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The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world.

- Alexander von Humboldt

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Adventure Travel

Jul 18, 2017

Motorcycle Meditation: Riding Across an Ice-Covered Lake Baikal

Shaped like a crescent moon, Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world.

WRITTEN BY

Michael Levy

In the winter months, its icy surface is a lunar landscape of the coldest kind. Looking to explore the unknown both without and within, Lithuanian motorcyclist Karolis Mieliauskas recently embarked on a frigid expedition to cross Baikal alone, with nothing but his bike to see him through.

Whereas most motorcycle enthusiasts like to take their bikes out for an afternoon lap around the countryside, Karolis Mieliauskas likes to ride his motorcycle for thousands of kilometers straight for days on end.

Recently Karolis completed an expedition extreme even by these standards. He spent seven days riding his motorcycle across Siberia’s Lake Baikal, making his way over 765 kilometers of the deepest freshwater abyss on the planet, completely alone.

At its greatest depth, the bottom of Lake Baikal is approximately 1,640 meters below the placid surface. It holds roughly 20% of the world’s unfrozen fresh water supply. Well over half of the thousands of species of plants and animals that call it home are endemic to Lake Baikal’s frigid waters.

Perhaps not the most obvious candidate for a motorcycle odyssey… But for Karolis, it represented a new kind of challenge.

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Karolis Mieliauskas on Lake Baikal. Photo: Karolis Mieliauskas.

In 2016, he rode his bike from Vilnius, Lithuania to Vladivostok, Russiaan 11,000 kilometer journey that he finished in just two weeks (12 days of riding and two full rest days). He has also ridden long distances in Morocco and elsewhere in his native Lithuania.

I like to see what’s inside of me during these long rides,” Karolis explains. “I do these trips solo. Most people like to enjoy the scenery, take pictures, stay in nice hotels. But when I go out, I think of it as a journey inside, to meet myself. It’s very similar to the morning mediations that I do.”

If he wanted to ride in winter, Karolis realized his options for long, uninterrupted routes were few. Still wanting to engage in his motorcycle meditation, though, he began researching big frozen bodies of water that would fit the bill. “There were only a few places in the world where you could trust the ice and ride that distance,” Karolis says, “and Baikal was 6,000 kilometers from my home, relatively close for here,” he says. “The size of Baikal ultimately called out to me.”

Karolis prepped his Yamaha XT660Z Tenere for an adventure, outfitting it with studded tires, heated handlebar grips, and mitts for his hands.


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Karolis Mieliauskas enjoying the solitude of Baikal’s icy world. Photo: Karolis Mieliauskas.

On his first day at Lake Baikal, he took his bike out for a three-hour test ride and came back with serious concerns. Huge snowdrifts covered much of the lake. A snowmobile would be more appropriate, he mused.

“But I went anyway,” he says. After all, if it were easy, he wouldn’t be interested.

The first day he covered an obstacle-laden 70 kilometers, battling a buildup of snow between his legs and the engine. Visibility was limited to 200 meters. Most worrisome of all were the constant doubts he harbored about the thickness of the ice beneath his wheels.

At the end of that first day he veered towards shore and found a place to stay for the night. Karolis traveled without a tent, bedding down in towns along the shore each evening.

After three days, the amount of snow on Lake Baikal’s surface dissipated. “I was on black, blue and white ice,” he says. “The wind blew snow across the Lake exactly like sand blowing in the desert.”

The biggest challenges Karolis encountered were massive fractures in the ice. Anywhere from 10 centimeters to three meters across, these cracks were violent ruptures in Baikal’s surface, with large blades and blocks of ice poking up as much as two meters in height and revealing liquid water below. “To get over these, I had to jump my bike,” Karolis says.

Karolis Mieliauskas’ bike parked in front of one of the huge cracks he routinely had to jump his motorcycle over. Photo: Karolis Mieliauskas.

“The journey was mentally very hard. For three days in a row I saw no one on the lake at all. Just ice and snow everywhere,” he remembers. Riding that far and long was physically difficult as welltemperatures tens of degrees below zero, long hours on the bike, and a number of big crashesbut Karolis knew that would be the case. “I enjoy the state of mind when I’m pushing myself in this way,” he says.  

The scariest thing about his trip was his inability to learn the language of Baikal’s ice. Even after seven days in the barren beauty of its whiteness, he was surprised at how different the surface of the lake could be below him than it had been just 15 kilometers prior. And the scary part about that? “It makes me want to do it again to try and understand it better,” he says, a mischievous tone in his voice.

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The endless ice of Lake Baikal. Photo: Karolis Mieliauskas.

Feature Image by Karolis Mieliauskas. 

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Adventure Travel

Jul 31, 2018

Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

 

“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”

 

For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

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