The final day of Expedition South began early on the shores of lake Pukaki. Resolute on not being late for the grand finale, the team packed up our tents and hit the road while the lake was still glassy and the sky was glowing in pastels.
The road around Pukaki to Glentanner was quiet and we made great progress – we were actually running early for once! We called in at Glentanner for a coffee, and met much of the team from our Christchurch office who had come over from Christchurch. This was the end of the quiet morning for the Expedition South team!
After rolling out of Glentanner towards Mount Cook village, the number of cameras on the side of the road began to increase, and soon we had an entourage of media vehicles escorting us towards the mountains.
A bright red Beaver aircraft appeared over a ridge to the east and circled around the valley over the tractors. The Beaver is the same model of plane that the TAE expedition took to the ice in 1957, and was piloted by John Evans who is a good friend of the Antarctic Heritage Trust, having spent a season on the ice with the conservation team. It was fantastic that John was able to bring the Beaver down from Auckland for the occasion.
The tractors rolled into Mount Cook airport as the Beaver touched down, and to top it all off, a team of huskies joined us on the runway.
We spent quite some time at the airport enjoying the perfect weather and checking out the Beaver, but soon it was time to hit the road again for the final 6km of our journey.
The huskies led the way, followed by Peter Hillary and the Expedition South team. It was slow progress as it was a hot day for the huskies. The speed the convoy was travelling was representative of the speed that Sir Ed’s team drove on the way to the South Pole (something close to jogging speed) – though we had travelled slowly during Expedition South, we were glad that we didn’t have to take it that slow the whole way!
It was a victorious feeling crossing the finish line, having driven over 2000km on 60 year old tractors. We’d made it.
The Hermitage kindly sponsored the team for a meal and accommodation after the finish. We were honoured to be accompanied by the families of original TAE members: Hillary, Ayres, Ellis and Mulgrew. It was very special to get all these people together, as they all had stories and experiences of their fathers' time on the ice to share.
Thanks very much to everyone who has supported us along the way, from our major corporate sponsors through to the people in small towns who gave us a fiver or cooked us a meal. We truly appreciate the kindness that has been shared with us everywhere we’ve been. Our givealittle page will be open for another week, so please get online and give us a fiver so that we can top up our fundraising to reach the $1 million needed to save Sir Ed’s Antarctic legacy – the TAE hut and the artefacts within.