Running your finger across a map is easy : but once on the land,
rivers and sea, things get difficult. From forest fires to whitewater scares
and raging sea storms, to thigh-deep tundra bogs, frostbit toes and bandits
in the Russian back country, the challenge was ongoing as Tim and his teammates
ventured from Vancouver to Moscow, then kept on slogging to bring the journey home,
only half a world away. This page offers an introduction to stages of the adventure,
stories that Tim will share through book and film, assuming he makes it safely home.
Maps and Journey Overviews
Expedition Summary - Around the Word without Fossil Fuels
Start date: June 1, 2004.
Anticipted Finish: September 2006
A long way to go on zero emissions...
When Tim Harvey returned to Canada at the age of 25,
after witnessing the embattled evironment
of El Salvador, he dreamed of a journey that would promote healthy, sustainable living
- and provide him with one heck
of an adventure along the way.
A year later he was able to launch the Vancouver to Vancouver Expedition
- a 42,000 kilometre,
27-month circuit of the planet, touching five continents,
without burning a drop of fossil fuel.
A massive loop around the Northern Hemisphere, Tim explores the
full gambit of planetary diversity,
including great Northern Rivers (both frozen and thawed),
sea ice and Arctic tundra, Siberia's ancient forests,
oceans both sub-arctic and tropical, scorching Mexican
deserts and the unrivalled diversity of South American
jungles. Aiming to reach Vancouver after 27 months of travel,
writing a book and recording a powerful film en route, Tim's goal to is to
promote a lifestyle joyously free of the common
automobile, the primary cause of global climate change.
On his travels Tim has accepted the wisdom of Lau Tze: the
journey is the reward. One need not travel to experience adventure –
we can all embrace challenge, living active, adventurous lives that
help to stabilize the global climate, that great challenge we share.
In doing so, as we harness the wind and our own human power, we enjoy
cleaner, healthier and happier lives.
The journey to sustainability is its own reward.
Through some of the Earth's
most remote and dangerous regions, Tim and his friends have traveled by
bicycle, rowboat, foot, canoe, ski and sail, continually mired in an
unfolding series of comic and often dangerous adventures.
Enjoy stories and links
on this page for a snapshot of
the long and epic journey.
Panama to Vancouver by bike
Start date: April 2006.
Anticipted Finish: August 2006
From Panama north to Vancouver, Tim is joined by his brother Jonathan Harvey,
a student at the University of Victoria, to saddle up on a Norco Charger specially equipped to haul a massive
load. Stay tuned for the surprises they find - and those that find them, along the way.
The dispatches section will carry frequent updates written by Tim and Jonathan from the field.
Yes - check the ongoing postings
Photos: To be uploaded when posible
Columbia extreme cycle, hiking the Darien Gap
Start date: March 2006.
Anticipted Finish: April 2006
This is an excerpt from Tim's late May Darien entry in the Dispatches section.
...In the darkness I was forced to paddle by intuition and sound,
as obstacles only appeared when they suddenly
entered my woefully dim headlamp beam. Silent obstacles like suspended
branches - and the big hairy spiders they contained - were all but impossible
to avoid. This, of course, made Richard an easy target for a forest still
bent on destroying him.
The poor fellow was already drenched and miserable when his life took a sudden
turn for the worse. As we swept beneath a tree, I heard him bellow out in pain.
“I’ve been bitten!” he sputtered in Spanish. “Bitten by a poisonous spider!
My hand feels like it is on fire!”
“Suck out the venom!” I yelled back. “Hurry up! Suck hard!” There was little
else I could do but wish him well and suggest he no longer attempt to steer
with his pole.
“I dropped that damn pole long ago!” he growled back at me.
Within minutes the paralyzing pain reached his elbow, and soon his whole left
arm was swollen and sore.
We swept into the Tuira River just then, at about 10:30, and I saw that our
challenge was greater than anticipated. The river was so wide and shallow
that we immediately ran aground on rocks.
“Can you jump off and help me push, Richard?” I asked the terrified Peruvian.
“The pain has reached my chest!” he said in a faltering tone. “I think I might
die…” There was real fear in his voice. Darn it, I thought. Maybe I should have
acted while we had a chance to tourniquet his hand, to stop the flow of venom.
Because anything below a tourniquet would have to be amputated, I had
ruled out the measure as overkill. Now, I was having second thoughts. Where was
Richard on the Glasgow Coma Scale? He seemed to be fading fast.
As Richard sat deteriorating on the raft, I jumped in the river to push. It
wouldn’t budge. I asked Richard to stand in the river to lighten the raft,
but still I failed to move it. Panic gripped my chest – what if we were stuck here?!
... Read the whole story in the Dispatches section!
Yes - check the ongoing postings
Photos: to be posted when available
Sailing with Swedes in the Wake of Columbus
Start date: January 2006.
Finish: March 2006
Stay tuned for stories and dispatches from Tim's Atlantic and Caribbean sails in the
Sally Blue! The passage of 33 days from the Canary Islands to Tobago, from Tobago to Trinidad and finally, another
5 days to Venezuela, will be
detailed in future writings, when Tim has a chance to write based on his journal entries.
Not yet transcribed...
Photos- check out the photo archives on www.runtjorden.com
North Atlantic Row - Like Stepping onto a Waterslide
Start date: Novembmer 2005.
Finish: December 2005
As Tim neared Moscow in the summer of 2005, a life-altering email was waiting in his email account, ticking away like a timb bomb.
When Tim read its contents, his tempting plans for quick trans-atlantic flight and a homecoming
celebration at the Galiano Island's Whaler Bay Lodge were put on hold. Erden Eruc was suggesting something
extreme. Erden was looking to get his feet wet as an ocean rower, and had a hunch Tim might take the bait if
he offered to ship it to Portugal. Tim did, hook, line and sinker. He kept cycling west, and at 1 AM in the lobby of a
swanky Lisbon hotel, he met up with Erden to commence training.
