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POLE TO POLE - THE PHOTOGRAPHS
Michael's introduction
 
  There will never be another journey like Pole to Pole - so easy on paper and so hard on sand, rock, water and ice. I was ready for anything but not for everything. How could I have been? How do you prepare for 17 countries and 23,000 miles (37,000 kilometres) of travel in less than half a year? My shopping list included - two Poles, two Tropics, one Equator, assorted ice-packs, glaciers, deltas, deserts, waterfalls, swamps, pyramids, temples, craters, hippos, penguins, rapids, mineshafts and mud; Europe's third longest river, the world's longest river, temperatures of 50 Celsius above and 50 Celsius below. And that was without the people. All those I met and watched and worked with and wondered at in 71 different stop-overs. Much of the time this stupendous journey, this once-in-a-lifetime traveller's dream, was experienced in a blur of fatigue, with bodies weary from the physical demands of filming, senses numbed by hostile climates and minds preoccupied with lower things - where to eat, what to eat, and what to do with what you've eaten once you've eaten it.

The only hope was that somebody in the seven-strong party was awake when you were sleeping or strong when you were weak, or adventurous when everyone else was playing safe, or curious when no one else wanted to know. That somebody was as often as not Basil Pao, our stills photographer. On a bad day he was as incurious and unadventurous as any of us, but whilst the rest of the crew shot film and recorded sound for the series and I scribbled in my notebook and walked and talked for the series, Basil was free to look around, to point his camera wherever he wanted (frequently getting himself into trouble as he did so), in short, to look at the extraordinary worlds we passed through with a fresh, enquiring, free-roving eye. Like all of us he sometimes suffered from lack of appetite and sheer sensory overload, but there weren't many days during those five and a half months when his camera stayed in his bag.

Two hundred and fifty of his pictures appeared in the original Pole to Pole book. Over thirty thousand didn't, which is what this book is about.

Anyone who saw the Honk Kong and Chinese leg of Around the World in Eighty Days will know Basil Pao and anyone who has seen the photographs that accompanied it will know that he is a sensationally good photographer. This time I was not going to make the mistake of leaving him behind for any of the journey, and as soon as I saw his photos, his design and layout for Pole to Pole - The Photographs I knew it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

This is the world - from Pole to Pole - as I want to remember it.

Michael Palin, London
 

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