Arktos

Covering twenty thousand kilometres in twenty seven months now awaited me.

This was to be a two year and three month experience of ultimate extremities – and one I was relishing. But I’d be alone, without motorised transport or dogs – and in the treacherous Arctic Circle.

I set out from the Nordkapp of Norway, sailing towards Greenland. And trouble began instantly with freezing water leaking into the hull of my boat, heavy fog quickly surrounding me and intimidating icebergs the size of small mountains obstructing my path. Eventually I arrived, safely at the port of Angmagssalik on the Eastern coast of Greenland.

After traversing Greenland on ski, I boarded my boat again on the West Coast and sailed across the icy Baffin Bay until the heavy accumulation of ice stopped me dead in my tracks. This meant porting in northern Canada for two months, waiting for the sea to freeze over so I could cover it on foot. Eventually I left Arctic Bay and started my trek across Canada with highly dangerous, migrating polar bears as my travelling buddies – and in temperatures of -60°C (-76°F).

I plan for everything as meticulously as I can, but bureaucracy was something that never crossed my mind. At around the halfway mark of my journey, I crossed the Bering Strait from Alaska to Russia across one of the coldest, bleakest and stormiest oceans in the world to Provideniya, a small Russian port. Here I was informed that the far northeast region of the Russian Federation was still classified as a ‘restricted area’. Laws specified that any foreigner travelling here must be accompanied by an escort or a local person. I was immediately placed under surveillance, told to find an escort, and then sent back to Alaska where I had to wait for my permit.

The Arctic is not a playground and possibly one of Mother Nature’s harshest and rawest shows of her strength. This is a place that demands respect because it’s not really designed for human survival – we’re merely visitors. So living in extreme temperatures for months on end in complete darkness, solitude and fear of the polar bears and grizzlies was the norm. But the upside was astonishing.

The time I shared with the local people who had courageously adapted to this unforgiving environment was life-changing – only equalled by some of the most breathtaking sights on our planet.

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