After two years of feeling as if Nov 08th 2017 would never actually arrive, it finally came crashing in all too quickly with a whirlwind of last minute preparations and goodbyes. The first to go was my long suffering Girlfriend Olivia, who has been incredible through this entire process, all too used to dropping me off at airports for four month stints overseas, I was pretty thankful she would be spared the trip to Heathrow this time due to work commitments (my mascara would not have survived a departure gate goodbye I fear).
I then quickly dashed down to Sir John Moore Barracks in Kent to tie up a few loose ends at work and farewells to everyone down at 1 RGR. My favourite exchange of the entire day was between my Company Second in Command - Captain Ganesh and Capt Cassini from Sp Company:
Capt Ganesh " Sears Saheb, he is very brave, but he MUST make is back safely."
Capt Cassini (shocked to hear a fearless Gurkha Officer so worried about a lowly Lieutenant) "oh really Saheb, Why is that?"
Capt Ganesh "He is one of my Platoon Commanders on our next exercise, how will I get a replacement in time?"
I would like to assure Ganesh Saheb I will be back in time for the exercise next year and ready to go! I was then taken up to the temple on camp for a blessing from the Pundit. "Kaida" which is essentially our 'tradition' in the Gurkhas is incredibly important and what keeps us such an effective fighting unit, it is vital that we never forget where we have come from and keep that bond. Before deploying on operations the RGR will always pay a visit to the temple to ensure the safe return of each man.
It was then a quick dash back to the flat in London to pick up my skis and kit before getting the train to my parents so I could say my goodbyes and be dropped at Heathrow. However, what followed will probably be the most stressful part of this entire expedition. Having lost all track of time I didn't realise I had settled upon 5:30pm as the time to try and transport 2m long skis and two large hold-alls through London Waterloo and onto a commuter train out of the city. To all the ankles I clipped and toes I squashed - I am very sorry. To the man in the suit who called me a f*@*king ski bum, apologies to you too!
I had high hopes that if I was ever going to successfully wangle my way out of economy into the lofty heights of premier economy or even business class this was it, this was my moment, they said it couldn't be done but by god this was my chance. Skis in hand alongside the widest smile I could muster, I bounded up to the desk with my most cheerful "Hello!". In about 12 second flat I had been handed a ticket for seat 48D and asked if I wanted to pay with credit or debit for my skis as sports equipment was no longer free on BA. £65 lighter and with slightly dented pride I headed off to start the long journey down to the bottom of South America. Leg room or not - How can you be in a bad mood when you are off for the adventure of a lifetime.