The paradox of Antarctica is that its geographical remoteness and inhospitable climate actually enhance its appeal. The southernmost point of the globe exudes an almost mystical allure—especially for that particular subset of adventure-seeking vacationers. This pull towards the unknown incited Toronto-based TDA Global Cycling founder Henry Gold to launch his company’s newest commercial tour: an 18-day bicycle trip across the South Pole. TDA’s Antarctic journey, The Last Degree, is the first expedition of its kind in the world.
Having facilitated cycling adventures for over 1,300 people since launching TDA in 2003, (formerly known as Tour d’Afrique), Gold’s business facilitates a unique perspective into diverse locales. Yet the expeditions are about more than physical location—the mental space encouraged by new sights and near-constant exercise is integral, as well. For Gold, the inspiration to create TDA was found during moments of extreme physical exertion coupled with internal stillness: “I can think of moments in my life—in improbable places such as cycling through the Sahara or the Altiplano plateau—when I was out of breath, tired, struggling every inch of the way, and yet I had this Zen-like feeling of being at peace with the world, with myself, of feeling, ‘Yes, I am where I want to be, I am doing what I want to do, I am alive,’” he recalls. As for the motivation with which he foresees his Antarctic pioneers will approach their journey: “For some, cycling across Antarctica will be for the challenge; for others it will be about overcoming their fears and fighting their demons; others still will be drawn by the unknown.”
The logistics of the trip are bracing. Prior to the expedition, a Manitoban training session will allow participants to trial-run their “fat” (wide-tired) bikes over the ice of Lake Winnipeg, camp in the snow, and feed in accordance to what will be available on the trip (a trained chef accompanies the excursion). The inaugural Antarctica ride is set for December 2016, when participants will convene in Puntas Arenas, Chile. From there, a flight to the 89th degree of latitude is where the cycling begins, along a route scouted by outdoor recreation guide Ben Shillington (whose guiding credentials include three Kilimanjaro summits, an Everest expedition for the Discovery Channel, and a 27-day long solo mountain bike ride across Canada).
Primed to fulfill bucket-list fantasies, this 111 kilometre cycle could be the ride of your life.