A journey a year-and-a-half in the making reached its zenith in Tuktoyaktuk earlier this year.
Vincent Le Lièvre has been making his way Northward since he landed in Panama last year. Setting out Oct. 21, 2021, the Belgian adventurer sailed the Atlantic to the canal before cycling his way into Mexico.
From there, he’s been relying on the kindness of strangers to get him the remaining ~8,000 kilometres to the Arctic Circle. But on Jan. 13 he was able to make the final hop over the Dempster Highway thanks to a ride from Marjorie Blake.
“There was the challenge of always keeping faith because I’m hitchhiking so I just have to try to believe someone’s going to pick me up at some point,” he said. “So yeah, when at some point I was stuck in Oregon for one or two days, and I was like, ‘Okay. I had to keep keep the trust in the process and believe I could make it.’
“The goal was to reach Inuvik and Tuk and get to see the Northern Lights, Arctic Circle and Arctic Ocean. That was my goal, but I didn’t know which one I wouldn’t be able to do but it seems I will be able to get to three of them.”
Having spent the last year and change trekking across North America, Le Lièvre has seen a great deal of incredible sights. Joining his trek across the Dempster and seeing the auroras in Whitehorse were volcanic eruptions in Guatemala, the Panama jungle, Jasper National Park, the sequoia trees of California and a month in the desert helping out at a wild mustang ranch.
As romantic a journey as it sounds, Le Lièvre noted he selected the Beaufort Delta largely because of the Dempster Highway, noting his initial goal was to see how far he could travel without getting on an airplane.
“I chose a place randomly on the planet. That was in Nunavut,” he said. “Then I was like, oh, it’s really expensive to get there because you need to take the plane to get to the communities. So I was with a friend and we searched how we could get there without taking the plane.
“It was pretty complicated. Then the challenge was, ‘Oh, maybe you could go to Canada without taking the plane.’ This idea of the plane being expensive became the idea of how to get to the Arctic Circle without taking the plane. That’s how it all began.”
Now that he’s achieved his goal of reaching the Arctic Ocean, Le Lièvre is headed back south, though he plans to get back to Belgium by a different route. This time, he’s hoping to hop a boat in the United States to take advantage of wind and ocean currents.
A lot of adventure travel requires one to be in peak physical shape, either by walking, biking or otherwise travelling by human power. Le Lièvre said he was in pretty decent shape now, but his method of travelling is really open to anyone who is willing to take the plunge.
“I think everybody could do it because you just get more and more fit while doing it,” he said. “Even for me, the journey was complicated because even if you do cycling, you’re not used to cycling all day long. Then you get used to it and your body can manage it. You just need to find a good face.”