Newport explorer had to quit polar expedition for own safety
NEWPORT adventurer Richard Parks said making sure he came back home in one piece was one of the deciding factors in abandoning his latest expedition to the South Pole.
Speaking to the Argus yesterday from Punta, Chile, the former Newport Gwent Dragon rugby player said returning home safely was non-negotiable and although it was a tough decision to pull out so near the end, attempting to complete the remaining 200km of his journey in just three days was not possible.
He said: "I've got huge support from so many people and it's important to them as well as me that I came home safely.
"There are things outside your control that dictate the expedition and success isn't always black and white. With all the factors on the table it was an incredibly difficult decision to make but I am at peace because it was the right one."
Mr Parks, 35, said he did not recognise himself in the mirror upon his return to Chile having lost a dramatic two and a half stone taking him from 15 to 12.5 stones in just 39 days.
The former flanker spoke of the incredible self discipline it took to refrain from eating more food than he had allotted for certain times of the day while fighting hunger pains, and surviving in some of the most extreme weather conditions Antarctica has ever seen, including temperatures of below minus 30.
He said: "When it's a white out there is no shadows, horizons and there's nothing to navigate on. It's really was like being inside a ping pong ball."
"It's a privilege to be in Antarctica, it's a place very special to me and a great opportunity to under take such a significant expedition. But it's tough, it's really challenging - it's not for everyone. There were some incredible moments and some obviously some difficult moments."
"My focus was on the small details like could I pitch the tent faster than yesterday. It's a way of keeping the expedition safe."
Mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted, he admits the return to civilisation was a huge culture shock.
He struggled to sleep after experiencing darkness for the first time in 40 days, said adjusting to eating normal food was tough and made him feel ill, and says he is slowly getting used to being around people again having spent more than a month with no-one but himself for company.
He says it will take him a long time to recover, but he has no regrets and is now looking forward to returning home ot his family in Newport in the coming weeks.
He added messages of support that reached him while on his 605-mile journey gave him great comfort and spurred him on to succeed.