Distance to go:
Ben and Tarka will cover 1800 miles starting from Scott's Terra Nova Hut at the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back to the coast again. That's equivalent to 69 back-to-back marathons hauling up to 200kg each (the weight of roughly two adult men) of kit and supplies necessary to survive.
Distances here are shown in statute miles.
The wind changed direction in the night and in the morning the sky was clear. We walked all day towards mountains that seemed more impressive and beautiful than when we passed them on our outward leg.
This bodes well for our polar journey. I had feared that the return journey from the Pole was going to just be an arduous, extra hungry replica of the outward leg. But everything yesterday looked different.
The light helped: the low, lambent Arctic sun that set below the mountains only for a few minutes before rising once again. The backlit spindrift helped too. And so did knowing that we only have a few days remaining before we have to leave this special place.
So, even though yesterday’s miles were hard – uphill and through soft snow – I really enjoyed the day.
In fact, being out somewhere as remote as this, armed with a nice camera, is about my idea of an ideal day out.
We are in the tent now. Ben is eating biltong and sewing a torn mitt with dental floss. Martin is filling thermos flasks with hot water for the day ahead. And I have built a soft nest from two sleeping bags. I am so comfortable typing this that I want to just keep on writing so that I don’t have to move!
My legs and lower back are stiff. My shoulders and elbows hurt from the ski poles. My beard itches, my hair looks like a scarecrow’s. Ben has hair – the first time I have seen him with any. And Martin has toothache, as well as a rib-busting cough.
But it’s a cosy place, our tent. It is a gale-proof red dome from Hilleberg, and it is a delight to climb into each evening. We have a hot drink straight away to warm up. And then we “cook” the best expedition food (Fuizion Foods) I have ever had. It only entails adding boiling water to a bag of freeze-dried food and then impatiently waiting ten minutes for it to rehydrate. But the end result is delicious. We have enjoyed Kung Po Chicken, Chilli con Carne and Bouef Bourgignon. It is bizarre to be out on an Arctic ice cap eating proper food. One night Martin, whose accent is more Rochdale than Roquefort, held a morsel aloft and declared with delighted astonishment,
“Bloody Hell! It’s a Shit Ache mushroom!”
It seems a pity but I don’t think I can write any more. It is time to climb out of my sleeping bag cocoon, upload this to the website and pack up for another day on the ice.