And we have a window...

First of all – hello from south of the Equator (first time south of the Equator for all of us!)  We are finally here!  24 hours, 2 planes and a lot of coffee later ☺ So here is the deal – a lot of you asked for a lot of detail – so I will do my best to provide!  For the rest of you reading this – well, ask me later who wanted all the detail and you can have words with THEM later!

Second – and VERY important – we had thought that we were on the same time zone as Ontario – but we are NOT.  We are in fact, 2 hours ahead – please note that for when I give swim times, or for anyone trying to reach us!!!

Third – for those of you that don’t want to navigate the full post – or just want the facts’ ma’am – WE HAVE A SWIM WINDOW!!!! Scroll down for details. For those of you that also want to experience the journey – a long post follows! Long story short... our window is Tuesday at 1pm local time (11am EST) or Wednesday 7am local (5am EST) - so stay turned here!

On Saturday, we had a fantastic get together at Brett’s. What an amazing turnout! I think that just about everyone that has supported the swim in one way or another turned up to wish Madhu well, and a some that we have not seen in quite some time!  In fact, Joe Cleary, who Madhu had not seen since abut 2011 came down to say hello.  Joe ran the Marathon Des Sables with Madhu, and credits him for keeping him going through the race. Joe is an amazing fellow in his own rights – 75 this year and has run over 530 marathons… wow! Where do you keep all those medals Joe?  Great to see him, and everybody that joined us, it was a fantastic sendoff!

Saturday afternoon was spent packing, discovering what we forgot, running out to get it, and packing again! When you are travelling as far as we were, unsure about what exactly to expect, you want to make sure you pack for every contingency!

We left Madhu’s about 8:15 to head to the airport.  We had a very late flight – leaving at 11:45. Everything was smooth as butter at the airport – until we had our first “forgot it” moment – I forgot the lounge pass that Alan was so nice to provide!  Well if that is the worst that I forgot, we will be in good shape!  We managed to sweet talk Madhu into the lounge, but I ended up paying my way in – not so bad, but next time we should really work on Air Canada for sponsorship! ☺

The flight to Santiago was unremarkable in and of it’s self, and Madhu was out like a light the minute he hit the seat. Alan and I managed a bit of rest here and there, but you know what it is like on a plane – elbows and other people chatting do not lead to a really restful sleep! About 10 hours later we were landing in Santiago – feeling pretty good but hungry!  

We had a bit of a layover, so we stored our luggage and hit the airport buffet for a bite to eat. If you are ever travelling to Santiago and have to stay in the airport for a connection, just get a cabbie and head out – the Gatsby Buffet is not bad by any means – but $100US for 3 beers and 3 buffet’s is a bit much ☺ What was NOT a bit much was our first test of my translator app. Madhu thought it would be neat to take a cab just around the Airport area for a quick tour – we only had about 15 or 20 minutes. But trying to explain that one to the cabbie was for some reason not happening ☺  So I whipped out my handy dandy Jibbigo app on my iPhone and viola – no problemo! We whipped around the area and at least got a sense of the more – industrial – side of Santiago ☺ 

Just as a side note – the best human moment of the trip so far was when we got out of the cab to head back to the terminal – the cabbie chased me down to show me in the backseat… my phone!  What a disaster that would have been to forget!  I am sure that a lot of drivers would not have done that double check of the seats to ensure everything was remembered – so a huge thank you to our cabbie in Santiago! Never mind just losing the phone, the translator app is our lifeline when we don’t have a translator of our own – so PHEW, that could have gone so much differently…

Finally, we checked in for our flight to Punta Arenas, another 5 hours on a plane with our stop over at Puerta Montt. Everything was again pretty smooth, and the next thing we knew – we were dropping down over the Strait of Magellan, coming in for a landing!  The water looked pretty smooth, the winds were non-existent, and not a raincloud to be found in the sky – so Alan had to ask Madhu the question – what is the big deal about this swim! ☺  I am sure that sometime while we are here the Strait will answer that question for us.

Claudia, who is handling the logistics here on Chile, met us at the airport with another Claudia – our translator, and Nicole, who drove us back to Claudia’s house where we are staying. On the trip back , and over a very nice dinner that she prepared for us, Claudia talked about the swim, the rules, and what happens over the next couple of days, so without further ado, or fluff, here is what we know as of right now:

-    on Monday Madhu goes to the hospital for a blood test and medical workup (he is there as I write this)
-    Monday at about 1 he will get his first chance to swim in the Strait! The goal for Madhu is about an hour and a half training swim.
-    In the afternoon we get a tour of Punta Arenas, and hopefully a pre-paid chip for my phone and free Wi-Fi somewhere to post this!
-    In the evening the indoor pool is available for Madhu to swim in (declined if we can get a good swim in the Strait.)

Now – the MOST important part – and the reason that we have the post titled what it is – WE HAVE A SWIM WINDOW! Claudia informed us that there are 2 windows, depending on the approval of the authorities – Tuesday at 1pm (that is 3pm EST) or Wednesday morning at 7am (9am EST). This is dependent on weather – so stay tuned and I will let you know as soon as I possibly can just when it will be!

Some other details:
-    we will travel 2 ½ hours to Punta Delgada where the swim will be staged. We must be there about 2 hours prior to the swim to be organized and ready to go. That will be our opportunity to consult with the Chilean Navy escorts to ensure that we understand the process. 
-    Our particular swim will have a zodiac dedicated to Madhu, and an escort boat for everyone (there are 4 additional swimmers from Argentina swimming across in wetsuits) In our Zodiac will be Mike and a paramedic. Usually Claudia would be in the zodiac to watch and ensure the swimmers safety, but she is trusting me in that role for her (with a very clear warning that if anything bad happens she will kill me!) 
-    On the east shore landing site, our translator will be waiting with Madhu’s warm up kit – this is especially important not just because he needs the jacket and clothes, but the fact that it is our translator ensures that there is no miscommunication or misunderstanding with the paramedics!
-    The swim is conducted under English Channel rules – no assistance at all – including exiting the water! Those of you that have been to Coronation have seen us assist Madhu out of the water – but we cannot do that here. He will have to exit completely under his own power to above the waterline before he can be helped.
-    Both shores are rocky (a very important aspect for Madhu to be prepared for!)

So there you have it – not much more to say! We are very happy that the swim will be so early in our trip – we can have some more relaxed time exploring this great country! This does not give us a lot of time for nerves to build, and we are stoked to get this done! 

Because I know that there is family and close friends also reading this, I want to assure you on one VERY important thing – Safety. It is the number one thing that will be on my mind through this process. I am prepared and willing to call the swim if it comes to that if I feel that Madhu’s safety or health is compromised in any way. That is my responsibility, and I wholly accept it. That may mean disappointment, frustration or even anger – but I will take that on to ensure that my friend is safe. As he wisely once explained to me (about another swim, but I paraphrase) “The strait will always be there waiting, but we only have one life to live”. He also said on Saturday “Everything from here on out is a bonus” – I will take both of these to heart and do my absolute best to ensure the safety and well being of Madhu throughout this swim!

Finally, to close off a monumental post (book?) I will try to keep the long posts to a minimum, and do more short, quick posts. We don’t have Wi-Fi @ Claudia’s where we are staying, but Alan has found a local internet Café close by – so I will endeavor to get there as often as our schedule allows to post updates.

As soon as I have a finalized time for the swim I will let you know – with as much advance warning as I can! And as soon as I can find WiFi AFTER the swim I will also let you know how it went.

So stay tuned and send your good energy our way – holy crap this is really happening!

Mike