Wrapping up Indonesia

So as I’m sitting here trying to come up with the words to express how disappointing the last trip to Indonesia was and the attempt at the summit of Carstensz Pyramid, I’m reminded of the importance of life. I’m back home alive and have some incredible stories to share, and it was due to some dumb luck, yea, but also to some good decisions on my part.

While I was in Indonesia, I started a list of “things that went wrong” and started to get depressed, but I’m glad I did, because now I can type it out and laugh at everything because I had absolutely no control over all of these things and it’s only something that could have happened in a movie.

After booking the original trip of trekking to Base Camp (BC), it was cancelled because the villages we were going to trek through wanted more money and wouldn’t let anyone through. A week later, I was told we couldn’t trek in and had to go via helicopter, requiring more money (fuel for those things isn’t cheap), and a change in flights from America to Indonesia. A day before I was going to arrive, I was told the helicopter was broken and it wouldn’t be fixed for another week. Changing my flight, hotel, reservations, etc would be more expensive than going to Indonesia and staying at a cheap hotel because the helicopter “might be fixed” while I was in the country. Think that happened? Sigh.

So when I arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia (where the international flight landed in Indonesia and where I’d leave to get to Nabire (town where the helicopter was being “fixed”), I was told the heli would be just fine by the time I got to Nabire. So while there, I visited the local cancer hospital and shared my story with the children fighting for their lives as well as their parents and the adult patients… making the best of my time. I was in Jakarta for 2 days.

It’s expensive in Jakarta (it’s like NYC), and I found a flight to Bali for $50 and left the next day because it was MUCH cheaper there and I could leave from there to get to Nabire. I won’t even get into the internet problems with the hotel in Jakarta, but the hotel in Bali… well… I didn’t have one because everything was booked, but about an hour before I left Jakarta to get there, my friend (a travel agent in CA) found something for me.

While in Bali (we’re on day 4 by the way), I was told the “part” for the heli was ordered and would take about a week to get to Nabire. Later, I find out this “part” wasn’t anything like a “part” you’d expect. Maybe a spark plug, a rotor, anything but what it really was… the tail. Yea, the TAIL TO THE HELICOPTER!! Haha. So when they said “part” they actually meant “the helicopter itself.” So this “part” was going to get into Nabire in about a week and was an easy fix they said. Ok… no prob. My hotel in Bali was only for 3 nights because I was told the heli was going to be fixed by then. So I had to find another hotel (the one I was in was booked solid when my reservation was over). Hotel number 3 was nice, but didn’t have any mosquito netting to fend off any bugs with malaria. Sigh. No… I don’t have malaria, thank god. Anyhow… by this time I had no idea when I was flying to Nabire, but received a call after a few days at this new hotel and said we were leaving later that day to go from Nabire to Makassar (1.5 hour flight) to Biak (5 hour flight) to Nabire (1 hour flight). So I packed up my stuff to head out to another hotel and another city.

So I took off from Bali to Makassar, but in Makassar, I was told that all flights were booked to Biak and Nabire. (keeping up?) SO… hotel number 4, here we come. I was in Makassar for a few days because all flights were booked into Nabire (except another group managed to get 8 seats from Makassar to Nabire… hmmmm). While in Makassar, I was told the “part” for the heli got there, but they didn’t have the tools to put it on. Haha. Really? So a few days later (day 15 of the trip??) I was told the “part” was on, and there were flights to Nabire again. GREAT!! I’m heading over and going up the mountain because the heli was going to be fixed in a couple of days. I get to the Makassar airport and head to the gate for my 1AM flight to Biak where I was supposed to arrive at 6AM (2nd time zone change in Indonesia after the 12 from America), and the flight was delayed. I take a nap. Wake up… delayed. Nap. Wake up… delayed. Nap. Wake up and find out that the flight isn’t leaving until 6AM. By this time I had been at the airport for nearly 8 hours. Finally get an answer on the plane where they attempted to speak English and they said, “we apologize for the delay. The delay was due to reasons.” ………thanks. That clears everything up. I appreciate it.

