Mago arrived today, on a boat from Buenos Aires. Mago means Magician in Spanish. Actually he is called “mono de milano”, the Monkey of Milan. Maybe he has a more convential name but when someone as charasmatic as Mono arrives such formalities seem unimportant and inappropriate. He is a modern day legend of the Southern Seas, and with the beard flowing, heavy woollen jumper and colossal frame, the Italian-cross-Argenitinian hailed us across the mist-filled creek to announce his arrival atop a sleek 1945 wooden yacht commandeered from his friend in Buenos Aires, neighbouring Argentina , across the Rio De La Plata. No matter how big the space is on the deck he seems to fill all of it.
Mono runs a charter boat, “Mago del Sur”, and thus the reference to Magicians (Its quite normal for a skipper to be branded by some derivative of his boat name) and he is one of the few boats that run the gauntlet, the infamous Drake Passage, to Antartica annually. We’d met previously and were mesmerised by him and his mysterious and sharp perspective on, well, everything. Meeting such people has been a welcomed bonus to our training camp and expedition HQ set up on the water in Uruguay. Inside the beard-clad, berret-topped head is a brain fizzing with a deep knowledge of his home country of Argentina, but also the waterways of the deep south, all the way to Antartica. And he is well-connected.
He has come bearing news that the south, where we plan to start running in less than 3 weeks, is filled with snow.
“I received your email as I was on the beach in Ibiza (visiting his new grandchild), telling me you were starting your run in the South and I said these guys are crazy. I made some calls – do you know they are having the worst snow in 15 years down there?!”……. he follows me with an intense stare. Facing this vision of him it seems odd I should feel like the crazy one, but somehow I do.
I mutter agreement “yes, we’d heard….”, we hadn’t actually.
“Look, is a problem, no? Is not going to be any better in a months time. You have to take a contact with my friend Ricardo – he will help you. You call him, he lives near Pta Arenas and will give you an update” The Magician is starting to spin a spell.
“Perhaps we can use snow shoes, use bamboo and bike tyres?!?” we are thinking on our feet – we can’t given up on the idea of starting at the most southerly point, 30 miles beyond the end of the road.
“Skis”. He gestures using his two primary fingers to cross-country style bindings, and seems determined. They are available, portable, and although its not technically running its basically the same motion…
And so we have both a major problem forming before the expedition has even started, but perhaps a solution too – we’ll keep the blog posted……. in the meantime click here for a link to the forecast . . .