WELCOME TO POLE TO POLE
|Eighty Days was intended to be a one off, and after completing it I went back to being an actor, making a film called American Friends and a Channel Four drama series called GBH. But the lure of the atlas was irresistible and at a lunch with Clem Vallance, the man who dreamt up Around The World In Eighty Days, we hatched a new plan. Having bisected the world horizontally, why not try it vertically.
I was sold on the idea simply by the prospect of standing on both Poles. In fact, getting to the Poles was to involve some of the hairiest moments of my travelling life, and even the journey in between made Eighty Days look like a luxury cruise. We must have been one of the last film crews to work in the Soviet Union before it collapsed and we worked on the edge of war zones in Sudan and Ethiopia. I shudder at the memory of how things went wrong after visiting a witch doctor, and can remember the bitter anti-climax of being told there was no room for us on the boat from Cape Town to Antarctica.
We were away from home for almost five months, and when we returned I was adamant that this was the last travel documentary I was ever going to do.
That was 1991. By 1992, the bites and the chilblains had healed and my memory was filled only with memories of extraordinary locations and experiences. Safaris, steam baths, mud baths, white-water rafting below the Victoria Falls, the mighty temples at Luxor, the legendarily comfortable Blue Train in South Africa, and the pristine beauty of the polar ice-caps. And when the series was put together, it ran to nine episodes instead of eight.
Michael Palin, 25th September 2002.