Because of overcrowded conditions on the cargo vessel slated to carry them to Antarctica, Palin and company take a 6000-mile detour from Cape Town to Punta Arenas, Chile, where a 40-year-old plane awaits to carry them to the Pole. Included: a discussion with an adventurer who plans to ride a motorcycle across Antarctica; an in-depth look at sub-zero survival techniques.
The travelers face a firm deadline as they trek from Mpulungu to Cape Town. They must arrive in time to board the cargo vessel "Agulhas," the only connection between Africa and the South Pole, before it embarks on its annual trip to Antarctica. Included: the interrogation of a murder suspect by a native Mpulungu clairvoyant; whitewater rafting at the foot of Victoria Falls.
Palin's Kenyan safari with Abercrombie & Kent continues with an excursion into the Masai Mara plains for a look at such wildlife as lions, giraffes and elephants. From Kenya, the journey continues through the Serengeti and on from there by rail to Kigoma, on the shore of Lake Tanganyika.
Crossing through Ethiopia to avoid a Sudanese civil war, Palin and his fellow travelers travel with an armed escort to the ancient city of Gondar, home to millenia of Ethiopian emperors. They then trek south toward the border-town of Moyale, a trip highlighted by a stop at Lake Tana, source of the Blue Nile.
After a two-day train ride aboard the Nile Valley Express across Sudan's Nubian Desert, Palin and company board a decrepit bus bound for Khartoum. Further travel along their planned route becomes impossible because the Sudanese government can't guarantee their safety, so the group sets off for Ethiopia in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
En route to Istanbul, Palin and company leave Odessa mere hours before the Russian port is closed by the coup against Gorbachev. Once in Turkey, the travelers explore a 300-year-old Turkish bath before moving on to Greece, where they visit with a Rhodes astrologer. Also: a day-long Cypriot wedding that involves 3000 guests; the Valley of the Kings; a luxury cruise down the Nile to the Egyptian city of Aswan.
Traveling south through Russia, Palin and company trek to Odessa, where they visit a crumbling sanatorium and experience a medicinal mud bath. Also: Palin touches on the Russian Orthodox Church; participates in a series of toasts with homemade vodka; and visits other Russian cities, including Leningrad, Kiev and Novgorod.
Among the stops on the first leg of this north-south journey are a trapper's cabin hundreds of miles north of the Arctic Circle; Tromso, Norway, the world's northernmost city; and a Lapland village that's home to Santa Claus. Michael Palin hosts.