic – it was finally happening.

I’m not sure what to expect and it is a relief to finally be off and not have to worry about buying gear or doing media engagements or work or anything, I’m now off on an adventure – a tremendous adventure.

We hadn’t been flying long when they served us lunch. I was quite disappointed actually – it was small and a lot of it was lettuce. I found out that this was only the entree and I enjoyed a nice pasta for lunch.

We arrived in Auckland and we all had to get out for a crew change and an aircraft clean. I felt really tired, but I had a bit of a wander around the terminal. Auckland looked like a very nice place – we had a good look at the city on our way in. It was a pleasant day.

So had a bit of a look at Auckland and then trooped back onto the plane and off to Beunos Aires. It was great being in Business Class – you get on the plane first!

Anyway, we took off over the Pacific. Saw a bit of New Zealand and then the ocean blue. They served us a very yummy dinner and I watched Chicken Run on my personal little video screen. It was excellent, I could change movies at will!

So at dinner and Chicken Run finished and then I decided to try and get some sleep (also watched ‘The Making of Chicken Run’). Eventually the lights went out and I tried to sleep. There were a couple near me who talked and talked (quite loudly as well). Eventually they stopped and I got some sleep. I think that I did get some sleep, not a great deal and not of great quality.

But eventually the sun came up and it was the same day again – Sunday 14th January – just kept going and going.

We had breakfast as we cruised over the Andes. Quite a magnificent sight as we went over the snow-capped peaks. Spotted many volcanoes (most probably extinct). After the Andes we went over some desert area, it looked quite bare – but we were flying over Argentina. We got closer and closer to Beunos Aires.

Eventually our trip was over and we landed at Buenos Aires airport. We arrived in Argentina (I wasn’t crying).

Went through customs and immigration, collected my bag and I went out and I found a guy holding a sign with ‘Royal Robet Martin’ – I think it was me.

He didn’t speak any English so communication was very difficult. He picked up the car and we drove through Beunos Aires to the hotel.

I would have liked to have made conversation but the fact that my Spanish was severely limited (mainly to the classroom and the house of Pablo!) made it hard.

It was also weird sitting on the right. I found out his name was ‘Juan’ (I think!) He dropped me off at the Claridge Hotel and I bade him farewell.

I checked into the hotel, I was in room 1002. I sat down, sorted some things out and then I decided to go out exploring.

The hotel was very conveniently located – right in the middle of town. So i wandered up to Av. 9 de Julio – the widest avenue in the world! It had some 20 lanes!! I wandered around, saw the Teatro Colon – some significant theatre – it looked like a bit of a dump. Then up to the Obelisco. I wandered down the streets and just tried to get a feel for the place.

Buenos Aires wasn’t very busy (maybe it’s a Sunday afternoon) so it doesn’t have the energy (or maybe soupy air) of Bangkok – but not as clean as Singapore. The weather was similar to home – about 30 degrees.

Anyway, wandered down some more streets and saw various buildings – there are a lof of large buildings in B.A. I also found the President’s house and Plaza de Mayo. Quite a pleasant area. I tried catching a Subway but realised that they don’t take $US (that was all I had). So I decided to wander back to the hotel. I was also hot and tired and would love a swim. I had been out for a bit over 2 hours and seen a fair bit I’d thought.

I came back to the hotel and did some things and went for a lovely swim in the pool. I wasn’t down there for long – but I felt so refreshed after the dip.

I came back to my room and put the Cable TV on. I watched a bit of the soccer – but I was tired. I went down and had something to eat for dinner. It was pretty nice so I decided to go for a bit of a wander.

I wandered up and down Florida and I bought a cloth badge which cost me $4 (pesos) which is nearly $8! Beunos Aires is expensive. Everything looks fairly reasonably priced – but I have to virtually double it to arrive at the amount I spend!

I walked down the mall and there were more people out than at 3pm! I was entertained by several buskers – piano players, harp players, painters and even a puppeteer! (who had a puppet of a guy playing the accordian).