The story of the row cannot be told in a matter of paragraphs, but in March 2006 Tim's dispatches from that period will
be uploaded to this website. His tales of high-seas adventure also appeared in Victoria's Monday magazine, and by
satellite phone link, were broadcast to Canadians on CBC Radio's As it Happens, just before Mary Lou Finlay retired.
The row was a 1,500 km passage to the Canary Islands, where problems with the boat created an unworkable schedule, at which point Erden
encouraged Tim to find another means to cross the great pond while he summoned spare parts that seemed to be held up in Mongolia's camel post...
Yes - check the archived postings
to be uploaded when available
Cycle Across Europe
Start date: August 2005.
Finish: October 2005
Tim rolled out of Moscow in late August
and rolled into Lisbon - physically and mechaically exhausted (no derailler, one gear working,
riding thourh Portugal at night) in early October.
To get there, he cranked out 150 kilometres almost every day for a month and a half.
Photos and stories from this tour-de-europe
find their way to this page as they become available.
Dispatches: Wait for Tim's future writings
Photos: film remains undeveloped - will post when available
Russian Roulette: Cycling Siberia
Start date: May 2005.
Finish: April 2006
Randy Bulls and Meatheads: dicey moments on the road:
(from Tim's May 1, 2005 column in the Vancouver Sun)
"... One afternoon in a small village, I froze in terror as a randy bull scraped the soil, and lowered its head and charged my way, its muscles rippling and sharp horns poised for impact. Yulia jumped between us, shouting “Foo! Foo!” and waving her arms, which apparently meant “Don't gore the Canadian!” At this request the surly beast veered away with a snort.
A few days later our road was blocked by drunken louts sparring clumsily in the street. I hoped to weave through them before they noticed our presence, but one of them lunged for Yulia and clenched a meaty hand on her pannier rack, pulling her to a halt. I gave a shout and doubled back, wracking my mind for ways to escape without conflict. Yulia remained calm but the meathead refused to let go. With a racing heart I wondered why, in this nation of warm and generous souls, we had the misfortune of meeting an ill-tempered Andre the Giant .."
The above-mentioned incident was the first of three events in which the cyclists were threatened with violence on the road. The second event involved three drunken railway workers along the BAM railway, who blocked Tim and Yulia at the top of a hill a few kilometres outside of their town, just 40 kilometres beyond Tynda. They held Tim and Yulia for a quarter of an hour, during which time they were distracted by trying on a range of Helly Hansen clothing, until at last a van pulled up and two police officers, out of uniform, jumped out and chastised bandits, whom they knew on a first-name basis. The final event occurred beyone Moscow when Tim was cycling alone and a truck driver, again quite drunk, was afflicted by road rage and threatened Tim with a large metal club (apparently the weapon of choice for roadside beatings). Luckily some mushroom pickers ran from the forest and held the man while Tim made a swift getaway by bicycle.
Can we infer from this that Russians are ruffians? Certainly not. Russians are, in the sweeping majority of cases, kind and warm-hearted people, characterized by their hospitality. Tim spent precisely one year in Russia, to the day, and only three run-ins with thugs, he believes, is a smaller rate of incidents than could be expected from many nations such as the USA.
Newspaper story: Heart-wrenching roadside attractions... (click to read)
While their former expedition partner cycled the west on the new trans-Siberian highway in Southern Russia,
Tim and Yulia heeded the call of the wild, heading west on the service road - which was often little more than a faint hint of where
a road might once have been. Former bridges were often little more than riverside rubble. When the trail became too muddy, or the rivers too deep,
the team's only option was often to push their bikes between the tracks of Russia's remote Baikal-Amur Mainline, a.k.a. the BAM. This, of course, carried
carried a degree of risk, as trains could appear with little warning and a great deal of speed. Tim in particular was haunted by the possibility of the railway living up to its name: BAM!
The journey exposed the two travellers to the remote soviet-built towns along the BAM, proud, stark monuments of communist era rising incongruously from the forest. Before reaching the ribbon of asphalt that would eventually lead them to Moscow and Europe, they experienced their share of rough moments, including run-ins with highway robbers, exploding stoves and almost as dangerous, the enormous Siberian horsefly.
The following dispatch was transmitted from Severobaikalsk:
"Somewhere along British Columbia's interior highway, near Horsefly Lake and the town of Likely, is a road sign pointing to the Horsefly-Likely Recreation Area. I've often thought that one day, I might follow that sign for a true Canadian horsefly experience. But I've changed my mind. Here in the back woods of Siberia, I've been so driven to the brink of insanity by those malicious little carnivores, I hope never to battle another one. In a week fraught with roaming bears and the flame-throwing antics of a camp stove gone haywire, the flesh-eating flies were a most unwelcoming surprise.
Here on the East Siberian Plateau, horseflies coordinate a group attack. You'll be cycling along, woefully unaware of the world's breaking news, when one of their sentinels spots you. In the polygonal eyes of a fly, you're as good as horsemeat.
When the flies found me I was pedaling toward a distant mountain pass, where the dirt road I followed would crest the saddle between peaks, and drop into a neighboring valley. In that remote wilderness, I hadn't seen another person all day. Neither, it seemed, had the flies – they were ravenous. First five or ten, then a full fifty converged, bouncing off my ears and forehead. I tried a reckless downhill sprint. but when I made a backwards glance the swarm was on my tail, in mad pursuit.
What seemed like every horsefly in the forest now joined the excitement. I was in the thick of a dense cloud of the cunning, almond-sized insects, which toyed with me like an angler playing a fish until it tires. Then they began to feed. Scores landed on my arms, legs, back and neck, dropping their heads for a meal.
