II. Pinky

The rope in my hands was of lightweight polypropylene, designed for throwing at a swimmer and yelling at them about. It was not designed to feed through a mechanical advantage system and unwrap an 18-foot expedition rig plastered under forces incomprehensible. Continue reading

I. Riverbent

Frosty oars of Douglas fir stand ready in the autumn sun. The Chilko blue slides downstream.

My drysuit crinkles in the bluebird air. I row the kitchen-raft solo, grateful for the silence. No-one to ask, ‘How deep is the water here? What grade of rapid is this? How many times have you done this? What do you do in the winters?’ Just the river gurgling, the wind nipping at my ears. Last run of the season. Continue reading

VII. Northbound

26/02/14 – 01/03/14

Tierra del Fuego National Park – Ushuaia – Rio Grande

After the night of the fox, we made a special effort to rise before noon. We followed a trail to the Lago Alto, where we emerged from the forest canopy onto a grey-pebbled shore. Bright and placid, deep and dark, the water’s edge guided us to the border with Chile. A wooden sign suggested that we not trespass, but it was shorter than us, and this really was the most pleasant place to cross. No guards posturing for authority, no sequence of paper-shuffling desks to negotiate, no queues stretching to the nearest paved road in the glaring ultra-violet. Here in the shaded lakeside forest, the only border guards were the unseen birds that chirped and flitted between countries without firing a bureaucratic neuron. Continue reading

VI. Land of Fire

24/2/14 – 26/2/14

Ushuaia – Tierra del Fuego National Park

The mess hall was aflutter with campers drawn to the light like moths. Whump, the multilingual chatter crossed the decibel threshold whereafter everyone suddenly speaks louder to be heard. A card game got rowdy at the French table. If you listened without searching for meaning, you could divide the white noise into its constituent colours. French casts a purple light, Spanish red and English blue. Through the din and backpacker everhype, my only tangible thoughts were of the sherpa-dog I’d left shrinking in the side mirror hours ago. What if he was still running after us, lost in the cold night rain, harrowed by  headlights flashing by? But even this thought I was too tired to sustain. I could count on my fingers the number of hours I’d slept in the past week. Three on the left, seven on the right. The tent might have been a luxury hotel for all I knew. Continue reading

V. World’s End

22/2/14 – 24/2/14

Rio Grande – Ushuaia

We eddied out by the Rio Grande waterfront. I’d rather have jumped into the Argentine Sea than ridden back into fray. The styrofoam joke-armour in my jacket and pants would give me buoyancy. I’d float with the currents to the Falklands, flash my British passport at the coast guard and check into the hospital. I surveyed the beach: black seawater, long rustle-grass, dark earth turned orange by dim street-lamps. Continue reading

IV. Peligro!


Punta Arenas – Rio Grande

Open road, day one.

I stood in a haze of morning rain and strapped my bags to the passenger seat.  The pavement was slick, my visor kaleidoscopic. We were bound for World’s End: Ushuaia, Argentina. If you want to throw a stone at Antarctica, this is where you go. Continue reading

III. Entanglement

19/2/14 – 21/2/14

Punta Arenas

Bagless arrival at a Punta Arenas hostel. In the back yard stood the three fabled 125cc Honda CGLs that had made the journey South from Santiago. Two little tents clung to the grass nearby. One sagged inward, darkened with damp. The inhabitants, Australian couple Cath and Rob, had been waiting a week for me to arrive with their new tent, which of course was missing with my duffel bag. Continue reading


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