Getting into Biak late, I luckily only had an hour before the flight to Nabire and it was a nice day. It was only 94. The entire time while I was trying to get to Nabire, we were also trying to negotiate using a different helicopter to take us to base camp. It was a Russian Kamov heli piloted by a crew of 4 Koreans. Through the negotiations, it was like that old “telephone game” where we’d say something in English to someone who spoke Indonesian to someone who spoke Korean. Hahaha… I give up. So we finally come to conclusions about the Kamov (basically price and the fact that we’d be “borrowing” it from a local gold mine), but there’s no fuel. So we try to get fuel, but get this… a couple weeks before, the country had a week-long holiday where people went to Nabire for vacation. The airlines ran more flights than normal to get the people there, but the week later, when they were trying to get people back home, they ran out of fuel because they didn’t plan for the extra flights. The fuel tanker comes by to sell them the normal weekly supply, they didn’t order more, the tanker didn’t have extra, so the people trying to get back home had to wait another week for the fuel and because of all that, we actually got fuel from the military in Biak to drop fuel in Nabire so we could use the Kamov heli. ….have I lost you yet?? Haha.

So after the fuel was “found” and after we could use the Kamov, they decide that the Kamov needed some sort of “anti-freezing” instrument placed on the blades because of the altitude. Great. Another part. Well that part was ordered, got there quickly (quick enough) but they didn’t have the tools to put it on either. Wonderful.

Back in Biak… flight finally takes off (it was delayed 5 hours) and I land in Nabire where I heard the smaller heli was fixed and was ready to go… GREAT!! But later find out that the heli IS fixed, however the Indonesian government wouldn’t let them test fly it until they had someone inspect it. …another 3 days for that person to get to town. In the mean time, the pilot for the heli isn’t even on the island and hasn’t come back from his vacation yet to do the test flight.

So back to the Kamov… fuel is there, crew is ready, we’re ready, part is finally on… we still can’t take the other heli, so we head up in the Kamov. After about an hour of flying up to base camp, we see it, but can’t land because the clouds are too thick and it’s too dangerous to land. We discussed us jumping out and the crew tossing us our climbing gear, but they weren’t too keen on that idea. So it’s back to Nabire.

Weather the next day wasn’t great, so we didn’t go anywhere and enjoyed the 103 temps with 100% humidity. I think one of my ears is a little lower because it melted a little and slid down my head.

The next day we attempted the base camp again. No dice. Back to Nabire again. We figured we’d try again tomorrow, but guess what… no fuel. We’re out. By this time the “inspector” for the smaller heli showed up and looked at the “part” they put on only to say, “great. Looks wonderful. Now take it off and put it back on in front of me so I know you did it right.” Sigh. Another 2 days of playing around in the jungle heat waiting on something that might not happen. In the mean time, we wanted to meet with the pilot because we heard he was going to be back on the island. We were told he was, we went to meet with him (but he was actually the co-pilot – pilot was in Makassar still on vacation). After meeting with the “pilot” as we were told he was, he mentioned something about the “part” being put back on the heli, but because it cracked, they had to wait for … I kid you not… the glue to dry. That’s about the time I figured it wasn’t in my best interest to go up this mountain and the signs (the numerous signs) were telling me it wasn’t my time and I should try to go home and return.

The next day I took off from Biak back to Jakarta, changed my flight out of Jakarta to a few days later (when I thought I’d actually get back to Jakarta), and spent nearly 10 hours in the airport trying to fly standby to get to Seoul to Chicago. Midnight comes rolling around, I sleep in the airport for a while, finally find a hotel, take a taxi there, check in, sleep for an hour or so, and get ready to head back to the airport again and fly home. That worked, and 2 days later I landed in Chicago.

Looking back at it, it’s one frustrating trip to say the least and I didn’t even cover everything that went wrong because this novella has gone on long enough. I did, however, get the opportunity to meet some incredible people and they have become some good friends...

Heli - 2


Internet problems

Happy ending

Makassar update

Trip to Nabire

Bali pt.1

Bali pt. 2


Hotel Secrets

Internet Problems

Chicken Liver


Hospital Visit Security

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Dont Drink the water!

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Dispatching from Seoul

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Trip To NYC----

This Blog was posted late and should have been before the "Whats important blog" ----

So it's been a while since I've been able to actually update the blog. My apologies.  HOWEVER, for about a week I was driving through CO, KS, MS, IL, IA, and NE and then through CO again.   It was a fun trip, but with the 14 mpg was getting, I had to   stop every 3 hours. On top of that, I passed 61 cars and 17 semi trucks in ditches!! Ugh.