A horsefly's mouth is a broadsword compared to a mosquito's syringe-like probiscus. Huge blade-like jaws jab and bite to remove a plug of flesh. When the banquet began, I dropped my bike to combat the opposition, now several hundred strong.
For an hour I kicked and swatted the bold, slow, and clumsy among them, while the deftest found ways to bite and fly free. New recruits replaced the pilots I downed. I made a wheeled retreat, desperate to plunge into the first lake I found.
After an hours-long chase, the flies followed some unknown cue to disappear. I had entered a world of waist-high dwarf pines, moss, lichen and small alpine lakes – the mountain pass. I drank from a lake and reveled in the view of two unlogged valleys, stretching out from either side of the pass, their contours worn round by time. The clouds thickened, wind strengthened and rain funneled through the pass where I stood, as if to wash me back downhill to the domain of those horrible flies. I pegged my tent and held position.
A summer snow dusted the summits as I lay in the tent and stretched my aching legs. I ate only old cookies with lakewater, instead of my usual evening meal of pasta and tea. A few days earlier, camped on a similar mountain pass, I was watching water boil when my stove sprang a fuel leak. With a loud WHOOF a genie of flame leapt five metres from the fuel bottle and danced in dangerous proximity to my tent. When the gas was spent, the fuel pump had been vaporized, the bottle was warped and charred, and the stove emitted an innocent wisp of smoke, as if to say “that's what happens when you don't lubricate your rubber gaskets, dummy.”
West from the Urals:
Pushing for Moscow:
As eaters of scorching hot peppers, Mexicans
enjoy a bit of pain while they eat. Russians prefer pain while they bathe.
This latter fact hit home as I was beaten in a sauna – known locally as a banya – high
in the mountains separating Europe and Asia, the Urals.
The heavily-built proprietor of the hotel and café “Gourmand”
told me to lie belly-down on a bench that felt like a barbecue grill,
and splashed water on a red-hot stove that hissed like an angry dragon.
He then lifted a bundle of leafy branches dipped in hot water, and set
about tenderizing my flesh, raising welts with the ancient tradition by
which Russians keep clean. Only when the flagellation ceased and we
plunged in a soothing, cool mountain stream, did I understand the
purpose of the pain – it heightened the purest sensation of relief.
The Russian banya was long overdue. Since leaving the city of Omsk on
the flat Siberian steppe, I had cycled for a week notching daily distances
between 150 to 200 kilometres, depending on wind and terrain. For my first
two days in the Urals, a thick fog shrouded the mountains. A steady drizzle,
the sound of approaching trucks and headlights in white mist characterized my
world. By the time I spotted the sauna at Café Gourmand, still 1,570
kilometres from Moscow, I was filthy, aching and unsure if my sore knees would
take me to Moscow in eleven days before my visa expired. If my documents became
invalid, any police checkpoint along the highway could be the end of my adventure.
The idea clouded my spirits like the damp mountain fog, and a good beating in unbearable
heat seemed like a perfect solution.
It was. Whizzing down the western slope of the Urals, I felt entirely
renewed. My legs were limber, and Moscow was tangibly closer. I was entering the
historic heartland of ancient Russia, ruled for a millenium from Kiev, Novgorod and
then Moscow. It was the heart of an empire that once spanned three continents –
Europe, Asia and North America, until Catherine the Great committed her Great Blunder
– selling Alaska to the USA. Now in European Russia, where traffic often edged me off
the road, I knew the night sky would soon be aglow with the lights of Moscow.
I was cycling alone for maximum speed. My partner Yulia
Kudryavtseva had traveled ahead to Moscow, to work with a Russian animal rights
organization, Vita, on the case of bear cubs locked up at cafés in Siberia.
From the city of Ufa, I phoned Yulia and received the news that Mishka, an
exploited cub encountered a month before, had been transferred by authorities
to a zoo in the town of Arknira-Osipovka. The vets who received Mishka reported
that the transfer saved her life, as they found her in extremely poor condition,
unlikely to survive the winter.
In the city of Vladimir, 180 kilometres from the Russian capital,
I reunited with Yulia for the final push into Moscow. Traffic was thick and unfriendly;
one trucker even poured a beer on my head, then targeted me with can. As night fell
we cycled with flashlights taped to our handlebars, then slept in the last pocket of
forest outside Moscow.
With an international press conference scheduled for noon, a flat tire
at city limits pushed us into desperation mode. The air grew dark with diesel exhaust,
trucks shook the earth, and our heads ached from the ruckus. Traffic spilled from the
streets and sped along sidewalks in full view of police. It felt like a war zone.
The streets grew civilized as we entered Moscow's ancient core. Ornate
brickwork rose on all sides, classic towers soared above the Moscow River, and we
spied the colourful onion-capped spires of Russia's famous cathedral, St. Basil's,
right beside the Kremlin and Lenin's tomb.
As we pushed our bikes through Red Square, Yulia's face swung from
concern – our press conference was now five minutes away – and elation at hearing
my joyful cheers. For me, this was it – the long-sought climax of a year's intensive
planning, and five seasons of tough slog on land and sea.
The jingle of kopeks in my pocket carried a special meaning just then.
Each coin was imprinted with a small knight and dragon – Russia's patron saint, St.
George, the Saint of Victory.
Flat Broke on a Mountain of Gold
"As darkness fell, it began to rain, which became wet snow as the nigh grew colder. Instead of pitching camp in those conditions, we donned headlamps and flashing red beacons to pedal 20 kilometres onward to the town of Aldan. We hadn't known that our final 20 kilometres would be entirely uphill, and as I squinted into the wet, driving snow, I noticed that Yulia seemed impervious to the misery. We had traveled over 100 kilometres since breakfast, and Yulia still pedaled with energy and a smile after fourteen hours on the saddle, slogging endlessly uphill in a state of maximum wetness. It was inspiring.
