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Pole to Pole

Day 140: Patriot Hills to the Thiel Mountains

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWake from utterly warm, comfortable, womb-like night, curled up half-dressed inside my RAB sleeping-bag, to the desolate sound of a polar wind, sighing, hissing, slapping at the sides of the tent like some irascible neighbour. As if pleased with itself for having at last woken me it seems to grow in intensity. Look around the tent. Fraser is invisible - somewhere in his sleeping-bag I presume; Clem snores reassuringly, as I feel he might do if the battle of Waterloo were being fought outside; Basil, his face masked against the daylight, looks like a cross between a bank robber and someone halfway through cosmetic surgery. Nigel lies awake, probably wondering, like me, if this change in the weather means a further delay. Rudy is already up and about.

Ablutions in the Antarctic are perfunctory, to say the least. We may be living on top of seventy per cent of the world's fresh water, but it is not easy to get at and unless some thoughtful soul has been up, cut some snow and slipped a block of it into the tank you might as well be in the middle of a desert.

The only washing point is in the kitchen, and shaving into the sink is discouraged. Even in the tent the temperature is only forty-two Fahrenheit, so taking clothes off is not comfortable. How on earth anyone has a proper wash in Antarctica I can't imagine, though Patti claims to have managed it.

When I catch sight of myself in the mirror I see disturbingly gaunt features. The cold has tightened my skin. My eyes have sunk and my nose seems to have grown an inch or two. A dark beard-line adds to the impression of a man at the end of his tether, if not at the end of the world.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 140
  • Country/sea: Antarctica
  • Place: Patriot Hills
  • Book page no: 314

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