Polar-tropical contrasts.

Hi boys and girls!

Been a while, I know, but I’m back – and with loads of on-the-road tales to recount that have piled up…

Right now I’m in Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport, which is fitting: I’ve seen a lot of airport terminals just recently, but I haven’t had enough time in the departures lounges to keep up with events as they’ve been happening – as they’ve been happening so fast and furious and frequently and non-stop. I’ll at least make a start with some catch-up here…

I really should start where this recent spot of globetrotting began a few weeks ago – heading to the North Pole! But… Since I still don’t see much free time on the horizon for extensive travelogue writing and photo editing, I’ll settle for just this one interim post for now to keep things bobbing along on this here blog, and it will have to be a relatively brief one (I’ll do the proper catch-up a bit later once I get home). It’s one about some mind-boggling contrasts I’ve seen over the last few days…

Now, returning from one of the earth’s poles back to civilization is always a bit lot of a shock to the senses. From a place where there is literally nothing but cold, ice, snow and blue sky, to a place where there is warmth, no snow or ice; supermarkets, roads, pubs, offices, Wi-Fi, drinkable tap water and all the rest of civilization’s better features… well, you get the picture: it’s always going to blow the mind a touch and take some time to acclimatize…

But I went straight from the frozen Arctic expanses to… Panama, with neither acclimatization or decompression! Result: mind very much totally blown. Just as I like it!…

Good morning Panama!

While just the day before…:

Back to today…:

Fancy five-star hotel with pool, neat lawns, neat paths, super menu, massages, spas, gym, bar, beach, ocean… No. surely not? I mean, can such things really actually exist, while up at the top the world there’s a place where there’s NONE of all that? :)

The transformation to the appearance (and climate) of my surroundings was all the more mind-bogglingly disorientating because the journey time was so surprisingly short. I boarded a plane in the Arctic, made a quick connection some hours later, and several hours after that that I’m surfacing from my hotel room after changing into shorts and Hawaiian shirt heading to the beach! (All the super warm clothes and hats and gloves headed straight back to Moscow; hardly needed them down in Central America!)

Back to the boggling, though – not, as it happened, just of the mind…

The first thing to be boggled is your eyesight. Vision-boggling. (Yes, I am a modern day Shakespeare:). In the Arctic and Antarctic there just isn’t’ that much variation to the colors you see all around you. Everything is either white, gray or black – and if the sun’s out: bright blue too (the sky). No other colors at all. Not one.

Meanwhile in Panama… bright colors run amok in all their variation and splendor. It becomes just too much – all you want to do is lie down to sleep with the vain hope all the gaudiness will just disappear!

The next senses to be boggled (almost simultaneously) are your hearing and sense of smell. Near either of the earth’s two poles there’s a deficit of both sounds and smells almost as severe as that of colors. There’s practically no sound, no smell! Ok – sound: maybe there’s the occasional cracking sound of ice, or the whistling of wind. But smell: NOTHING! Meanwhile in Panama… yes, you guessed it: the unmistakable strong aromas of the tropics.

Now, you might think I’m overblowing these contrasts of sights, sounds and smells. I guess I might think that if someone was telling me about them. Thing is: they’re for-real senses-boggling! It’s just hard to put it all into words and, I guess, to believe, as it’s all just so unusual and un-experienced by most. The pics aren’t helping me out much either when it comes to sounds and smells ). Oh well, I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it!

Ah – another contrast: the sun. At the poles you mostly don’t see it at all (during the Polar night) or it never sets at all (midnight sun) while never rising much higher than the horizon. Meanwhile in Panama…! Yep: right up above you and scorchingly hot – so hot you can’t walk barefoot on a beach without getting burnt!

Another contrast: bathing water. The day before yesterday: a half-freezing pool in a hole in a two-meter thick mass of ice; air temperature -25°C. Today: a hotel swimming pool; also 25°C air temp, only with a ‘+’ (and that’s nippy for Panama as it’s early morning; later in the day it gets much hotter due to the humidity).

More contrasts: of living things…

At the poles: Only humans – not many at all; and the odd polar bear. That’s it. No one and no-thing else lives on the ice. Meanwhile in Panama…: flourishing fauna, flora and folks!

More contrasts: in the level of civilization. I’ve mentioned this briefly above, and I’m going to write more about the blessings of civilization later, but for now I’ll just add to this topic here by briefly letting some contrasting pics do the talking:

That’s about all on contrasts for today folks. If I recall any more I’ve forgotten about I’ll mention those later. And coming up will be more along the lines of ‘how to get to the North Pole’, plus field reports from the expedition I was following, plus maybe some more on-the-road tales (including from our partner conference in Panama, and my long-held dream of touring Caribbean islands (Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Montserrat, Anguilla, and the Bahamas. Phew!)).

PS: If anyone was watching the Snooker Championship on the telly at the weekend on Eurosport (held in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England) and saw someone in the front row who looked like me – well, you guessed it: it was me! Yesterday was the final. Oh my green velvet! A beautiful game. One of the few sports I like to watch on TV…

PPS: At Heathrow T5, I muttered to my travel companions D.B. and M.B that if I find out that the Wi-Fi password in the business lounge is still budapest, like it has been since it opened several years ago, I will utter ‘ha ha’ three times very loudly. Minutes later: “Ha ha, ha ha, ha ha!”. Come on, UK PLC. Get a grip on your primary school cybersecurity-hygiene. It is, after all, really quite elementary, dear Watson ).

Good day to you!…

Comments 1 Leave a note


    northpole looks great, but did you go to ny alesund and longyearben.? There colour comes from all the houses. love it all.

Leave a note