Stopping only when trucks rumbled through the night, we climbed steadily to a mountaintop plateau where Aldan sits on one of Russia's richest gold deposits. Aldan means “gold” in the local Yakut language, and the area was known for its minerals long before it was absorbed by Russia's growing empire in 1632. By about 1900, Chinese prospectors caught wind of the riches and hiked north through a sparsely-inhabited wilderness to settle the Aldan townsite and pan the area's rivers. Czarist Russia simply demanded a cut of the proceeds, but after the 1918 Revolution, Chinese miners were sent packing at gunpoint, and Lenin's Russia enforced a closed border along the Amur River, where it remains to this day.
When Yulia and I finally reached the town atop the mountain of gold, soaked by sweat and melted snow, we quickly discovered that Aldan's off-limits gold wasn't the only cash beyond reach, for now. The city's bank machines were linked only to a local network, and my plastic cards would remain useless, I was told, for the next 1000 kilometres. I learned the hard way that when in Russia, one must do as the Russians do when they travel: carry a large bundle of cash. Now pushing midnight, we spent our last few rubles on a room, hung our clothes to dry, and wondered what fate the morning would bring.
From a subsequent dispatch:
After cycling to the mountaintop town of Aldan in southern Yakutia, I sent Colin news that Yulia Kudryavtseva and I were facing dire times. In the dead of night, soaked to the skin by torrential snow, with just enough cash to satisfy a local innkeeper, we then learned that my bank card would be useless until Bratsk, a city 2500 kilometres away in Central Siberia. By email, I requested a few rubles from the expedition treasury to be transferred to Yakutia by Western Union, and went about hawking non-essential gear on the streets of Aldan.
The pittance fetched by our GPS, headlamp and thermos reminded me of Russia's Great Privatization, the wholesale sell-off of national assets in the 1990s following the Communist collapse. Like Russia after Perestroika, we were broke, ailing and unsure of our allies, until Colin's fiance, Julie Wafaei, offered some certainty. The budget I helped to generate, she said, had run dry.
A few days later - Joining the mafia:
We cycled into the Stanavoi Range, camping beside streams and abandoned towns, and spent hours fixing a broken rack and wheel beside the remains of the Vasileyevski uranium mine, a major source of nuclear fuel for the USSR. Truckers warned us they drive fast and never stop in that dangerous radioactive valley, but locals from the town of Nimir, 25 kilometres away, visit the mine site to pick mushrooms and berries. It was a relief to cycle away and leave the ominous piles of radiating rubble behind.
Yulia's rack was a temporary fix only, and like the hub in my front wheel,
in which the axle was snapped in two places,
it was begging for the attention of a competent mechanic.
As luck would have it, two gregarious brothers pulled over
and invited us to use their mechanical workshop in the upcoming town of Nerungri.
The deal was a simple work trade. Before anything happened with
our bikes, I would accompany them to the taiga and work at heavy labour for a day.
With the prospect of free food, lodging and mechanics in exchange, I willingly agreed.
A day's hard work seemed far more appropriate than money, a scarce commodity at the time. I
remembered a quote from Thoreaux: "The real price of a thing is the amount of
how much of what I call life you exchange for it."
Work in the forest quickly devolved into a chilling comedy
workplace danger. I was the only one wearing sunglasses, which landed me the job of operating
a high-powered gas welder. I was instructed to melt cuts-lines through a toppled-down
powerline tower, reducing it to manageable 10-metre chunks. While my arms took
sizzling hits from droplets of super-heated steel, the Russian brothers unfastened enornous
bolts, punctuating their efforts with equally enourmous shots of vodka, taken straight.
Hearing of my burns they administered upon me enough stiff drinks to dull the pain, with such
earnestly feigned medical authority, I felt obliged undergo the treatment. As I wobbled
back to the welding torch with my coordination shot,
I regretted the acquiescene at once.
The day wore on and our workforce diminshed. The elder brother,
a man of 30 going on 50 who looked and dressed like Fonzie from Happy Days, fell
asleep in the bushes. We set about loading the hefty metal beams into a container
truck, cavalierly handling metal - without gloves, of course - that was still bolted
in such a way that peices swung together like the blades of giant garden shears,
perfectly suited to ampuating fingers, or even whole arms. We all suffered
gashes and scrapes but slowly the pile moved inside the truck.
"SHHHH!" the younger brother's face was suddenly taught
with concern. He crept around the container and spied on a passing truck that was
bouncing along an adjacent forest road.
"I though it was the cops," he explained, destroying
my theory that I was aiding a team of private contractors on a forest cleanup job.
In fact, I was unwittigly partaking in a major crime, a scrap metal heist by the
local metal mafia: "We're bandits you know. Metal pirates! If we get caught,
we're all going to jail!"
The next day, the elder brother fixed Yulia's racks and machined
me a new front axle that remains in my Norco's front wheel to this day.
Bikes on Ice: Russia's Far East
Start date: February 2005.
Finish: May 2005
When Less is More: Living on Air in Yakutia.
On a cold morning in March, Colin pedalled away from his team. We were just beyond Ust Nera, having reached the so-called Road of Bones in Yakutia, where the support vehicle could be left behind. Colin was unwilling to travel at Yulia's speed, pushing instead for a quick crossing of Russia so he could reunite with the woman who had nursed him back to health that winter in Vancouver, Julie Wafei, who was willing to row the Atlantic with Colin, if he could releive himself of his current expedition team.
