News & Press,ANCHOR TALES

News & Press > ANCHOR TALES

03 February, 2016

 

It was early August 1996 when two Olympic Bronze Medals were packed tightly into backpacks and clothes were carelessly tossed into two very large suitcases. The athlete’s were shutting down in Fort Benning, Georgia and the adventurer’s were going to be awakened in Anchorage, Alaska. That’s what we thought we were doing - my best mate Haylea and I. We were clueless and looked it. There was no ‘space’ for two very large suitcases in the largest state of America, validating our packing technique because time couldn't care less up there. Olympic athletes are outfitted with copious amounts of clothing, shoes and accessories that you can never wear again. A bit like a wedding dress. But looking back at photos, it turns out that Alaska was the last time we wore 96’ issue clothing! “No-one would care in Alaska” we thought. Except for one elderly man...

 

We rented a Ford Explorer for two weeks and decided we would sleep in it too. Our first night driving we reached a road block because they were ‘blowing things up’ with dynamite nearby so we pulled over and waited until morning. Temperatures dropped so low, we were so tired and cold I remember unzipping my suitcase, reaching in and grabbing underwear, bra's, any clothing I could get my hands on and threw it over us. The adventure was a mess already. On another long night of driving, we pulled into a camp site and parked the car in the first spot our delirium imagined. It got soooooo cold that night, Haylea awoke, jumped into the front seat, started the engine, cranked up the heater and fell asleep again in the back. I woke up in sweaty distraught, somersaulted into the front seat to find we were idling on the edge of a cliff with raging glacial waters below? It was an over-heated “Good morning, you could have killed us” but as long as my best mate was warm, could brush her teeth, shower, have a facial and blow dry her hair, nothing bothered her. Not even my anger. That day we took a whitewater rafting trip on that same river and the gloves they gave her had a hole in the left pinky. By lunchtime the pinky turned purple and I couldn’t stop giggling. Nothing bothered her. Not even my humour. Haylea was such a powerful athlete legend stands “she had muscles in her sh-t!” If anyone could handle a cold, purple pinky, I knew it was her. Energy's memory is matchless and that giggle would return to me as quick and flighty as a masterfully tossed boomerang. (Actually, I have a scar on my shin from a boomerang un-masterfully tossed by a 96' team mate, Jo Brown, who also hit the winning homerun against the USA. Jo can hit anything.)

 

Days later we stopped on the Denali Highway to go 4-Wheelin’, in our Olympic gear. I have always admired Haylea’s ability on motorbikes and with watersports. I’ve been bred on hand-eye co-ordination sports and not great when motor’s are involved. We were let loose alone out onto dirt tracks across the Alaskan Wilderness! Why wouldn’t you feel talented and confident! I drove that 4-Wheel hard into a ditch and catapulted myself over the handle bars into the bushes and mud. All Haylea saw from a distance was me flying through the air and erupted in laughter! The 4-Wheelin' turned out to be bruising but free of charge as the owner had watched our shock victory in Atlanta against the US in round play and couldn’t believe we were sitting in his cabin, drinking hot coffee and sharing the story. 

 

I’ll stop there as 14 days of stories in Alaska in the back of a Ford Explorer could fill a carefully-bound book to its brim. The point being, Haylea and I have been friends since we were 16 and the fights and laughter look like a spectacular mountain range. The ups and downs of us all. Yet, thanks to our time together in Anchorage, before & beyond, we’ve never looked like that Panamanian-flagged ship "Modern Express" bobbing about near the French Atlantic Coast at the mercy of winds and currents. We may look a little unstable at times but deep down, secure in the bed of friendship, we’re not. 

 

It didn’t surprise me recently when we were both in Sydney for a 96’ Reunion and met up with friends @The Gantry in Pier One and we were offered an ‘Anchor’ to use at the Hotel. I’ve put mine on my car keys for now.

 

And that Church near my house ‘On-The-Hill’, St Clements? It’s alot clearer to me. St Clement, tossed into the Black Sea with an anchor around his neck in AD98, commemorated on November 23rd.

No-one deserves to die.

 

"the old road is a new friend"