Then back to the hotel and eventually off to bed at around 9:30pm. I slept pretty soundly.

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This is a fantastic journal entry that I’ve been looking forward to sharing. It is quite a long entry, but there are so many remarkable and funny experiences in this day, I need to share it all. I was in India on secondment with my insurance company and I’d been there a week. I smile as I recall…

Saturday 17th March 2001

I awoke fairly early at around 7am but I got up at 7:40am. I went for breakfast & I joined Bob. I had toast & juice & tea. My health is improving and I feel a lot better.

Chatted with Bob & he was off to Bangalore today.

I went up to my room & got ready for the day & I got a phone call at 9am – it was Mum. Good to hear her voice, we talked for a bit. I sounded better on the phone – not ill. Mum said that a package from Charlotte had arrived – from Lynn. I also talked with Heather – nice to talk with them.

Then I went outside to wait for the car & the others for our day trip. I seem to be spending a lot of time waiting for things in India, waiting for cars, waiting for people, waiting for breakfast, waiting for Lotus Notes!!

Eventually the car turned up, it was Pahti with Bettina and Teresa. It was the three of us off on a day trip (and Pahti – very important person!)

We drove off through the streets of Chennai, past more of the city. We drove through the outskirts, where the cars and the rickshaws were fewer. We saw the towering structure of a big railway line that is being constructed. The construction techniques seemed somewhat antiquated and the whole thing didn’t look particularly well built.

We drove past houses made of straw & past women & men carrying various loads on their heads, sometimes big parcels, sometimes pots, firewood or bricks. We saw ox led carts being driven along & we even saw a couple of guys riding an elephant along the road.

We were driving to Mamallapuram. Eventually the traffic died down & we had open road & we got into the countryside of India. We drove for around an hour or so & we eventually hit the outskirts of Mamallapuram. We drove in and paid Rs.15 to get into the town & then drove about a bit. It was a lot busier than I had imagined & the roads were quite narrow.

Theresa said for us to go to the ‘Butter Ball’. So Pahti went there & parked. We got out and experienced the pushy touts trying to sell us things. We said no and then wandered off. We went and walked up to a big rock. It looked like a big marble on the rock!! Quite interesting.

We walked a bit further around & kept getting hassled by mainly kids. They tried to sell pendants or balls or something. We said no. We had a bit more of a look around there. There are various rocks & carvings in the stones etc.

We walked back towards the road & found some little kids begging. It was almost heartbreaking not being able to give them anything. We looked at a rock carving & a little girl (maybe 4 or 5) kept saying something (I assume it was ‘food’ or ‘money’ in Tamil) & motioning to her mouth as if she wanted some food. We looked at some rocks & then decided to buy some coconut water from the local vendor there. I got one for Rs.10 & Teresa also got one. It was fairly nice, supposedly good for the stomach. Teresa gave the left-overs of hers to the little girl.

Then we walked near to where we started & we found some goats resting, one looked funny with its leg hanging off the edge of the rock. So I sat near it & did a similar thing – who is the goat?

Then we talked back & saw a huge rock carving in the wall. I found out that this was Arjuna’s Penance. A local invited me to be in a photo with him, so I obliged & he seemed happy. He asked where I was from & I said Australia – he said ‘Shane Warne’. I nodded & said ‘Steve Waugh’. He smiled.

We walked along & looked at Arjuna’s Penance & also looked at a couple of other caves near there. It wasn’t particularly spectacular, but interesting nonetheless.

I was keen to do a bit more exploring, so I headed off for a bit by myself. I walked past a lot of stone carvers plying their trade & I scrambled up the rocks to another shrine or something. I got reasonably elevated & I could look down & have a bit of a look. I kept wandering around & looked at a couple of caves – I found a cave with a whole bunch of young primary school kids all sitting down, about to get a photo taken. I looked on in the background & then some people invited me to be in the photo. I was more forward this time & I accepted their offer. I stood at the back in front of probably 30-40 children (maybe 6-7 years old). They took the photo & they all seemed very excited to have me in the photo (a Westerner).

As soon as the photo was taken I was mobbed. All of the kids came up to me & wanted to touch/shake my hand. It was a most bizarre experience! They asked me ‘what is your name’, I said, beaming to this throbbing mass of children, ‘Robert’. They were all so excited by me being there. Eventually it was over, the children left, I fumbled with my camera & only managed to photograph the last few as they left.

But I was laughing & beaming to myself, what an amazing experience. To be mobbed by 6-7 yr. olds! It was great.

I then scrambled down & met Bettina + Teresa again. I bought some postcards & then we were off to our next destination.

We drove to the Five Rathas. We parked and had a look. You could see the temples from the road but it cost money to go in. It cost Rs.10 for Indians & $US10 for foreigners!!

The others weren’t keen to go inside, but I skirted the perimeter & I wasn’t satisfied with that, so I decided to take the plunge & go in. I bought a ticket for Rs.470 – 47 times more than for Indians! Unbelievable.

So I went in, but I made the mistake of expressing an interest in a carved elephant on the way in.

I had a look around the compound & the temples were quite nice. It was far better to see them close up [I also found out that my ticket meant I could get into the Shore Temple as well – nice bonus] There were huge stone animals there, elephants and others. I took photos and wandered around. I talked to Bettina & Teresa over the fence – they said I was probably the only non-Indian face in the area.

Then I saw my mate selling the carved elephants. I conducted business over the fence. He had some sneaky tactics by putting the elephants in my hand & then started bargaining. He wouldn’t accept them back either, so I started bargaining. He started at Rs. 600 which I thought was very expensive. I bargained him down to Rs. 450 and I got a couple of stone carved elephants. Probably a bit expensive.

I then left the compound and got inundated with guys trying to sell me elephants. I expressed in a guy prepared to offer me 2 more very similar elephants for Rs. 200 – now I felt ripped off. I went back to the car & found Pahti, he talked with the vendor & said too much!

We decided to go & got in the car. The guy trying to sell the elephants was getting desperate & he put them in my hand. I could have shut the window and gone. In the end Teresa took them & put them on the ground outside her door (she was behind me). Then we left. Pahti had saved me from spending Rs. 200 unnecessarily but the others I think were unaware of my misadventure with my mate over the fence. I learned a very valuable lesson – never show an interest in a street vendor’s wares – they are invariably overpriced. Pahti said you have to buy things from the shops – the gov’t sponsored shops. I still felt a little stupid at paying a ridiculous amount for 2 fairly average elephants. Oh well, I can rationalise it by saying that I earn a lot more than him anyway & he can use the money more than me. But I still hate getting ripped off!

We then drove to the Shore Temple. This was number 1 on my list of things to do, a world heritage site. It was originally constructed in the 7th Century, so it was pretty old. So it was good to see it on the first weekend.

I went in (the others never paid the $US10 necessary – I thought they were being a bit cheap!) & had a look around. It was a bit smaller than I had imagined, but it was great. I enjoyed wandering around looking at the temple.

I asked a local to take a photo of me in front of the temple, but I don’t think he had a great deal of experience with cameras. I showed him which button to press & he pointed the camera to the sky & pressed. It didn’t even go off, the auto focus went on & since he was aiming at the sky it never focused and never went off. I thanked him & asked someone else who took the photo!

Then we left there & Pahti drove us to the shops & we had a look around. I bought a couple more elephants, but at a much better price, 2 for Rs.200 (2 marble ones).

Then we left Mamallapuram and drove north. Tereas was keen to go to the beach, another plan was forming in my mind.

We drove north and visited Tiger Cave. It was interesting, not much there but a lot of school kids. I had a wander & then we left. We met a small girl there & as we were leaving she brought at old blind man over to us. Bettina gave her a banana.

We then drove north to Casurina Resort or something where Teresa had planned us to go.

We went in & sat at the ‘restaurant’. The four of us ordered things. Teresa just wanted a drink, I got a drink, a lime soda, that tasted, well, ‘remarkable’ – very weird. Bettina & Pahti ate more.