As he pedalled away on the Road of Bones, Tim had no idea what a relief Colin's departure would prove to be, although he and Yulia were less of a match for the bandits who periodically threatened them with metal pipes on the roadsides of Siberia. When Colin left, they were liberated to choose their own path in a mysterious and spellbinding land that deserved some careful exploration.
On the remote ice highway from Ust Nera to Yakutsk, misadventures for Yulia and Tim took on a comic dimension. Reduced to almost constant hunger by a lack of bank machines (and thus, access to cash) for thousands of kilometres, they subsisted on bread and condensed milk, delicious meals ranging from horsemeat to raw frozen fish and delicious home-made ice-cream, offering to work for people they met along the way, selling bits of gear (GPS, sunglasses, etc) and even lending a hand, unwittingly, to scrap-metal pirates when finances were non-existent.
It was in remote Yakutia that Tim and Yulia's endless adventures put them in contact with a succession of characters and unlikely circumstances that could themselves fill a book, and it is a tribute to the welcoming spirit of Yakutia's native people that they made it through their toughest moments not only alive, but smiling, healthy, and inspired by the magic dwelling around every bend in the road, and behind every doorway.
The warm spirit of Russia's Far East flows from a tragic era that a few elders still recall, a time when humans, pushed to the extremes of starvation, ate the dead and took their clothes.
As Tim wrote in the Vancouver Sun:
"Cycling the Siberian Alps, as I call Russia's magnificent Verhoyanski Range, you soon realize the past hasn't gone anywhere. With every breathtaking bend of the Road of Bones, Russia's history springs to life in the form of crumbling bridges, snowed-over prison camps and aging locals who spin tales of Stalin's tyranny. Here, where bold peaks soar to a sky bristling with starlight, the past has yet to be buried by the modern world..."
(The Near Death of Colin Angus)
It was a windy, meat-locker day in late January when Colin Angus stepped off a Russian jet, back in Chukotka after a three-month hiatus at home for the holidays in Vancouver. While he visited family and rested his recovering groin, Tim and Yulia had been training and testing equipment in Arctic winter conditions in Chukokta, a place where the wind blew so hard it could knock you off your bike. They had worked with the outdoorsmen of Chukotka - many of them subsistence hunters from the Chukchi community - to identify the most feasible route west into mainland Siberia, through the forbidding ice-bound mountains that hem in the coldest region on earth.
By the time Colin sauntered onto the runway, proudly announcing that his previously constricted urethra was now fully operational, Tim and Yulia had researched a plan. If they hoped to exit Chukotka before the spring thaw - and Colin was determined to set speed records for the Arctic portion of the expedition - they would need a support vehicle support, a tough Russian "Ural" to serve as a safety cabin and gear cache on wheels.
Our travel technique required the bikes to be light, and thereby able to ride over soft snow with our wide metal-studded tires partly deflated. Had we loaded our Norcos with our exceptionally heavy winter gear, it would have reduced our progress tenfold, and the support truck allowed us to bring back-country skis and stash the bikes when conditions were especially bad. Despite the practicality of the support, which gave us a place to thaw frostbite, melt our frozen clothes, eat meals and sleep in relative comfort, it didn't correspond with Tim's wishes to produce no emissions. He would have supported a reindeer or deg-sled support team, but in but Colin was determined to keep things simple. Tim realized that teamwork often meant compromise, so he agreed to organize the vehicle, and filed his dogsled dreams in an overlstuffed corner of his mind reserved for future expeditions.
Even the rugged support machine laboured in winter conditions. The bicycles could choose the shallowest or hardest snow and dance ahead over the wind-cured crust, but the Ural would often dig in its wheels and get stuck. Tim and Yulia chose to cycle or ski a short distance in front of the Ural, to avoid loosing their safe haven. Colin's approach was somewhat more daring, and more than once he paid the price. Once, his propensity for cycling ahead out of sight almost killed him.
Caught riding apart of from the group as a white-out blizzard and the darkness of night descended upon him, Colin lost the road, if the poorly-marked and rarely-travelled track of ice beneath snowdrifts could be so-called. He set down his bicycle, stumbled a few steps in the searing wind, and promply lost his bicycle too. Colin's outfit was breathable Helly Hansen softshell fabric and Lifa marino wool long underwear, as well as a wind-stoper facemask clogged with ice from frozen breath. The outfit was good for high cardiovascular acticity, but when Colin stopped moving, slumped in the snow and began scraping a shallow shelter from the raging windstorm, the claws of cold stung and sucked the life force out of him. He felt himself in the cold grip of impending death.
When Tim and Yulia arrived at a snowplow station and found that Colin had never arrived, the Russian workers advised them to accept the obvious - like people who walked between houses in such weather, or stepped out of their trucks to urinate with insufficient clothes, Colin was was either dead or soon would be. Tank-like spotlight-equipped search vehicles were deployed to search for a body in the storm, but turned up nothing. By three a.m., Yulia was in tears and even Tim, though a die-hard optimist convinced that Colin was stubborn enough to survive - was starting to wonder if the workers might be right.
Colin, however, is blessed with in inordinate supply of uncanny good luck. Now blotchy with frostbite numb from head to toe, Colin emerged from his burrow, as he periodically did, to stretch his aching limbs, and like a gostly hallucination in the black ice fog, he spotted a light. And then it was gone. With left to loose, Colin began walking towards it, and sometime later, a horrificly zombie-like snowman, shaking and unintelligible, came crashing through the door with blast of wind and snow. I ran a warm bath and helped to pry off his frozen clothes. He was alive!!!
Sample Media: Video clip Rolling on a River.
Sample Media: Video clip: the reindeer of Yakutia
Sizing up the frozen Lena:
"...Afternoon rays still lit the sky as Yulia and I pedalled onto the Lena River ice cap, bound for Yakutsk, the first city of its magnitude I had visited in Russia.
