The Manneken Trip – Arnaud Maldague

I have never been to the Americas, I had never done any Nordic skiing, snow-kiting, horse-riding or even sailing… That’s why I started The Manneken Trip!

Arnaud Maldague – Manneken Trip

I returned from Australia in June 2012 after completing a 13,000 km bike trip through Asia, from Brussels to Broome. The plan was simple: to finish my studies, then explore again! Taking advantage of each adventure opportunity, I next cycled through Romania and Morocco.

Reaching the Saharan desert, I couldn’t help wonder: how is it off-road, what is it like to cross the desert, how is it to travel on water or with a horse? A melting pot that kickstarted the adventure of a lifetime.

The Manneken trip is a human-powered exploration of the Americas from North to South. The goal is to cross the American continent using several means of transport, but without using any motorized ones. In other words: skiing, snow kiting, kayaking, cycling, sailing, horse-riding and walking.

Starting January 2018, “The Manneken Trip” is a 30 month journey from Canada to Ushuaia, totalling around 30,000km through 15 countries.

This trip is based on constant outperforming and learning through new discoveries in very different geographical and climatic conditions. If section of this trip is already a challenge in itself, the real challenge will undoubtedly be to combine them. It is with this in mind that the expedition required 2 years of intensive training and preparation to acquire the minimum skills for success.

Here are the main stages:

The great white North

The Manneken Trip will begin in Kugaaruk, Nunavut, a village of 1,000 inhabitants on the Arctic, in northern Canada. The goal is to reach Winnipeg by Nordic skiing and snow-kiting, roughly 2,500 km across the tundra, the Hudson Bay, boreal forests and Lake Winnipeg. On the menu: white landscapes, polar weather, bears and … a lot of nothing! The great North is legendary, conditions are extreme and leave no room for error. To go into polar conditions is to be sure of coming back a little more humble. This undoubtedly makes it one of the most difficult stages of the expedition.

The Mississippi River

The second part of the journey will be on water, kayaking the Mississippi river. It represents 3.780 km of paddling from Itasca Lake (380 km south of Winnipeg), to the river’s delta close to New Orleans. The descent of the Mississippi generally takes between two to three months. Though endless, the river is of an affordable difficulty, but includes complicated stretches of 13 km wide. Since its source and delta are separated by 2000 km of latitude, the Mississippi offers an impressive variation of environments: from the region of the great lakes to the bayou of Louisiana.

The Caribbean Sea

After rallying New Orleans to Belize by bike the Manneken Trip will purchase a sailboat in order to navigate alone the Caribbean Sea along the coast in the direction of Georgetown, British Guiana. This is a unique opportunity to be captain of my own boat and discover life at sea.

The Amazon forest

The Amazon is undoubtedly the opposite of the Canadian North: the green hell versus the white hell. The Amazon will be crossed in two stages after reaching Boa Vista by bicycle from Guyana. The first part consists of descending the Banco River, followed by the Rio Negro to Manaus. The second is to go up the Purus River, a tributary of the Amazon, to Peru. If the first part is carried out entirely in dugouts, the second part will be a mixture of walking and dugouts or pack-raft navigation.

Horse-riding Argentina

Horse riding will be the opportunity to create a strong bond with an animal, which in this case becomes a travel partner. Argentina will lend itself perfectly to this challenging experience. The adventure will be heavily dependent on the choice of the horses in San Miguel de Tucuman’s area. Once the team is composed, the caravan will head along the Andes and the “route 40” in towards Perito Moreno.

Walking Patagonia

The end of the trip will take place on foot, walking along Patagonia’s national parks. Rumour has it an ascent might take place in the Andes… Mountains not yet being included in the expedition, it will be the opportunity for a detour before concluding the adventure. Patagonia is also a return to the cold. A way to loop the loop, from one polar ocean to another!

The environmental project

The Manneken Trip, a 360 ° nature driven adventure, is also an environmental project aiming to promote socio-ecological initiatives throughout the Americas. I want to demonstrate that many determined people go every day out of their comfort zone in order to change the world, which we all can. The project originated from the belief that our climate problems are more than big corporation and government’s issues. We have the power to change it and this project is the perfect opportunity to inspire through articles and clips of positive actions by individuals, organisations & scientists etc.

Here are a few ways to follow the adventure: