Flying from Santiago to Paris

We made it, we’re done, we’re out 🙂

I want to apologise to those of you who have been following the despatches for my perpetual complaining in many of my previous despatches. The truth of the matter is that I have just concluded the greatest experience of my life, and yet it was the very things that I complained about, the hardship and adversity that made it so. I feel so much more fulfilled and accomplished because of those very aspects of the trip.

Memory is a very funny yet kind creature, whenever we look back on experiences we always remember the good and tend to forget the bad, or at least the bad doesn’t exist as prominently in our psyche as the good. The funny thing about this experience is that it was the very things that I complained about that I now cherish and relish and very much miss. We were certainly very far outside our comfort zone but now in retrospect it was exactly that that was absolutely fantastic. I miss my -100 degree space boots, I miss sharing a filthy and stinky tent with my brother, I miss wearing the same clothes for a week, I miss huddling one on top of the other in the tiny dining tent for meals, I miss the pristine whiteness, the spotlessness, the absolute clean, the views, the endless expanses, I miss the colour of the sky that awesome blue on a sunny day, I miss the feeling at the end of everyday when we achieved our set target, I miss the hot cup-a-soups after 20km of skiing, I don’t miss being on my feet for 9 hours a day, I don’t miss the cold!

What is strange is that it is over the course of a life time a person’s definitions of normality are put in place, yet when an experience is extreme enough those boundaries of normality can be re-drawn in a relatively short period of time, in our case sixteen days, and what was once normal became completely alien. When we landed in Punta from Antarctica two things struck me most and were almost alien concepts, one was that for the first time in 16 days I’m not walking on snow, for 16 days the only place we didn’t have snow under our feet while standing up was in the dining tent (we couldn’t stand in our sleeping tents), the second was the fact that it was dark! We arrived at night and it was dark, wow! I couldn’t believe the sensation I felt when I looked at the night sky and it felt weird, different, that was when it really hit me that we really did go to the end of the earth and what’s so surreal is that such a simple concept such as night and day which are corner stones of normal in our world, the whole thing about the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, the light and dark thing, these basic rules of our world had become a foreign concept to me, it was wild!

What an experience! If it hasn’t been mentioned yet, Antarctica is the most beautiful place I have ever been to, the polar plateau is featureless, beautiful nonetheless but that’s not what I’m talking about. The location of the camp at Union Glacier, the sites were awe inspiring, the mountains on three sides, the clearly visible glaciers of blue ice, the whole thing was just magnificent! I also managed to get closer to my father and brother than ever before which within itself is enough to make any trip a grand slam, and finally to go somewhere and experience something that is so profoundly different from what I’m used to was an incredible privilege.

And my final note, I managed to check the website briefly yesterday when I got to Punta and I saw all of your comments and support, whilst we couldn’t read them when we were out there when we communicated with my mother by sat phone she used to tell us about all the kind words of support and encouragement that came from all of you and it really made a difference to everyone on the team. I really can’t thank you all enough. When you are out in the middle of nowhere and you know there is someone out there following your progress and rooting for you it makes a massive difference. So a big thank you to everyone for the incredible show of support.

Haytham.

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12 Responses to Flying from Santiago to Paris

  1. Chiara says:

    Congratulations!

    I have done a post on your journey, based on the Susris article, and including your pics and all links back here.

    Saudis at the South Pole!

    I hope you find it to be the tribute intended (my joking aside).

    All the best

    Chiara

  2. nooraldin abdulgafor says:

    We prayer every night that you all came home safety and success

    nooraldin

  3. Samar says:

    Has this been covered by Arab News? If not please let me know. I’ll do the story.

  4. Merrill Dean says:

    Great realizations Haytham…and you’re exactly on target with the our minds and memories work…recall makes and shapes the experiences in the positive, and we discard or supress the other (not necessarily negative) as you’ve realized. On a simpler level…I remember the fun we had in the military!! :>) But those visions of Antarctica come thru in the limited photos I’ve seen of the glaciers and ice…and probably impressive dark blue skies. Glad you guys had a super time with your Dad…that’s even potentially the best take-away!! And we all know Waleed’s one hellova cool guy. Congrats to you all…Greetings from warm Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where all are for the Christmas holidays with the family. Abrazos, Merrill

  5. Matar Al Khateeb says:

    I am totally speechless before such an achievement. What can one say ? Waleed , Haytham and Mohamad , I have lived this adventure through you . Its joys and fears ( you scared the hell out of me sometimes)
    Thank you for all that, thank you for an unforgettable ride
    Matar

  6. sultana says:

    We are one hour and forty minutes away from welcoming two of our three heroes. Waleed and Mohamed are at this moment flying on a Saudia flight in bound from Paris, and have already crossed into Saudi Arabia’s air space, Haytham is in on his way home soon too. I cannot begin to describe the anticipation we feel, their family: mothers, wives, sons, daughter, sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, aunts, colleagues and the list goes on, all praying for your safe arrival.
    During the past 3 weeks, you made us shiver from the cold, laugh, cry, applaud, fear, and tire from your endless treks….but you kept us glued to our screens, waiting each day with excitement to read about the next day.
    You shall miss it, and so will we!
    Having said that, we can live without that experience again 🙂
    Welcome Back, our homegrown Saudi heroes. You planted our flag at the end of the earth, with the words”There is no God but Allah, and Mohamed is his prophet.”
    SO PROUD
    SMAz

  7. safir says:

    Spent many days trying to finding words which befit your accomplishment, alas I have failed, all I can say is very well done to you all, you have shown us what we can achieve when pushed, a truly extraordinary triumph.
    Haytham, I loved your reports, really felt your pain and can’t believe you managed to think and write so eloquently under such conditions. Now that the field trip is over I am curious to know if you decided on opening a new branch at the South Pole, I’m sure Mo will be happy to run it.
    Mo, have you heard of the Lake District? Perhaps you should consider it next time you fancy going for a walk. Well done buddy!
    Looking forward to welcoming you all back.
    P.S. its been a bit cool in Jeddah recently, 29deg in the early morning.

  8. Asaad Zahid says:

    Dear Ammo Waleed, Haytham, and Mohamed,

    Once again, I would like to say Alf Mabrook for making it to the South Pole! This is indeed a major accomplishment Masha Allah Tabarak Allah! Alhamdulillah you made it safely!

    As the first Saudis to reach the South Pole, you should really put the picture with you all and the Saudi flag in the news no question about it! This will show a great image of Saudi Arabia!

    I look forward to seeing you all and hear about this amazing experience!

    Love,

    Asaad

  9. RET says:

    Thank you, buddy! Thanks to each of you on the expedition and those that supported it for giving us something pure, brave and inspiring to follow alongside our daily dose of news that is anything but.

    Major accomplishment, gents! Well, well done!!!

    Ret

  10. Ashir says:

    We are honoured,Wish you safe return.

    Cheers!
    Ashir

  11. Hello to the Zahid family,

    It was a pleasure getting to know you during our stay at Union Glacier. Congratulations again on your successful last degree adventure!
    Cheers,
    Francois
    p.s. this is a very nice website!!

  12. Tarik Zahid says:

    Dear Waleed ,Haytham and Mohamad,
    The white expanse,the wind the,hardship,the raw beauty ,is what changes you .You will long for the wide open space.I know,having been out at sea unhemmed and unbound.I thank the Almighty for your safety and look forward to seeing you and hearing more about your great achievement
    Lots of love to all
    P.S. To the great team that got you there and back a big Salute and thanks . You guys are amazing glad all are back safe and sound

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