Somewhere beneath two metres of ice, the Lena River was flowing past Yakutsk on a northward run to the Arctic Ocean. It was an eerie sensation to know that as we pedaled over ice, the river below us was gaining strength as creeks melted throughout Russia's largest watershed. As the bulging river worked on the ice from below, and lengthening days softened it from above, it was only a matter of weeks before, as Jon Turk writes of Canada's MacKenzie River in Cold Oceans , “the solid barrier splinters catastrophically, flinging car-sized, even house-sized, chunks of ice into the air.” Caught in a river at break-up, Turk notes, one “would be crushed, sheared, thrown skyward, or dragged beneath the solid ice.”
Spring came early to the Lena watershed this year. In soviet Yakutsk, schoolchildren stayed home if winter cold hit -55 ° or -60 ° C. Today's warmer climate rarely touches -45. The soviets laid a winter railway across Lake Baikal; this year, two trucks broke through ice and sank near Yakutsk in January. Now mid April, Yulia and I were pedaling through puddles of melted murk, like cycling through shin-deep Slurpee.
I had dreamed of pedalling the 1,453 kilometres of winter road between Pokrovsk, south of Yakutsk, and Ust Kut, north of Lake Baikal. Until recently, this was the only winter route through Russia. Along the Lena towns are positioned every 40 kilometres, left from an era when post was delivered by horse and riders switched their animal in every town.
In Yakutsk we met with administrators to discuss our odds on the Lena this spring. Riding fast, they said, we might just make it. A truck would break through, but the ice was thick enough for the weight of bicycles. If we suffered delays, however, we might get caught in a blitzkrieg.
“Military jets drop bombs on ice jams,” they told us. “It's like war out there, but the ice disappears without floods.” The bombing starts after the first long heat wave in May..."
Considering the above, Yulia and I opted for an alternative to the melting Lena. Details are in the next section "Russian Roullette: Cycling Siberia."
Frozen Toes: A Hike to Arctic Chukotka
Start date: September 2004.
Finish: November 2004
Writing Sample : The politics of Chukotka, from an article by Tim Harvey in Monday Magazine:
"...Chukotka's ultra-wealthy Governor Roman Abramovich is spending hundreds of millions to enhance life in the territory. Why is he doing it? Theories aboud. Some say Abramovich is working to stay out of jail (where Russia's other oil magnate, Khordokhovsky, is currently languishing at Putin's request. Others point out that he is developing Chukotka to suit his own business interests, like SibNeft (Siberian Oil). Or maybe Abramovich, who owns a British soccer team and the biggest hot tub in northeastern Asia, is just a really nice guy.
That's what the Chukchee will tell you, although they're accustomed to cold-hearted despots intent on crushing their culture . Evgeny Nazarov , who governed until 2001, is a perfect example: he didn't merely ignore the villages peppered along the coast of Chukotka – he forcibly took away their guns and boats.
“Suddenly we had to return to the old ways of surviving, with harpoons and skin boats,” said Vladik Kavry, president of the Association of Traditional Marine Mammal Hunters of Chukotka (ATMMHC). “We had a lot of people to feed and many of our old ways had been lost with time, because we had been forced to give them up in previous decades.”
To complicate things further, some of the animals they traditionally hunted, like the Polar Bear, were illegal to harvest, and others, like whales, were becoming environmental catastrophes (mysterious, inedible “smelly whales” loaded with heavy metals now account for about one in five whales harvested in the Chukchee Sea).
Enter Abramovich. Besides improving native villages, he immediately supported links between the ATMMHC and their counterparts in Alaska, by buying them a charter jet. He also worked closely with Chukotka's second-in-command, the native Chukchee Vladimir Etylin, to help win back the Chukchee's traditional rights to set their own science-based marine mammal quotas.
“This lifts the morale of our people, and we can do a better job of setting quotas than Moscow politicians,” Kavry explained. “Hunting and living on the ice is in our soul. It's what we do.”
After surviving the pernicious whims of the Bering Sea - against all odds, they felt - Tim and Colin
radically altered plans upon setting foot on Russian soil. They were happy never to see another oar, and
and the plan of rowing alongside the rocky shoreline to distant Anadyr (north of the Kamchatka Peninsula) was
out of the question, a suicidal mission. Instead, now joined by Yulia Kudryavsteva of Siberia, they built backpacks
out of materials scavenged in the port town of Provideniya, found some old USSR army surplus boots, and began the long
walk to Anadyr.
They never made it. Shortly after Tim wrote the sample newsclipping (link provided to right) Colin was diagnosed
with an illness that had almost killed him on the tundra, a constricted urethra that made urination an
optimism almost equally impossible as he faced nights in a fast-freezing sweat as blizzards shreiked down from the nearby Arctic. Luckily, Tim and Yulia were
able move their ailing friend to safety before he expired.
The 600-km hike from Provideniya to a town located at the Arctic Circle, the Cold-War secret port of Egvikinot,
featured drop-ins with walrus hunting seaside communities, close encounters with wolves and grizzly bears, survival
on stale bread and tundra berries, and the incredible strength and bravery of Yulia, who not only saved both Colin
and Tim from possible death and toe amputations, but lost a tooth and endured a leg blister as big as an orange.
Colin was flown to Vancouver for surgery, and for three months Tim and Yulia occupied themselves training and researching Chukotka in the capital, Anadyr. As Tim reports in the Vancouver Sun:
"...Our daily circuit included a plowed two-lane road carved through pressure ridges of buckled ice slabs that rose like head-high mountains on the frozen surface of the Anadyr River. One day we spied a man drilling a hole into the road of ice, and met Alexei Yurivich Yevstifaev, a stout and vigorous government hydrologist with 25 years experience studying Chukotka's water and ice. Our upcoming route would include sea ice and frozen rivers, so we were bursting with questions.
