Belgian man making epic 30-month trek across the Americas, starting in Nunavut last winter
Six months later, 29-year-old hits Winnipeg in man-powered journey
Arnaud Maldague is six months into an estimated 30-month journey across the Americas, which will see him travel from one of the north-most places in Canada to Ushuaia, on the southern tip of Argentina.
The 29-year-old Belgian has faced freezing temperatures and endless tundra, but his scariest encounter so far has been with a pair of polar bears on the frozen tundra.
"One in a blizzard that was stalking me, was kind of following me, but nothing happened," he said. "And another one that came at night, and beat the tents, and tried to drag it in the snow, and he went for my sled where the food was."
Maldague managed to scare that bear off with a flare, but called the situation "stressful" and "really scary"
Maldague said the bear "came back in the morning, the next morning, to say hello but happy enough, nothing happened. And the next day, I run away."
The trip is dubbed "The Manneken Trip," and it has an amusing meaning.
"It comes from a little fountain in Brussels, where I come from. It's a little guy that pees, and Manneken means 'The Little Guy' and so it's the Little Guy's trip, and it was a good joke name."
Maldague estimates it will take him 30 months to journey across the Americas, which he started Jan. 4 of this year in Kugaaruk, Nunavut — about 2,000 km north of Winnipeg. To get an idea of just how far north that is, Winnipeg is closer to Dallas, TX than Kugaaruk.
When he landed, it was -37C, without the windchill — an extreme he'd never experienced despite months of training.
"Nunavut was a real mental challenge, first ones. By starting in January I had no adaptation time … So that was probably the biggest challenge."
Maldague is doing the entire journey without fossil fuels — he will be walking, biking, cycling, kayaking, horseback riding, sailing and snow sailing along his route.
So far he's faced equipment breakdowns and even a bout with frostbite.
The communities he passed through while travelling through Nunavut surprised him, he said, with their willingness to help and make sure he got through the next leg of his journey safely.
He started training two years ago, noting he was already an avid cyclist and had done other long journeys before. But this one is different.
"I've never been to the Americas before, why not go from north to south," he said.
"I already cycle a lot, and I wanted to [be] a little more off-road and discover new places, new people, new cultures, learn a lot. Of course there's also the challenge to do it, just because you decide to do it doesn't mean it's going to be easy."
He is documenting his journey along the way when he can, posting videos and pictures on social media sites, where his videos garner tens of thousands of views.
He hopes to hit Ushuaia by the middle of 2020.
As for the cost, Maldague said he is self-funding and while he is trying to keep costs down, he expects his expenses to hit $100,000 USD.
He reached Winnipeg Sunday and said he plans to stay through Canada Day to regroup and rest.
Follow Maldague's journey here.