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Adventure Travel

Sep 14, 2017

Walking the Globe with Louis-Philippe Loncke

Explorers like Mike Horn and Bertrand Piccard are household names.

WRITTEN BY

Michael Levy

Though he may not have the same name recognition as them yet, the Belgian Louis-Philippe Loncke is pushing the limits of adventure and exploration in new, exciting directions, with just his pack and his boots.

For Louis-Philippe Loncke, adventure is all about uncertainty. “It means taking risks,” he says. “It doesn’t need to be dangerous, but the more uncertain success is, the more adventurous it is.”

While other adventurers and explorers like Bertrand Piccard may have slightly different, more nuanced definitions of adventure, Loncke’s opinion is no less well-informed than theirs. Since 2006, the 40-year-old Belgian has been exploring the globe on foot, venturing into some of it’s most remote and inhospitable corners, all in the name of adventure. In 2016 he was crowned the 2016 European Adventurer of the Year for his self-supported crossings of three deserts.

Louis-Philippe Loncke. Photo: Louis-Philippe Loncke.

But before any accolades, he was just your average backpacker. “It all started 15 years ago,” Loncke says. He caught the travel and exploration bug in Singapore where he discovered Scuba diving. In 2004, he moved to Australia for a year, and in between his dives, sampled the country’s vast network of hiking trails. He began cramming in more and more mileage in single days, completing two and three day hikes in 24 hour periods.

The desire for more―trails, miles, suffering, and, of course, adventure―led Loncke to plan full-on trekking expeditions in 2006. That year and the next, he became the first person to walk the entire 333-kilometer Larapinta Trail in Australia (no one had ever linked it to it’s logical conclusion of Mt. Zeil), unsupported; became the first person to make an unsupported crossing of Australia’s Fraser Island; and spent 49 days, completing an un-resupplied traverse of one-third of the island of Tasmania.

This latter expedition, from December 2006 to February 2007, tested his mettle in every way. “There are so many mountains on that island,” he says. “It’s very rugged terrain. Very sharp mountains, with very dense vegetation. It’s like the Amazon in the Himalayas, but without the altitude.”

Loncke planned for a 40 day crossing, and would have nearly made it if not for the final leg of the expedition. The terrain in South Tasmania was so thick that Loncke’s progress slowed to a crawl. “The last 16 kilometers took me 13 days,” he says. With dwindling rations of food and constant rain, those final two weeks were a blur of tent-bound delirium, depression and discomfort. Loncke got into a “survival mindset.” He forced himself to move a even just a little bit each day, and eventually made it through.

He says, “The whole thing made me mentally very strong. I proved to myself what kinds of crazy things I was able to endure.”

Crossing the Tasmanian wilderness in 2007. Photo: Louis-Philippe Loncke.

After Tasmania, Loncke broadened his horizons. Among other expeditions, Loncke made the world’s first unsupported crossing of the Simpson Desert, in Australia, in 2008; he organized the world’s highest chocolate tasting event at Everest Base Camp in 2009; he trekked the length of Iceland in 2010; and he circumnavigated Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia by kayak in 2013.

But in 2015, he embarked on the project that would earn him the European Adventurer of the Year award and newfound recognition. The idea was to cross three desserts―Death Valley, in the U.S.; the Simpson Desert, in Australia; and the Salars in Bolivia―all unsupported.

Loncke in the middle of Salar de Copaisa, Bolivia, on a first failed attempt to cross the salt flat in 2013. Photo: Louis-Philippe Loncke.

To maximize his chances for success, he took as much water as possible and pared down everything else to the bare essentials. And it paid off. He succeeded in all three deserts, marking the first unsupported crossings of the Bolivian Salars and Death Valley. (He had already made the first unsupported crossing of the Simpson Desert in 2008). “Everything was really, really well planned,” Loncke says.

Now that he has gained a modicum of acclaim, Loncke plans to ramp it up even further. He’s already planning what will be his biggest expedition yet: a return to Tasmania, this time to trek the full lenth of the island. Again unsupported. And this time in winter.

“I intend to train quite a lot for Tasmania,” Loncke says. Success will be far from guaranteed, even so. But that’s what Loncke loves about it. That’s what makes it an adventure.

Want to see what it’s like to walk a mile in Louis-Philippe Loncke’s shoes? Check out the once-in-a-lifetime trips available at The Outdoor Voyage, like the Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu.

Loncke making the world’s first unsupported north-south crossing of the Simpson Desert in Australia, passing through the geological center, in 2008. Photo: Louis-Philippe Loncke

Feature Image: Courtesy of Louis-Philippe Loncke. 

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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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