He warmed us of the Arctic cyclones that create some of the world's coldest windstorms along the northern coast of Chukotka, also home to the world's highest concentration of polar bears centred around Wrangell Island north of Pevek, a port town on our route for lack of better options. Alexei linked Global Warming with disturbing behavior among the Arctic carnivores, which showed an alarming heightened interest in human activity around Pevek. I hoped a bear wouldn't consider three winter cyclists to be a tasty meal on wheels.
I met Alexei again in a small office papered with maps, satellite images and the photo of a dog chewing through ice for salmon in a frozen river. I traced our route on a map and Alexei conjured information about sites along the way. He showed a photo of Chukotka's nuclear reactor in Bilibino, right on our route, a Cold War secret so closely guarded that most Chukoktans only learned of its existence after the Soviet collapse of 1991..."
A few months later, Colin and Tim were chased away from that very nuclear reactor by a guard armed with a Kalashnikov (AK47) machine gun. The guard, evidently, didn't appreciate Tim's video reporting about the 30-year-old facility's distinction of housing the world's northernmost nuclear generators, built in a region where melting permafrost causes sinkoles big enough to crumble large buildings. Is the sensitive ecology of Chukotka safe as the Russian government refits the reactor to continue service beyond its intended lifespan?
|Sample Media: Video clip narrated by then-expedition-member Colin Angus: loosing the battle against a near-frozen rivermouth
Sample Media: Click to read this installment of Tim's adventure column in the Vancouver Sun
Storms from Hell - Crossing the Bering Sea by Oar
Start date: August 4, 2004.
Finish: September 6, 2004
The hair-raising saga of a month on the Bering Sea proved beyond a doubt why no
rowers had previously attempted a Bering Sea crossing. True, the brave seafaring Yu'pik people once paddled
these waters, before the introduction of oarlock technology, an era that also brought them the sail, a far safer mode
of crossing the fickle Bering Sea - but the Yup'ik lost scores of lives while whaling and walrusing from their
low-tech crafts, and in fact, the Yup'iks on St. Lawrence Island's Savoonga community report that scores of lives
are still lost, as Global Warming pushes their food supply ever farther north, as the walrus-lined edge of the sea ice no longer
rests at their doorstep in the spring.
The Yu'pik are compelled to motor in metal boats across the Bering in pursuit of food, and
the Bering, which conjures storms with a moments notice (to the bewilderment of those charged with
weather forcasting), still claims mariners' lives in droves. In fact, master mariner Vitus Bering himself was claimed when the Bering
wrecked his ship over 250 years ago.
When Colin and Tim set out for the 400-km push from the Yukon River mouth to Provideniya, with big St. Lawrence Island directly in between, they had no idea that distance would double as winds tossed them willy-nilly about the northern Bering Sea. They carefully picked a wide weather window and sprinted for the shelter of the island, but the Bering made a mockery of every effort,
lashing out with storms, broken hatches, flooded cockpits, and a near-disaster against a rocky shore averted only by an emergency
satellite phone call to Tim's brother Crane Harvery, which triggered events leading to the only available rescuer, a hulking if rusty Russian research
vessel in the raging waters off Nome, Alaska.
Close encounters with a bowhead whale, archeology on the remote and mysterious isle of St. Lawrence, and a final joyful arrival in Provideniya bay distinguish a passage where the team spent almost as much time battling frightening storms, either rowing like mad or hiding inside their
locked-down little Bering Charger - marked this ocean journey that Tim will retell in book form once his journey winds down.
Writing Excerpt: "...It was a rough season for ocean rowers around the world. While we battled weather off Alaska, two Brits were rescued from a North Atlantic storm that sank their boat the Pink Lady . Two weeks later Matt Dawson, also British, lost his craft in the mid-Pacific, “hit by something that was not a whale,” as he reported. This left us the only active offshore rowers in the world, two British Columbians in a bargain boat purchased on Ebay and modified in a Kitsilano backyard.
In rumbling five-metre seas we drifted north and missed St. Lawrence Island a second time. Beyond the horizon the Bering Strait loomed like hungry jaws with currents that funneled the Bering Sea into the Arctic Ocean, an unappealing vastness of sea ice and polar bears. We rowed sideways to the gravitation of the Strait, holding a line for Nome, Alaska. It was the focus of all hope, the outermost bastion of the western world.
Disaster struck during a midnight shift change. As I crawled onto the deck our watertight hatch swung shut and locked behind me. In a raging storm, we were trapped on the outer deck of the Bering Charger , with our food, warm clothes and navigation gear inside. We had no choice but to break the hinge with a pocket knife, compounding our danger: instead of rolling and righting itself in the event of a capsize, the Bering Charger could now fill with water and escort us to Davy Jones..."
River Odyssey - the wild and mighty Yukon
Start date: July 1, 2004.
Finish: August 4, 2004
Sample Media: Download the 2-page PDF of an early expedition article published in "The Dragon" in 2004
Tim Harvey and Colin Angus buy an old and leaky canoe in Whitehorse, high on the Yukon River, as an emergency measure all roads to Alaska are subject to repeated closures due to forest fires. In fact, the river was also beset by flame and closed to recreational paddle traffic, but the duo didn't learn this until Dawson City, five days into their downstream battle.
Stopping only to switch seats or visit some attraction on shore, Tim and Colin cooked, ate, and slept as one of them paddled up to 24 hours per day, reaching Fairbanks in a mere 15 days, their top-heavy canoe, miraculously, having survived without dumping its cargo of bikes and camping gear in a roiling, windy river that felt more like the River Styx than the Yukon.
