Fjällräven Polar is the dream of any globetrotter. The ultimate adventure of a lifetime, the 300-km Arctic expedition in minus 30 degree temperature offers a blissful journey along snow-capped, sun-drenched Polar landscape and above all, the experience of a unique endurance test. Twelve persons from all over the world are chosen and trained for the expedition happening in April every year, through online voting, and this time, it could be a Malayali. Niyog, a 26-year-old Punalur native, is leading the polls with over 20,000 votes in one among the 12 categories.
Last time Niyog was featured in Kochi Chronicle in mid-September, he was a penniless nomad hitchhiker who was on a journey across the country. How come he heads for the North Pole expedition in less than three months? “The journey hasn’t ended yet. I have reached Delhi and have covered 180 days without money. Hopefully, I’d complete the all-India trip before the voting ends,” he says.
How did a person, who is on and off the Internet due to his journeys, come to know about the Fjällräven Arctic expedition?
“Fjällräven Polar is quite popular among travel buffs. The expedition has been happening since 1997. This year’s application process had begun on November 16. I had applied only four days back and my name was not even in the first thousand. But my followers and friends on Facebook were very excited and started campaigning through trolls, WhatsApp, etc and in four days, I topped the list. It all happened in a flash,” he recalls. Just a day ago, it was a Pakistani national who topped the voting. It was a virtual Indo-Pak war with celebrities and politicians seeking votes for their country’s representative. “It was just a contest and things were getting out of hand. It was painful to see the war-mongering and I requested my friends to stay away from using ‘nationalism’ to promote me. After all, journeys are about breaking boundaries, no?” he asks.
The Polar expedition, though exciting, is not easy as it seems. From Norway to Sweden, you travel in a sled pulled by 10 highly-trained dogs – Alaskan or Siberian Huskies. More than 200 dogs accompany the travellers. The trip is impossible without these dogs which are brought from leading kennels across the world. “Inexperienced in sleighing, the journey by balancing the dogs will be difficult. But there are other risks – like travelling along the frozen sea areas where only the top layer might be frozen. There are also hurdles like hypothermia and frostbite,” says Niyog, who is not worried about the sub-zero temperature or even the mandatory fitness. He has a few Himalayan expeditions and extreme treks to his credit, so fitness is the least of his concerns.
The voting is on for 10 more days and anything could happen, but Niyog takes it calmly. “I hadn’t expected even this. I’d be happy if I get the chance, but even if I don’t, it’s great to know that so many people love you.”...