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"Still in Punta
Arenas, but we nearly flew south to Antarctica
tonight. Alas, the katabatic wind at the blue ice strip at Patriot Hills is
still too strong: 35-45 knots, and blizzard conditions. 15-20 knots is the
maximum crosswind for this Russian cargo plane on the ice. Gusts have reached
61 knots, which is a big crosswind, given that winds above 64 knots are
The main mishap so far was my
skis being put on the wrong plane from Miami, to Argentina instead of Chile. I've got
300 items of kit, and some things like my Olympus Mons triple layer boots and
ski-mountaineering bindings cannot be found in South
America. So I carried a spare set of bindings, and wore my boots
and polar gear throughout the airports, attracting the interest of the security
staff at Heathrow and Miami.
There are no skis in Punta Arenas, so the only
option was to delay my flight and look for some in Santiago. I dug up some long forgotten Spanish
words, and found a mechanic to drill and fit the spare bindings on. Then my
original skis suddenly arrived from Buenos
Aires, so I've got two sets now. I was glad to get to Punta Arenas after 49
hours travelling including two back-to-back nights on planes.
Today, I went for a hike and
found a deep canyon, with views over Magellan Straits, which is 20 miles wide
here, with fierce gales blowing from Cape Horn.
What Magellan did nearly 500 years ago is amazing.
Punta Arenas has some wide streets designed for
sheep herding in the past. Sheep would have a hard time now due to hordes of
stray and wild dogs roaming the streets, some of them very wolfish. This is
claimed as the world's southernmost city, and has to be one of the windiest.
The wind blows garbage all over the place, even 100 feet up in the air, and it
hangs up on telephone lines.
My fellow travellers to Patriot Hills are all hoping
that the katabatic winds will subside soon. There's a Norwegian group
attempting Mount Vinson, and an Anglo-American team going
for the South Pole. Everyone is in very good shape, with loads of polar
experience and a passion for adventure. Frostbite prevention has been the main
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