Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The Man who Cycled the Americas

The Man Who Cycled the Americas is a new protagonist. Mark Beaumont is an abler and saner beast to complete this gargantuan American Cordillera mission, having previously broken the record for pedalling around the world.

This Scot has tasked his Herculean body with the journey of cycling and climbing across the Alaskan Ranges, the Rockies and the Andes. All he has for company is a self-operated camera and 40kg of kit. Indeed, that does not include an electrified bear fence like poor Ed supplied himself with. If Mark is Bear Grylls, Ed Wardle was Ray Mears’ slightly weedier brother.
Indeed, the dangers that Mark faces become all too apparent in this episode as he instantly battles an Alaskan snow storm atop the highest peak in America. “That was one of the scariest experiences of my life” he tells the camera. These blizzards, however, are nothing in comparison to OAP American driven bus-like RVs he must face later as Alaska becomes Canada, and then the American border beckons.

Mark is a likable figure in front of the camera, and the reel reveals the true ups and downs an extreme traveller must experience. Stunning scenery shots quickly turn to encounters with bears as he cycles through Canada. We genuinely feel sympathy for the cyclist as he battles the more serious hurdles of severe dehydration, and starvation. You just find yourself thinking, ‘Why the hell are you doing this?’ You then begin to get an insight into his motivation when he’s trundling along in beautiful Alpine passes with only his shadow for company.

Moreover, this journey is not all about him. We see (some charming, some bizarre) encounters with the few people he meets along the way, hearing about their own trials and lives whilst witnessing the inevitable run-ins with semi-insane guitar-wielding lumberjacks. Only five minutes into this first instalment Mark must sample his first taste of the isolated American/Canadian inhabitants as he receives a barrage of prayer at a burger restaurant. Judging by his facial expression – this trauma seems to overshadow the bears and the blizzards.

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