Pole of Possibility: Captain’s Blog 2, 15th Dec 2022: Fascination and kindness

We came prepared for minus 35 not 35 C positive, so our bags are bulging with excess insulation as we sweat it out in Santiago, Chile. Replacing a sit-ski and an ICE tractor-trike and other paraphernalia quickly would be likely impossible (did I use that word?!) and would scupper all my mobility options for Antarctica. So, we planned our journey to have around 36 hours in transit in Santiago in case of delayed baggage.

Travel here was another reminder that when things at first seem to be going ‘wrong’, it’s incredible how they can flip around if we remain open. A smattering of snow and mildly sub-zero temperatures seemed to seize up operations in Britain rapidly, so our journey was full of delays and challenges. However, it led us to benefit from the kindness of strangers and a fabulous reminder that when the unexpected happens, be open to FASCINATION!

Captain Nick Lamont who flew us with British Airways from Inverness heard that film-maker Mike had dropped his phone whilst boarding the plane and had smashed his screen. With access to all the apps to operate camera equipment, it was important to have a working phone! Our Captain was finishing his shift and extended himself way beyond regular duties. He waited with us for delayed luggage to arrive, went ‘backstage’ to find the ICE trike in the bowels of Heathrow, drove Mike to a Vodafone shop and back, and got involved in the crazy transport of our kit from one terminal to another: via trains, trolleys and lifts not designed for hand-cranked tractors and giant bags. Our Captain left us with a fabulously helpful BA employee who managed to re-arrange our cancelled indirect flight for a direct to Chile.

In the maze of challenges that wheels and paraplegia and having an adventurous spirit presents, I first-hand, regularly experience the miracle of staying fascinated. Instead of recoiling into stress, it is a super-power to stay curious, open and ask ‘I wonder what might happen next?’. It keeps things lighter, more fun, and seems to lead to wonderful opportunities and outcomes. There is some neuroscience behind this, but that’s for another day as the fascinating journey continued…

Our second angel was Jorge, a retired part-time luggage trouble-shooter in Santiago airport, who happens to find me at the over-size luggage door picking up the monster ICE trike. He asked me simply where we were going next, and I explained that we had an overnight stopover before the next leg to the south. We had to figure out where to store all our kit. He adopted us for the rest of the day, creating possible solutions from Option A until we landed at Option D. He personally locked all our luggage in a buried airport office then took us to our hotel, and did it all in reverse the next day. He says he will be waiting at the luggage belt to greet us on our arrival back from the south in January. Legend!

Here in the far south, the temperature has plummeted to 9 degrees. The wind whips around our hostel, reminding us that we are approaching extreme latitudes. As we tracked the spine of mountains down to Patagonia last night, the lingering twilight highlighted the landscape: giant dune-like mountains, volcanic craters and broad river valleys far below. Now in Punta Arenas at 53 degrees south it is mid-summer and the darkness is short. In three days though we will leap again to 80 degrees south. Eye-masks for sleep and insulation for warmth will become essentials.

Meanwhile, there are things to prepare, ICE trike wheels to fit with studded tyres, Covid tests to pass, and some time to appreciate beds and warmth, running water and abundant food. We know we will soon dream of these simple luxuries we often take for granted. We are feeling inspired and supported by KINDNESS, grateful to be here with all our comfort and equipment, soon to embark on this privileged exploration of a never-travelled route in Antarctica.

Adventure enables beauty in so many things. Please enjoy being FASCINATED with us by all that unfolds. Delight in the unknown…