(Correne Coetzer) Angelo Wilkie-Page is on an East - West circumnavigation of the world as part of a bigger mission. “Don’t look too far ahead,” advices someone who has-been-there-done-that.
As a South African he is not used to weather well below freeze point and therefore he progressed into colder weather during this First Stage, from sunny California into the minus 40’s in Northern Canada. Distance completed: 6550 km on his bicycle. Explorersweb caught up with Angelo in South Africa, preparing for the next Stage.
Explorersweb: Would you say you have chosen the right stage/leg/area to start your you project? What did you have to sort out during this stage that you didn’t know before?
Angelo Wilkie-Page: Yes, I always knew that the first leg would be tough. I planned the first leg knowing that it would get progressively more difficult and colder with the idea that I would acclimatize to the cold conditions. I replaced almost 80% of my gear once I reached Vancouver. The Gear I was carrying was greatly under specked.
I replaced my tent with a single walled Alpine tent, bought new Gor-tex, wool, down. I also made some modifications to the bike by adding metal studded tires, and hardy racks and panniers to cope with the snow and ice.
How did your gear perform? Would you use a similar bicycle and gear again on a next cycle stage? (What did you use now?) What were you favorite items?
Angelo: I learnt a lot on this first leg, the plan was always to use the North American winter to test gear for when I get to Magadan and ride along the Road of Bones in winter. I am now confident that I know what worked and what needs to be changed. I will use the same rack and pannier system.
I will not use the same bike (Trek Superfly 29er MTB), instead I will build a custom titanium fatbike with an internal gear system. I can't afford to have mechanical problems in Siberia in winter. I have learnt the simpler uncomplicated gear works best.
One of my favorite gear items was my Chaval heated gloves, they saved my hands from frostbite.
You had pretty cold weather, snow and temperatures below freezing. This is not something South Africans are used to. How did you handle that?
Angelo: I was lucky in the fact that the weather got progressively colder, so it did not shock the system. Saying that, my lack of cold weather experience did get me into hot water when I got frostbite on my toes due to equipment failure. I bought “special” cleated riding shoes that where rated to -25 but during a cold snap near Fort St John my shoes froze up completely, leaving me to ride another 100km before being able to change boots.
What was the most challenging of this stage?
Angelo: There were two very difficult sections on Leg 1, the first was the Northern Rockies. I had continued headwinds while trying to tackle the elevation along with very cold days, which made it challenging.
The second was the 400km stretch leaving Whitehorse heading towards Fairbanks. This section was the coldest reaching temperatures of -45ºC, again with strong headwinds, and extremely isolated, made it one the most challenging but rewarding sections of Leg 1.
Angelo: The Northern Lights in the Yukon were spectacular. I also enjoy the giant redwood trees in Northern California. There were so many high points, the pristine environment in BC, Yukon and Alaska was a daily highlight.
Did you have someone cycling with sometimes?
Angelo: I had a friend, Eric Deady, from Portland join me for 1000km’s from Fort Nelson to Whitehorse. It was a real treat to be able to share the experience with someone especially that section as it was extremely challenging. I hope that Eric will join along the route again someday.
Interesting locals that you have met along the road?
Angelo: I met an incredible variety of people along this first leg, from volcanologist to hillbillies to some of the kindest people I have ever met; the Canadian and American hospitality was overwhelming.
You have met Erden Erdun, who had done a circumnavigation. Tell us about your meeting and what have you learned from him?
Angelo: I was very fortunate to meet with Erden Eruc in Seattle. We had a wonderful breakfast and discussed the challenges of attempting a Pole to Pole human powered circumnavigation. Eden gave me some great practical winter cycling advise, that was well needed at the time.
The one bit of advise I took from our meeting was; trust in the process and don't look too far ahead.
How does it feel to be back home, among many people who do not really can imagine what you have done and are trapped in a rat race?
Angelo: Firstly its great to be back amongst family and friends, this rest is well needed. Yes, it's true people are focused on their day to day lives and their own battles. The more time I spend with people focused on the “rat race” the more I realise how fortunate I am to be out there doing what I love. The more time I spend outside my comfort zone the more uncomfortable I feel being comfortable.
The clock is still ticking and I have my hands full preparing for the next leg, which will be more than a year on the road and sea. So I appreciate all the time I can spend with family and friends.
How do you feel about your next stage and how is your boat coming along?
Angelo: Leg 2 will take me back to Fairbanks mid July. This time round I will be kayaking down the Yukon River and across the Bering Strait and then across Asia and Europe. I'm really looking forward to the transition from bike to kayak as this will be a challenge in its own right. The ocean rowing boat is still under construction, positive progress is being made.
Start Date - 20/11/2014 Los Angeles (USA)
End date 22/03/2015 (Fairbanks (Alaska, USA)
Total km - 6550
Longest day km 195 km
Coldest day temperature -45ºC ( Haines Junction, Yukon )
Coldest night temp - 48ºC
Warmest temp - +28º California
Angelo plans to circumnavigate the earth by human power from East to West and Pole to Pole, crossing antipodal points as stated in the Rules of Adventure on AdventureStats.
Double circumnavigation attempt: ExWeb Interview with Angelo Wilkie-Page
Heads up: Angelo Wilkie-Page for Double Human-powered Circumnavigation
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Best of ExplorersWeb 2007 Awards: Jason Lewis, world circumnavigation
Angelo’s Expedition 720 degrees website