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Pole to Pole

Day 139: Patriot Hills

Michael Palin - Pole to Pole2.45 p.m. Kazama-San and his team leave after due Japanese ceremony. He ties a yellow ribbon bearing good-luck messages around his waist and heads his white Yamaha out of the camp. It's so light and silent and insubstantial that he looks like a samurai on a poodle. He is followed by Rob, driving a Ski-Doo and pulling two sledges, one containing a solar-powered radio. It's all very environmentally conscious but the environment isn't appreciative. The sledge sticks on the very first rise and has to be pushed.

Later, in the distance, Kazama's bike leads the procession across the snowy wilderness like a pied piper. They hope to be at the Pole in twenty-eight days.

Less than two hours later Rob returns with the news that because of the unusually warm weather (only minus one Centigrade today) Kazama's environmentally friendly bike has become embedded in the snow. He plans to continue, travelling only at night.

In the evening I manage to make radio contact with my wife, via Anne Kershaw in Punta Arenas. To be speaking to my little house in London from the wastes of Antarctica is perhaps as much as I can hope for; the fact that owing to excessive distortion Helen's voice sounds like a strangled gannet is evidence that we are not in the mainstream of international communication. But apparently she can hear me and one of her gurglings is translated as wishing me luck and a warm hug.

Sue has cooked us pasta, which we polish off with Chilean red wine. Later Basil and Nigel disappear into the sun-drenched night with a Ski-Doo and an ice pick, reappearing triumphantly with a chunk of ice from beside the nearby hills which is as old as the rock itself.

Basil looks very pleased with himself as he drops a chunk into a glass.

'There we are. Ten-year-old whisky. Two-million-year-old ice!'

In this limbo-land of 24-hour daylight I lose track of time. All I know is that when I leave the mess tent, Billie Holiday's voice follows me from the cassette player and Basil is drinking in earnest with a stubbly-bearded, red-eyed old-timer from Canada called Dan who, weather willing, is flying us to the South Pole tomorrow.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 139
  • Country/sea: Antarctica
  • Place: Patriot Hills
  • Book page no: 314

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