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Reaching The Poles Of Inaccessibility

The Poles Of Inaccessibility are perhaps the world’s most difficult to reach places and journeys there require hiking, riding and seat-of-the-pants flying after planning, preparation and an appreciation for human geography, as twins Ross and Hugo Turner are discovering...

How do you define the world’s most difficult-to-reach places? Some answers are obvious – Everest, the Poles, the source of the Amazon – and the routes, to them are, if not easy, then at least well-established. But another option is the world’s Poles Of Inaccessibility: a series of remote points said to be the hardest to reach on the globe, based on the fact that they’re the furthest possible coordinates from a point of access – in other words, a coastline.

Ross Turner, half of the British adventure duo known as the Turner twins, knows all about the poles of inaccessibility, because the brothers have already reached two of them. They’re in the middle of a seven-year plan to visit every continent’s, culminating with the Pacific Ocean’s so-called Point Nemo, but along the way they’re also aiding in medical research, walking in the footsteps of their heroes, and raising thousands for pioneering charities. It isn’t easy – but then, few worthwhile things ever are.

The guy sitting behind us was busted with a kilo of cocaine almost certainly planted on him

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Q: You’ve been to the centre-most points of Australia and South America so far, so how much do the different environments of each pose problems for you?
A:
‘Well, there’s a huge difference even among trips – particularly going from the coast, where we start all our trips, to the centre of the continent – the environment changes from fertile land to far more robust, dangerous, inaccessible places. But also there’s the human geography to consider – the poorest areas on each continent are usually the furthest from the sea. The poorest areas in Australia are in the heart of the outback.’

‘The poorest town in the US, called Allen, is almost in the centre of the US. You really notice it when you’re travelling slowly – the cost of goods and services gradually going up, the road conditions deteriorating. Shops, e-commerce, all that kind of thing gradually goes out of the window, and you’re left with stalls on the side of the road.’

Q: How does that affect the preparations you do?
A:
‘We try to take the least amount of kit we can. In South America we started in northern Chile and then went to the Atacama desert, which is both the driest desert on earth and fairly high altitude, so we had to take big water bags but also down jackets and thermals for the high-altitude stuff. We packed more appropriate clothing for the jungle areas, where we picked up a guide and offloaded some stuff.’

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‘We look at each trip and split it into its environments – in the USA we’ve got LA, which is obviously fairly easy to cover, but then we’ve got a huge area of the Mojave desert, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon and the Arches National park which is basically desert-like conditions. The Rockies will be quite lush and cool, and then you get down to the grasslands of Nebraska and South Dakota and Tornado Alley – it isn’t as adventure-y as you’d traditionally think because it’s the USA, but it comes with its own challenges.’

Q: What’s been the most challenging moment for you so far?
A:
‘South America. There’s a border village between Bolivia and Brazil called San Matias, which is a drug cartel area. We took a taxi over the border and a bus picked us up to go to the local town, and we were told about these bogus police officers who – well, they look legit, they’ve got all the paperwork, but they’ll illegally arrest people and take whatever they’re carrying. So we were a kilometre out of the village, when these trucks screamed past us and stopped us, there were guns in everyone’s faces, and the guy sitting behind us was busted with a kilo of cocaine which was almost certainly planted on him. For a moment I was very aware that I hadn’t checked my bag since getting on the bus, and they ended up leaving with the other guy – I have no idea what happened to him.’

Q: You flew to Australia’s Pole Of Inaccessibility on paramotors – why was that?
A:
‘We’d used them before. In the UK, a quirk of the law is that anything foot-launched you don’t need a license for – if you could take off by running with a Cessna, you’d be legally allowed to fly it. That said, we’d done about 60 hours or so by the time we set off, but Australia was our first big flying trip. We were sponsored by Breitling at the time, so it was somewhat partnership-led, but it was also the best way to see the outback – it’s absolutely beautiful from the air, and the only people really flying across that area are people going from Adelaide to Alice Springs, or flying doctors. We’re looking at a paramotor altitude record over the next couple of years, which is something electric engines allow. When you use diesel, you’ll have problems when you get further up, as the air gets thin.’

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Q: You’ve also done trips to Elbrus and Greenland using kit that would have been available 100 years ago – how has that affected your opinion of the Golden Age explorers?
A:
‘Explorers is a very overused word and I wouldn’t really consider us explorers per se. Ed Stafford’s probably done a few bits in the Amazon, and Ranulph Fiennes has done some impressive stuff, but otherwise it’s very hard to do in this day and age. But when you look at something like Shackleton’s journeys to the extremes of the Earth, the mindset of the people who volunteered for that trip is bewildering, to be honest.’

‘To answer an advert in the paper – it’s a bit like the mentality of going to Mars with no return. There would be no outside communication, very little chance of coming back, and the risk of death was very very real and the chances of success was very very low. And that mentality these days is non-existent, to be honest. That mentality to go ‘Right, I’m off, I’m probably not coming back…’ Hats off to them, quite frankly.’

Find out more about the Turner twins at www.theturnertwins.co.uk

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