(By Correne Coetzer) The South African plans to circumnavigate the earth by human power from East to West, crossing antipodal points and from Pole to Pole. In less than 2 months Angelo Wilkie-Page sets off from Los Angeles on his bicycle. ExplorersWeb caught up with him in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho in Southern Africa to get more detail about his planned 8-year expedition.
ExplorersWeb: You plan to leave in August, are your preparations on track? How much of your preps are done? For example, it is not easy to get permission to travel through Russia, is that already finalized?
Angelo: The plan is still to start late August early September I don’t want to leave it later than end of September due to winter in Alaska. I have obtained my US and Canadian visas for the first leg. This is not a non-stop circumnavigation, I will return back to South Africa after completing the first leg in November/December 2014 and start with Visa applications for Russia and Mongolia. Traveling on a South African passport can be a challenge on its
How do you prepare for an expedition like this? Where do you start?
Angelo: Wow where do I start? In terms on physical training I cycled from Barcelona to San Remo in Italy in 2013, for altitude and cold weather training I climbed to Annapurna base camp, Nepal, in November 2013. Since then I have been trail running, and mountain biking, I have completed various MTB stage races. This has taught me that my body gets stronger as the days go on.
You start by talking to people telling them about your intentions. It took me quite some time to start verbalizing my plans, people often look at you like you are crazy. Then you start planning, training, marketing and finding sponsors. There is no ‘Circumnavigate the World Twice for Dummies’ handbook that gives you a step-by-step guide. It’s been trail and error, and I still have a long way to go.
When did you start planning? Where does the idea come from? It is a big undertaking. It’s extremely ambitious.
Angelo: Originally I wanted to just do a Pole-to-Pole circumnavigation with a friend, but after a micro-misadventure in the Drakensberg, I decided to do it solo instead. I have planned the expedition so I start with the “easiest” legs first, and progressively work my way to the Poles. No one has completed both circumnavigations under human power; I want to do something that has never been done before. I started planning full time in January 2014.
And yes it is a big undertaking; some may say it’s overly ambitious. Try telling your friends and family that, you are going to circumnavigate the globe, with no motors or sails, not once but twice! I always explain to people that it's just one leg at a time - I can’t worry about what the melting Arctic ice caps will be like in 2017, or what the political situation in Bolivia will be in three years time… I am concentrating on my first leg, planning for the second leg and have started developing an ocean rowing boat for the third leg. If I planned for the entire expedition I would be stuck in my office for years before I actually getting on the road.
What is your adventure background?
Angelo: I like to think of myself as more of an endurance/adventurer. I’ve traveled to over 20 countries such as, Bosnia, Egypt, Zambia and Nepal. When visiting these countries I try cycle, dive, ski, sail and climb as much as possible. Each one has been an adventure on its own and the skills that I have learned along the way have led me to Expedition 720°. I also have sea legs - I have a RYA Yachtmasters, am a qualified project manager, have done cold weather and high altitude training in the Himalayas, cycled 450 km in Zimbabwe and Zambia, and completed Ironman SA and a few Comrades Ultra Marathons. I feel that many of the obstacles and challenges ahead cannot be prepared for, however being at optimum physical fitness and adaptability are important.
How will you do the land crossings?
Angelo: The land crossings will be done on a mountain bike with a pack and peddle pannier system, different bike frames and set ups will be used depending on the terrain of each leg. I will also be developing an Antarctic bike with my bike sponsor closer to the time. I will be carrying all my gear, food, tents and supplies in my 4 Thule Panniers, the plan is to primarily camp and occasionally couch surf where possible.
How will you do the sea crossings?
Angelo: The first sea crossing will be the Bearing Straight; I will be doing this in an ocean kayak from Anchorage, Alaska to Magadan, Russia hugging the coastline. I am currently in talks with a manufacturer in Cape Town, who is working on a three-piece detachable ocean going kayak for easier logistics. I will be doing sea trails on my return of the first leg.
And of cause, I am very interested in your polar crossings ;-) Where will you start, North Pole or South Pole? Routes for the polar crossings? Do you have a polar mentor? How will you cross those rough seas? By rowboat?
Please see (click) new routes, and new overall map: Arctic [northeast Greenland - Geographic North Pole - Svalbard] and Antarctic [Russian Station, Mirny - Geographic South Pole - Antarctic Peninsula].