We sat and talked there for a bit. I ate a bit of Bettina’s & then Pahti & I prepared to leave. I ate a sandwich that Teresa had ordered for me (from her hotel).

Bettina went to the beach & Pahti and I drove back down the road a bit to the Crocodile Farm (Crocodile Park) I was particularly looking forward to the feeding frenzy that the Lonely Planet guide said existed.

Pahti and I walked around the farm and we saw crocodiles from all over the world, saltwater crocs, alligators, Indian crocs and some endangered ones. There were even some monitor lizards there and some iguanas. It was quite expansive.

We got to see the ‘feeding frenzy’ which wasn’t quite as the Lonely Planet guide promised. The ‘frenzy’ consisted a guy throwing 2 bits of meat into one of the alligator pits.

We saw another ‘frenzy’ a bit later as they threw dead rats into other crocodiles! We walked around the park for a while & then we decided to go & visit the snake farm.

We had a look in there and it was remarkable, there were pottery pots full of snakes in a big pit & 3 guys were handling these snakes & extracting venom from them. There were approx 500 snakes in the enclosure! The guys handling the snakes (Cobrai) and marked them and extracted the venom. It was amazing.

Then it was nearing 5pm & Pahti and I had a drink and then drove back to pick up Teresa and Bettina.

We got them and then drove back to Chennai. It had been a wonderful day. I had really enjoyed it & was very satisfied with what I had seen and done (except the Rs.450 elephants!).

Again saw interesting sights on the road.

We went back via a photography exhibition on TTK Rd & then back to our various places of residence. I arranged to meet the others for dinner at 8pm.

Went to my room & I wrote in here for a while.

Got changed & headed off to the Park Sheraton for dinner.

Met up with Bettina, Teresa, David & Willie & we went to the restaurant for dinner.

We talked away about various things & had a fairly nice time. We ate some Indian food, Tandoori & some Chinese – it was quite nice. I felt Ok as well, I think I’m back to relative normality.

Anyway the evening went on and the ‘band’ came out to play. Apparently they had been flown from Australia!!

They were ok, but not tremendous.

Anyway things then got very interesting. I heard Bettina say, ‘Dean Jones is behind us’. I carefully turned around and he was, we also worked out that Craig McDermott was also at the table.

There had been a special re-match that day of the tied test teams in 1986. Most of the players who played in that game 15 years ago were playing again. Dean Jones + McDermott + others were playing – Australia won today!

However what was interesting was that Teresa, who had absolutely no idea who Dean Jones was, said, ‘ooh, look at that good looking guy over there’ and she thought she had pulled [picked up] i.e. Dean Jones!!

The Australian ‘band’ [4 girls singing] got dancing on the floor & one of them pulled me up & Teresa got up a bit as well, quite embarrassing.

But our table were talking about the cricketers sitting behind us, Boonie walked in! Then Greg Richie joined the others & more arrived. I didn’t recognise them all, but it was still amazing.

Then we decided to make a move. We left the restaurant & hung out in the foyer of the hotel for a bit. Then Dean Jones came out & came up to us and said, ‘Are you guys from Oz?’ We said yes (Well Bettina and I did) & he said ‘Hi Dean’. We then went into the bar for a drink. It was Dean Jone, Willie, David, myself, Bettina & Teresa.

Dean sat next to Teresa.

We had some Fosters and sat around talking. Dean did most of the talking, about his cricket and his company etc. But I was quite amazed that here I was in Chennai, having a beer with Dean Jones [who was trying to pick up one of my colleagues!]

We also got talking about the cricket the next day as we had no tickets. Dean Jones said to Bettina & I that we could go to the ground with them!! Quite amazing!

It got close to 12:00am & I had had enough. We made a move, I bade Mr. Jones farewell, shook his hand again & also confirmed that he was fair dinkum about the offer of taking us to the cricket. He seemed to be! [in the end he didn’t]

I then bade them all farewell & headed back to the Madras Club. A quite unbelievable evening!!

I got home saw the Premier League scores, had a shower & off to bed. An amazing day

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