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Pole to Pole

Day 134: Santiago to Punta Arenas

Santiago, Chile 
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The Trooping of the Microphone in Santiago: Fraser wearing ceremonial stripes.
Michael Palin - Pole to Pole6.30 a.m. It's nine degrees Centigrade as I leave the hotel, wearing a thick shirt and sweater for the first time since northern Norway. We carry with us bulky bags of Antarctic clothes hastily flown out from London. Santiago airport is packed, and with forty-one pieces of baggage to check-in amongst the six of us we have few friends in the queue for LanChile's flight to Concepcion and Punta Arenas.

Punta Arenas, at the tip of South America, only a mile or two across the water from Tierra del Fuego, is somewhere none of us in this well-travelled crew has ever been before. Because of the rapid change of plan at Cape Town even Clem, who reconnoitred as much of our route as possible, is a stranger to the next 4000 miles.

As we wait to board we can only talk in rumour and speculation about what lies ahead. There are so few facts to go on. A company called Adventure Network does exist - well, at least they answer telephones, take bookings and have headed notepaper - and they do claim to have direct flights from Punta Arenas to an Antarctic base at the Patriot Hills, and to be able to provide further air transport from there to the South Pole. The fact that none of us can find the Patriot Hills on any map of the Antarctic only adds to the confusion. Some gloom-monger remembers our visit to Patric Walker in Lindos.

'When was Mercury going to be in retrograde again?'

'Late November . . . early December, wasn't it . . . ?'

The public address system bursts into life again. 'LanChile Flight 085 for Concepcion and Punta Arenas is ready for boarding.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 134
  • Country/sea: Chile
  • Place: Santiago
  • Book page no: 298

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