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In March 2021, a group of determined long-time friends set off on a mind-blowing excursion. Their mission; to cross Canada on the longest North-South crossing ever attempted. 7 months of skiing, canoeing, and biking through polar bear territories, arctic windstorms, and flooding. This is Expedition AKOR.
Follow along as the team recounts their treacherous journey, from Nunavut to Ontario, powered by nothing but the human body, will, and determination.
After months of travelling on the longest North to South crossing of Canada ever attempted, the team of Expedition Akor is finally on the last days of their journey. It's a journey that has been stretching for more than 7 months and one which required a lot of resilience and patience from our adventurers. Our friends have just passed the city of Sudbury, after which they cut south into the greater Toronto area. They still have about 500 km to go before they reach their final destination. They should complete this distance in 5 days, and their arrival date is officially scheduled for November 8th. We would like to thank everyone warmly, deeply, passionately, on behalf of the entire Akor 2021 team, for the support you have given to the expedition.
In the past week, the team has crossed the dividing line separating the vast Arctic watershed from the Atlantic watershed - where they have been since the beginning of the expedition. Now, when they see water, it no longer flows north but east! This is a very symbolic step for our adventurers. Another pinnacle point of progress has been made; they can see the US across the water when cycling. In 178 days of skiing, canoeing and cycling, they have finally reached the American border. They are closer than ever to calling their mission complete!
"It feels like it was three years ago. As if there had been three separate expeditions in this improbable journey." This week, Nicolas and Guillaume celebrated a special anniversary: their seventh month of the expedition! They are stunned when they think of how far they have come since Eureka. After some brutal days biking, they are finally out of Winnipeg. they entered the boreal forest and thus left the prairies with their winds and big trucks blasting past the group at 130 km/h. They have been occupied with steep and sometimes very long, unforgiving hills for the past few days. Yet, they say it is mentally much less difficult to bear than a headwind on the prairies.
Apart from some small repairs on the bicycles, such as a broken luggage rack, the team has been experiencing an exceptionally smooth journey. The people who cross the path of Expedition Akor are very kind and generous. Of course, when the expedition members tell them where they are from, the reaction is always the same: "oh sh***t, you guys are crazy" - which is not wrong. At the moment, two uncontrolled forest fires are raging near Hudson Bay. The day before yesterday, the smoke was so concentrated (the wind was blowing it west towards our cyclists), that they spent the day being engulfed in smoke. This, of course, does not make it easy on the team. However, they keep trudging on.
Our team of Expedition Akor is officially making moves in the bicycle portion of their journey. They have also brought in two new team members for the last part of the journey: Béatrice Lafrenière and Isabella Donati-Simmons. Both are good friends of Étienne, and they were welcomed, of course, with open arms. They are currently riding between 60 and 80 km per day, even though they are on a dirt road where large ore trucks sometimes speed by. The sight of cyclists can be assumed to be very seldom, so the team is on high alert. They will be in the town of La Ronge in 2 days and expect to be in Prince Albert in 5 to 6 days. At the time being, it is still difficult to give a precise arrival date in Pointe Pelee, which is at the very end of the course. However, it should be between October 25 and November 5.
The team of Expedition Akor arrived at Aziz' lodge, where they were very kindly welcomed. Waiting for the team was the Weber family, whose father (Richard Weber) is in charge of guiding all the expeditions planned at the lodge. Richard Weber is a high-calibre adventurer who has reached the North Pole an astonishing seven times. After starting again, the team soon reached the Four Corners Stone Monument. This monument was erected at the exact point where the Nunavut Territory, the Northwest Territories, Manitoba and Saskatchewan meet. After a few steps in each province and territory, they set out on an unnamed river marked by its steep drop-off.
The team of Expedition Akor is traversing the Kazan River this week, slowly making their way to Wollaston Lake. With warm sunshine and clear sky's, our explorers are catching up on lost time from the previous weeks.
The five last days were extremely challenging: To get across the Kunwak river, they had to pull their canoes or portage almost the entire time. It was raining, sleeting, windy, and freezing (zero at night, every night), leaving them soaking wet, yet again. However, the addition of Catherine to the expedition brings new energy, a breath of fresh air that seems to affect the journey positively.
High winds, mass amount of rain, and freezing weather has caused the team of expedition Akor to detour there route, yet again. However, hopes remain high for the explorers on reaching Black Lake and exiting Nunavut.
Tremendous wind storms plague Expedition AKOR as they try to cross a series of enormous lakes. These wind storms, in addition to the -3 degree Celsius temperature, have created a tough week for the team.
After spending two full weeks in Baker Lake, the team has finally left for a 40-45 day trip to Black Lake in northern Saskatchewan. They have recently done a lot of hauling (pulling the canoe by hand, with their feet in the water) and went up many minor rivers with low flow. They have already gone up the watershed over 80 meters in altitude. The next two days for our friends will be difficult, as they have to make two portages.
A truth, whose importance the team knew until now only in an abstract way, appeared to them in all its concreteness and depth: the unforeseen is an integral part of expeditions. The question is not if it will happen, but when. Philippe Voghel, one of the four expedition members, has chosen to leave the expedition boat and return home to Quebec City earlier than planned for personal reasons. Catherine Chagnon, an adventurer herself, an avid climber, expeditionist, and Guillaume's girlfriend, will replace him in Baker Lake on Sunday.
This week, the guys were able to get better acquainted with a very sociable insect that is known for its exemplary company: the mosquito. It even forced them to have dinner in the tent, as its taste for good company could not be satisfied at dusk. Fortunately, the wind blows strongly during the day, which disperses these six-legged vampires. As our brave adventurers found ancient Inuit sites, they often marvelled at their status as tourists in these places and reflected on their own experiences. Even though many parts of this land appear uninhabited and hostile, they are imbued with the spirits of the people who once lived and still live there.
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