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ON FOOT THROUGH THE ANTARCTICA

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ON FOOT THROUGH THE ANTARCTICA

Footsteps in the Ice

I have been walking all day by slopes and desolate places. My strength begins to falter, to extinguish, they are abandoning me. But I would not stop, it is a matter of making one step further, then another and another … would they be the last ones?, I do not know and it is better not to think if the road ahead will stretch on for a little or a long distance or if the forthcoming conditions of my route will turn out to be more extreme and demanding.

It is no easy task to walk this place. It is hard and complicated, always wrapped in an eternal and white solitude. But it is fascinating though. The Challenges in here are not only across the road or the chilling temperatures, but in the whim of the clouds, of the rain, the unpredictable gusting of the winds, shooting at me with ice bullets, not dust, as would happen elsewhere.

Fortunately, today the wind is being merciful because it is summertime. If it were winter, I would simply not be walking. During the cold season man is expelled from the white continent or, in the best case, forced to retreat off to his scientific bases for six months. That would be the only way of coping with the 50° C temperatures that thermometers -in case they are not frozen up- could reach.

So is the Antarctica. In spite of it I keep struggling through its white and frozen skin. It is a part of a great adventure that started with a fantastic flight to the Frei Base camp. An airborne adventure that took me across the Magellan Straight, the Earth of Fire and the Darwin ridge with its blizzards and over several glaciers seeming large snow tongues that come sloping down from the mountain heights.

Afterwards, the airplane flew over the Cape Horn, where I got the impression that the two largest seas of the world refused to mingle with one another, as if trying to keep their distance with overwhelming might. That is the actual sensation one gets at the sight of the junction between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.
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    But I am not airborne anymore, but going onwards step by step. I have to walk with care and precaution. It is a well known fact that some walkers, after hours of striding, loosed the sensibility on their feet due to the poor blood circulation, courtesy of the chilling cold.

    Those who know the zone had advised me to show due respect to the winds, a phenomenon proper of this area of the planet, but which seems to be a part of 'another world'. They arise, impetuous and fierce, when air gets colder at the contact with ice, producing temporary storms that could reach velocities between a 100 and 150 kilometres per hour. They could last for several days and it is impossible to stay outdoors.

    This is why I would not pretend to go to far from Villa la Estrella, the welcoming Chilean community where I plan to stay overnight. This is a tiny urban corner in the Antarctica, which remains inhabited throughout the year, and where you can obtain food supplies and even perform bank transactions.

    Very close to the Villa stands the military bases of Chile and other countries as China, Russia and Poland, so I am taking a calculated risk. Should I suffer any accident, help would be here in no time at all.

    I am still going on. I can see rock outcrops in so strange fashions they would turn crazy the sanest of geologists. But I am also getting bored of so much ice, the ever present ice that, according with scholars has more than four kilometres of thickness in some areas. The weight of ice is so strong that it produced a 600 metres sinking of the continental bed.

    Both plant and animal fossils from remote eras have been found in the Antarctica, undeniable proof that it once had a tropical weather and a very different fauna than today penguins, sea elephants, fish and crustaceans, just to mention a handful of the species that presently live in this land, in spite of the harsh climate conditions that prevail.

    Many thoughts arouse within me while exploring the Antarctica, an area in which even the flowing of time seems different, could be due to the millenary cracking sound of the mountains of ice. This is a place where the explorer will meet with his own self without willingly going for it… Oh well, I will keep on my way without any further thoughts.



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