Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Morris Prokop

RESTED AND READY – A well-rested Oscar Lang of France in Whitehorse Thursday. He’s continuing his epic journey to the tip of South America today after spending a few days here. He’s raising funds for Amazon Watch, which is trying to save the rainforest.

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Photo by Photo Submitted

AWESOME VIEW – Oscar Lang takes in the view of the Alaska Range along the Denali Highway July 7. He encountered wildlife, smoke and mosquitos while in Alaska.

Cyclist on epic journey from Alaska to South America

Oscar Lang, 27, of France, is biking from the shores of the Arctic Ocean in Alaska to the tip of South America.

By Morris Prokop on July 22, 2022

Oscar Lang, 27, of France, is biking from the shores of the Arctic Ocean in Alaska to the tip of South America.

Lang is undertaking the epic journey in support of Amazon Watch, which is “protecting the rainforest and our climate by supporting Indigenous peoples.” He is collecting donations that will go toward protecting 80 per cent of the Amazon rainforest. 20 per cent of the rainforest has already disappeared due to mining, fossil fuel extraction, hydroelectric dams and agricultural and other activities.

Lang is from Ambilly, right on the Swiss border near Geneva in the foothills of the Alps.

He explains why he decided to undertake this epic journey.

“It’s sort of been in the back of my mind for quite some years now. I think I’ve always had a need or want to do a big adventure. Even as a kid, I was always looking at maps and thinking ‘what would it be like to go from one point to the other’, not really thinking about the destination but everything in-between.

“Then a few years ago, on the Internet, I stumbled on some people doing sort of the same route. That definitely inspired me a lot. Eventually I did meet someone who did that route and got to be more inspired by them.

“I was supposed to do it in 2020 and that didn’t work out but I’m sort of glad, cause initially I was just going to do it as a fun trip for myself and I got to spend two years in Canada and it made more sense to me to try to do this as a fundraiser so that it could serve two purposes. One being this dream that I have and the other trying to do something good for something I believe in.”

He explains why he decided to support his cause.

“I’ve always been very passionate about the environment and so I was looking for an organization that was doing some sort of work in that field somewhere in the Americas. I didn’t want to pick just any environmental organization. I was hoping to do something that was related to the Amazon for a lot of reasons. I wanted, especially, the organization to work with Indigenous people in the environment. That was a very important point for me – to have this acknowledgement of these communities.”

Lang is not Indigenous, but their cause is near to his heart.

“Living in Canada, it opened my eyes to this issue a lot more and seeing those communities have really put in the work already to try and defend their homelands, so I wanted to do this fundraiser for an organization that supports that work and that’s what Amazon Watch does. They support Indigenous communities in the Amazon basin and they work with them and other partners to try and protect their land.”

While in Canada, Lang spent a season tree-planting and also spent time fighting fires last summer in the Okanagan.

He is planning on traveling about 25,000 km.

“It’s gonna depend on how many detours I take. But that’s probably roughly what it’s going to end up being. Maybe a little more. It shouldn’t go beyond 30,000.”

Lang is expecting the journey to take about 18 months.

“It’s a nice pace where you don’t have to bike every single day, so you can spend a few days in cities like Whitehorse.

“You gotta put in the kilometres. I think most people try to do it in two years but I’ve done some good trips before and I can put in the distance when I feel like it.”

Lang is expecting to average about 100 kilometres per day.

“Stretches that are remote, I usually do much more, so from Dawson City to here, I was doing 160 per day, more or less.”

Lang started in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, which he believes is the northernmost point you can reach by road in North America, on June 26.

He’s riding a Surly Ogre bike.

“It’s a steel bike. It’s a rigid mountain bike. It’s nine years old. I got it second-hand in Anchorage. It’s been working pretty well so far. It’s got me here.”

When asked if he’s good at maintaining a bike, Lang responded “I am decent. I can definitely fix a flat if I need to. I can fix my chain if I need to. A steel bike is pretty robust, so that’s kind of the idea behind that – it’s a little heavier but shouldn’t have any problem frame-wise. If a wheel breaks down, then I’m in trouble but hopefully that doesn’t happen.”

Lang has no support staff.

“It’s all on my own. I enjoy my independence. My other bike trips were like that as well. You still meet a lot of people along the way. You meet other cyclists doing the same thing or shorter trips and it’s kind of fun too, just bump into each other and criss-cross paths. I’ve always been OK being by myself.”

Lang said his journey’s been good so far.

“It’s been a lot of beautiful scenery, beautiful wildlife, a lot of heat in Alaska, a lot of smoke and haze due to the fires there. That wasn’t too great, obviously. But I got to see lots of wildlife – animals I’d never seen before, mountain ranges I was really eager to see.

“No huge setbacks except for maybe a lot of mosquitos. That’s probably my biggest challenge so far. You do get used to it though. You make do but they’ve been pretty bad everywhere.”

“Right now I feel very rested,” said Lang. “I’ve had a few days in Whitehorse. When I got to Whitehorse I was definitely feeling a little bit drained. It’s a long ways from Dawson and I had done a small detour to Tombstone. That was one of the reasons I wanted to go through Dawson and see that park.

“Overall, my body’s doing pretty good. I should stretch a little more, but it’s holding up,” he added.

As for how he’s financing his epic ride, “It’s all my savings from previous jobs,” he said. “So I’ve been able to put some money aside for the last few years and I’m pretty sure I have enough to get me through. I definitely have to be conservative with my spending but travelling by bike is a very affordable way of seeing the world; there’s no gas spending. I really just have to worry about food if I’m just pitching my tent every night.

“And it will get significantly cheaper once I get into Mexico and the rest of Latin America,” he added.

Lang has been to Mexico a couple of times, as well as Peru.

“When I was 18, I did some volunteering at a foster home there ... I’m very much looking forward to seeing those places.”

Lang isn’t really anticipating any problems down south.

“With authorities, not so much. I can enter as a tourist every time. I won’t be there long enough to extend that stay. There are definitely areas in Central America that I want to be a bit more careful and probably link up with other people travelling by bike just to be on the safe side and keep my parents peace of mind intact. Probably going through Honduras is going to take a little bit more research, just to make sure I stay on the safe side.”

As far as his fundraising goal, Lang said “As much as we can get. It was a tricky question to begin with. I was in contact with Amazon Watch and we discussed if we should set a goal or not. With the platform I’m using, there’s an option to set a goal or just have incremental goals, so I just went with that instead of setting myself a figure.”

The link to Lang’s fundraiser is https://www.every.org/amazonwatch/f/biking-from-alaska-to

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