Where do you plan your antipodes to be?
Angelo: I must be said that by including the Antipodal Rules, it has made route planning extremely interesting and added a couple of thousand kilometers to the route.
My first antipodal point will be reached on a lonely road in Mongolia called the Bayandelger, South East of Ulaanbaatar. Its opposite point is in a small town in Argentina called Comodora Rivadavia (N 45° 50’ 23’’ – W 247° 28’ 36’’)
There will be other pairs in New Zealand/Morocco, Vietnam/Colombia, and Arctic /Antarctica.
Jason Lewis and Erden Eruc have done human-powered circumnavigations and Dimitri Kieffer is out there doing it. What have you learned from them?
Angelo: Firstly Erden and Jason have both proved it is possible, they are true inspirations and unequivocal pioneers of our time. I have learnt that it takes massive self-sacrifice, dedication, and persistence also that things do go wrong and accidents happen, but what really matters is how you overcome the hurdles. In attempting an expedition of this scale, I am taking a road less traveled and on it many hours, days, months will be spent alone, without the comfort of home, and family and friends.
Eight years to complete both circumnavigations are pretty fast. You say you want to do the East-West route faster than Eruc Eden who did that part in 8 years. Why do you think you can do it faster than him? You will also do double the North Pole - South Pole route that Johan Ernst Nilson did in 18 months. So that has to be faster as well…
Angelo: 8 Years is the goal. I would like to split East to West into 4 years and, Pole to Pole in 4 years. I have done my calculations and if everything goes smoothly, I believe Erden's record is breakable; provided I’m not hit by a truck, eaten by a bear, capsized by a rogue wave or held up by financial difficulties. I do believe that Erden also climbed several of the 7 major peaks during his circumnavigation; I will solely concentrate on Expedition 720 and not include any micro adventures during the expedition.
I would prefer not to be compared with Johan Ernest Nilson, I believe his primary aim is to inspire, not set records. In Johan’s 2011 Pole-to-Pole expedition, he did not go on human powered alone; my Pole-to-Pole route will be different as I will not be using kites or sails, just human-power.
What is the role of your support team?
Angelo: For the moment the team consists of three members, including myself. It will need to grow as the expedition evolves, we will need specialist members who have more field-specific skills necessary for the legs in the Poles.
Joanna Wallace plays a crucial role as Expedition 720⁰ Operations Manager. Her home-based role includes all PR and media publications, as well as the campaigning and marketing. Her role will evolve once on the road to; updating social media, updating Expedition 720⁰ blog, correspondence with sponsors, communications related to publicity with local media outlets on route, as well as arranging accommodation and ensuring adequate food and supplies for me. Joanna will also be conducting research on the issues contributing to Food Security in all of the cities visited, which will be accessible on the Expedition 720⁰ website.
Sameera Banoo the 3rd team member of Expedition 720⁰ is the team representative from our charity affiliate, Heifer International-South Africa. Her role is to liaise with Heifer International-South Africa and report on the use of funds raised through the project.
You were still looking for sponsorships a few months ago, is your money secured? Or is that an ongoing campaign?
Angelo: We have secured financial sponsorship with Virgin Active, an association we are very proud of. Our first sponsorship came through Morewood Bikes, a company based in our home town of Pietermaritzburg, who sponsored a 27.5 Morewood ZULA. We have also been lucky enough to secure Thule. The campaigning however is still ongoing, we are currently in talks with a few very promising multi-national corporates for sponsorship.
A Few Facts Wilkie-Page supplies:
• Expedition 720° will take place on 7 continents
• Across more than 48 countries
• A total distance of around 115,000 kilometers
• Row and paddle 4 oceans and 9 seas
• Cross 6 deserts including 5 of the worlds biggest deserts
Heads up: Angelo Wilkie-Page for Double Human-powered Circumnavigation
Nexus Human-Powered World Circumnavigation Approaches Afghanistan
Best of ExplorersWeb 2012 Awards: Erden Eruc, a Thousand Miles and One Thousand More (human-powered circumnavigation)
Best of ExplorersWeb 2007 Awards: Jason Lewis, world circumnavigation
Heads up Mike Horn Pole to Pole around-the-world
Expedition 720º website
AdventureStats and Rules of Adventure
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