Bears, moose, and salmon-bearing Koyukon and Gwichen locals added colour to the downstream journey.
|Sample Media: Video clip: see the shabby freight canoe "Ripper," in which Tim and Colin paddle the picturesque but fire-flagued upper Yukon River.
Sample Media: Video clip: hear Colin's take on riverside traditions, and meet Donald Stevens, an elder of the Gwichen people.
North From Vancouver: Into the Wild by Bike
Start date: June 1, 2004.
Anticipted Finish: July 1, 2004
Tim Harvey and Colin Angus cycle from Vancouver to Whitehorse in 30 days, stopping midway to explore the imperilled Todagin Plateau above the Iskut Valley, where the rare but locally abundant Stone Sheep is
threatened by a large copper mine proposed by Vancouver's Red Chris company. They continue up the Wilderness (a.k.a. Cassiar) Highway to the Yukon Territory, where forest
fires often impede their progress and make camping dangerous. On their final day cycling they pedal with Alistair Humphries, an Englishman who successfully hides large rocks in their panniers.
Retrospective: the Journey Begins
Written in Chagaramas, Trinidad, March 3, 2006
"A Seed Takes Root"
Under the clouds and drizzle of typical west coast day,
my journey began inside a tearful and cheering ring of family and friends,
supporters and press. As they clapped and we pedaled away, I felt the vague
sensation that our cycling team was larger than anticipated. When the mystery
cyclist drew near I saw the unexpected visage of Mike Pybus, a friend not seen
in years. He became a pivotal character that day, a cycling saint on a low-tech
commuter bike, which he rode to the rescue when the day's first mishaps occurred.
Within five kilometers, my defective rear tire exploded, and soon thereafter
Colin Angus' home-built pannier rack tore loose and landed on Knight Street.
Mike sprinted around town for parts in an effort to salvage our bid to exit
the city that day. In months to come, I noticed unexpected angels like Mike
appearing throughout my travels in the most unlikely situations. It was a
phenomenon that characterized the journey, starting with Mike Pybus.
We felt euphoric to cycle out of Vancouver on our target departure
day, after Colin I had spent a year of intense preparation. But when the coast range
loomed above us, and we began to climb some 1,240 knee-grinding metres to the
Coquihalla Pass, where we camped below a peak curving skyward like a cougar's
tooth, the first hint of pain twinged in my knee. Foolishly, I ignored it.
In our haste, Colin and I hardly bothered to stretch. We gave
a few jerky pulls in the morning, a few more at lunch, and cycled through increasing
pain. My kneecap, or patella, was being pulled outside of its groove by three tight
quadriceps (thigh muscles), which caused swelling and pain. Desperate to bank time
for rest, I cycled ahead of Colin, pushing into heavy rain to reach the Buckley
Valley well after midnight. A physiotherapist in Smithers diagnosed not only my
knees, but noticed that my pelvis was crooked, so my legs were of unequal length.
My body was rebelling, demanding that I quit the expedition.
I wasn't listening. After two days of rest and swimming in
the healing waters of Lake Kathlyn, I saddled up to ride alone on an unpaved
forest road, to the remote home of Mike Simpson (founder of the Gaia Project,
which had dispatched me to El Salvador in 2002). His home, where friends were
gathered that evening, was way up a driveway so steep I was forced to dismount
and wrestle my load uphill. Simpson's home of cob, with thick white walls that
used minimal lumber, but lots of plastered-over hay, was a model of energy
Dusk fell as I joined a ring of faces that glowed in the
campfire's light, laughing to the telling of stories beneath the brilliant
Milky Way. Among those present was an engaging young woman who had preceded
me to El Salvador with the Gaia Project, Gail Hochachka, and as it turned
out, she held pearls of wisdom that would alter the shape of my journey. Gail
is at once a hip yoga girl, and a dazzling intellect with a penchant for
eastern philosophy. That evening, she shared a message that still lingers as
I work to plumb its meaning almost two years later. Even as she spoke, I realized
I was cycling blind. I needed to open that peculiar two-way eye of the yoga master,
my own neglected drishti .
Drishti is a merger of inner and outer vision. It is a heightened
awareness of one's own mental space and physical being, coupled with a heightened
awareness of the surrounding world. It is through drishti that breathing, movement
and thought converge, and by exercising drishti, one's own being and the outer
world become one. It is the keystone of the yogi's pursuit of focus, clarity and
health. It sounded to me like a circular breathing exercise done with the brain
instead of the lungs. It was more than I could wrap my mind around, as Gail described
this Indian enigma, so I tried again as we saluted the morning sun with yoga on a
hill overlooking the glaciers of the Babine range. The mountains distracted me.
But as my journey progressed through time and space, down rivers
and over oceans, among mountains and across the desolate ice, I experienced a
parallel journey of the mind. I came to understand the futility of the stubborn
struggle to control how my adventure unfolds, of forcing it to match a preexisting
plan. I began to observe a path laid out before me, and to see how my inner
landscape responds when that path becomes extreme. Skiing into an Arctic blizzard,
or rowing in the dark chaos of an ocean storm at night, I would feel, sometimes,
a sudden calm sensation of being both actor and spectator. "Oh, look,"
a voice in me would say. "Here I am."
In those unlikely moments, feeling balance, vigour and calm,
I beheld a view both inward and out. There were only blurred divisions between
where me ended and the world began. The world infused me, formed me, and
empowered me. In those precious moments, the journey was the reward. Drishti,
my drishti, was engaged.
Followiing a morning of yoga in the hills that sunny day in June, as I rolled down
Simpson's break-neck driveway and into the forest again,
I had no idea what seed had taken root.
Newspaper dispatches to be reformatted in 2006
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