Being an explorer is a lot harder than it was 50 years ago. It’s not enough now that you cross an ocean singlehandedly in the smallest boat in the world, battling the elements and yourself. Someone else already did that, like a 100 years ago. In the modern age, we’ve had to come up with rules for explorers to make things a little more exciting, separating the bold from the weak. The authority on the subject, the Guinness World Book of Records has formulated the Explorers Web Regulations, which stipulate that if you want to be famous for your daring feat your route must cross all lines of longitude and latitude, four antipodal points (east to west and Pole to Pole) and cross the equator at four separate points. Oh and yes, you can only use human power. In other words, it’s a very long walk. The last guy to do it was Erden Eru (his name even sounds like he belongs in the mountains) It took him 5 years and 95 days.
And then out of the blue, this chap pops out of nowhere, well Pietermaritzburg more specifically and decides he can give Erden a run for his money. He’s going round the world not once, but twice!
Meet Angelo Wilkie-Page.
I had to chuckle to myself when I read Angelo’s bio on expedition720degrees Under a little introduction they had listed his relevant achievements, a cv for Superman if you will – Comrades Marathon runner, Iron Man, cycling from here to there. One gets left with the impression this guy must be the fittest, toughest dude in the world. And then he walks into my photography studio in his city clothes; skinny jeans, brogues… and I’m thinking how is this sensitive 90’s man going to round the world. Twice…
Yet, he says his hardest challenge will be spending so much time on his own. He estimates his journey will take at least 8 years to complete.
However, all adventures need a mission. And as I listen to the purpose behind Angelo’s venture I suddenly have visions of a lonely cyclist speeding through villages with a banner flapping behind him in the wind “help is on the way”
He will in fact be playing a sort of Pied Piper role for the organisations that are backing him, such as Heifer International who are particularly interested in how the world feeds itself. So while he’s pedalling his life away they plan to undertake an inquiry into the state of food security worldwide with the hope of putting some food into the hands of the poor.
We ease into conversation. He has a cigarette. Turns out Superman smokes! He begins unpacking all of his gear. All 100kgs of it. He is the epitome of a snail. His whole house fits onto his bike! 3 pairs of underwear, a sack of vitamins, food in sachets that look like they belong in space. He’s obviously had to enlist the help of some serious big business to fund his trip so most of his cycling clothes read like a billboard. And even though I know its necessary, no one looks good with a bicycle helmet on.
I strip him of all of his gear, the branding, bright colours, the lycra and special gadgets that will be his only allies in the Alaskan winter, and suddenly notice him standing there, barefoot, in my white space. He’s really just a boy (well, a man I suppose) with big ideas. And a knack at selling them to the world. He unashamedly admits it’s his own selfishness drives that have made this trip happen. He runs on pure enthusiasm and a determination not to give up.
The thought that all of this could really end in a disaster hangs over us. I am amazed at how calmly he approaches the subject of failure. His predecessor for the Artic leg of his trip failed twice before finally getting it right the third time. He fully understands the daunting task that lies ahead of him, the Artic cold, the exhaustion, the space… but it almost feels like a bit of divine intervention here, as though fate is propelling him forward on a path that is only his own.
And so I could not help but photograph him as he is, just some boy who didn’t give up on his dreams. And who knows, they might even put his name in a book for it!