Competition: Literally Lost Number 62

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The Independent Travel
THIS EXCERPT has been taken from a work of travel literature. Readers are invited to tell us: a) where the action is taking place and b) who the author is. Blackwell's Bookshops will award pounds 30-worth of book tokens to the first correct answer out of the hat on Thursday 7 January. Answers on a postcard to: Literally Lost, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL. Usual competition rules apply.

It was difficult to think of Christmas at home but we tried, by way of passing the time.

At the beginning of a day of hauling through the clinging, wet cement of snow-crud, it was truly difficult to master your thoughts and banish the insistent desire to halt because the whole huge task was simply too hard.

There is a piece from Pilgrim's Progress that runs: "Now I saw in my dream that they drew near to a very miry slough that was in the midst of the plain and they did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was Despond. Here they wallowed for a time and Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire."

To avoid the mire and our slough of Despond was not always easy when parts of the body shrieked their pain, and hours of jolting sastrugi, falls with crossed skis, or worst of all the slow grudging drag of the sledge made you think of the horrible distance, the unthinkable hours, yet to be faced. I often wished to scream my feelings to the sky. Cherry-Garrard wrote, "Sometimes it was difficult not to howl. I did want to howl many times every hour but I invented a formula instead which I repeated to myself constantly. Especially, I remember, it came in useful at the end of the march with my feet frostbitten, my heart beating slowly, my vitality at its lowest ebb, and my body solid with cold. Then I would repeat "Stick it. Stick it. Stick it."

I used several alternatives to Garrard's "Stick it". One was: "Slowly the snail reached the oak." Messner imagined erotic fancies. I tried this but failed. I found food more easy to conjure up than sex. Mike agreed on this. Perhaps the English really are colder fish than others, South Tyroleans (like Messner) for a start.

Literally Lost 61: The book was `Sicilian Carousel' by Lawrence Durrell. The action took place in Sicily. The winner is Barbara Jackson of Twickenham

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