Let's start with NYC and the Today Show!!  Well I got into Newark and was picked up by the driver and taken to the hotel.  I got in pretty late and the Today Show was going to pick me up early in the morning.  I slept like a baby until that hotel wake-up call started ringing me out of my dream. Headed downstairs and met up with my buddy who lives in Hoboken?  Together we rode over to the NBC studios, met up with the folks from Catalyst PR (the media company for the Iron man), and headed into the green room.  While we were in there, we ate a pretty good spread of munchies such as muffins, carrots, juice, etc.   After we were in there for a bit, I had to run upstairs to make-up and get ready for the spot on TV.  Came back downstairs to one of the regulars on the show complaining about not having the right kind of cookies.  Jokingly, I said that my buddy ate them all, but he was just looked at and that person didn't break a smile.   Oh well.   After a few more min, they took me outside, wired me up with the mic, walked me up to the location, and bam. We were on TV talking about the race and about CancerClimber!   After the 10 secs (that's what it seemed like.  More like 3 min) I was on, I took off the mic, headed back inside, said some goodbyes to the other people I met, and my buddy and I headed back to the car.

Later that day, I headed over to another friend's house to watch the race on TV.  The Ironman was profiling me and CancerClimber on NBC and I was really really excited to see what they did.  When I first heard my name, I thought they just mispronounced "Swarner", but when they actually misspelled it, I was a little let down. Unfortunately, they only mentioned the first cancer not the second. They also missed the 14 days to live, the one lung, the coma for a year, Everest, 7-Summits, CancerClimber, etc.  I'm not sure why they did that, and I was a little confused.  Anyhow....  

After getting home, I hopped in my car to do the "tour de Midwest" for Christmas (speaking of, I hope everyone here reading this and everyone you share this with had an incredible holiday season!!). Finally I got home and am getting ready to head into the mountains for some training in the hills. I'm going to the Sundance Film Festival in Jan to give a talk to the producers, actors, and directors. Everyone keep your fingers crossed that someone picks it up and believes it’s a great story!!

Until then, I’m heading out right now for Audubon and some fun in the mountains.   Sounds like I'm heading to the South Pole Nov/Dec of 2009. Should be GREAT because we're also thinking about having people join us for the "last degree" where whoever wants to go could join me from the 89th parallel to the 90th (South Pole)!!  As well, we're looking for sponsors to help make the trip affordable!

On top of everything else that's going on, CancerClimber has some amazing news about our truck that's being developed.  We're meeting with some folks and getting things on paper to move forward and hit the ground running.  Visit www.cancerclimber.org  <> I’m talking about when I say "portable camp."    It's unreal!!!

Take care everyone and please share this blog with more people so we have countless people reading and even more (is that possible? Haha) sharing stories of hope to one   another as a family of survivors and patients!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Meaning of Life Through the Eyes of Joe Schneider

So I just got done feeding Riley and was inspired to write a little note. She has truly changed my life in a way that is difficult to articulate. For starters, I was never sure I could even be a father due to the massive amounts of chemotherapy. Unlike many survivors, I never had the opportunity to bank sperm as the doctors felt I needed to start treatment immediately.

As I look outside and see the snow fall, I can't help but be so thankful. I have been so lucky to experience so many different things that I am truly blessed. The way that Riley makes me feel when she smiles at me is unbelievable. I can be having the worst day in the world and come home and she just makes me melt...definitely Daddy's little girl. I have to imagine a lot of parents get frustrated with the sounds of their baby crying so loud that all of the neighbors can her them. For me, it is totally different...to me, her crying signifies life and everything it has to offer. I know it sounds weird, but it really does not bother me. I feel lucky to even have the opportunity to hear her cry and her screams are just part of life. Just now I was feeding her and her little hand grabbed a hold of my pinky and it just blew me away. Meg and I created her and she is such a joy. Others are not so lucky. We have 1.4 americans that are diagnosed with cancer each year and over 560,000 die each year from this disease in the US alone. Some of them won't be able to experience the same thing that I have. We have lots of work to do.

I know it sounds cliched, but we really have to live in the moment. Enjoy the baby screaming, the snow falling, the traffic jam, the touch of a child, and even the noisy neighbor upstairs (right now, haha). Seriously, life is too short to not enjoy every minute it has to offer. Is it easy? Hell no, we all get caught up in every day life, but it is moments like these that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I am lucky to have amazing friends, a fantastic wife, great in-laws, a loving family and of course Riley, our little miracle baby.

LiveSTRONG, Be well, and Keep Climbing!

Joe Schneider
CancerClimber Association

Allstate Agency Owner