Igor D'India, a young video maker from Palermo, came back after having spent a couple of months in Canada. He went their to accomplish an endeavor : to navigate for 2500 km along the Yukon River canoe, all alone, just as Walter Bonatti did 50 years ago. No logo on his canoe except the SSF flag. Igor trusts our values and wanted to dedicate this challenge to our children.
So, Igor, you're back. How was your trip in the footsteps of Walter Bonatti ?
It went very well, although I could not navigate all the 2500 km like Bonatti did. Storms and a strong wind prevented me from reaching the Porcupine River. But I am satisfied anyway. It would have been dangerous for my life to continue and this is the first lesson I learned from Bonatti: not to take any unnecessary risk.
How do you feel now that you are back?
I do not feel comfortable in the city. I lived for five months on the main roads of Canada and the Yukon River that took me all the way up to Alaska. I am used to wide spaces and just a few short encounters with humans. Milan has welcomed me and is offering me lot of opportunities, but it is a jungle that I hardly know, and this scares me. There is too much crowd, too much haste.
What was the most difficult time? Did you suffer from loneliness?
Certainly the most difficult time was the two days which I spent alone in my tent on Lake Laberge, stuck on a bank and waiting for the wind to stop. I had just started my trip one day ago and I found myself faced with difficult weather conditions, which put a strain on my nerves.
Which adventure did you enjoy the most?
I was hitch-hiking on the Rocky Mountains in the middle of a snowstorm and a Vietnamese fisherman gave me a ride. He was not exactly what you'd call a “king” of driving. After having he had confessed that he did not know what ice chains were, we crashed in the snow just after Jasper, we just fell off the road and of course we didn’t even have even a shovel. It took us four hours to dig the car out with a frying pan and a pig foot… A situation like in the Cohen brothers movies. But in the end it was fun.
Did you see many animals? Were you afraid or did they keep you company?
I did see many animals, especially during the 16000 kilometers where I was hitchhiking. Bears, bison, elk, caribou, eagles, mountain goat – and often during the night by the river I could hear some coyotes and wolves howling. But no animal has ever kept me company or made me feel scared. We all lived in a mutual respect of each other’s spaces, immersed in the same wild universe. Obviously I was very careful while preparing the camp base especially if I had to spend the night there, to avoid creating any unnecessary misunderstandings. However, I never found a way to live together with the seagulls though. Those birds know no fear and even if you find yourself navigating a hundred meters away from a nest, they speed up right to you and catch you on the head. About insects, this is a different story – if you think that the bear is fierce then try to compete with a swarm of hungry mosquitoes!
Did you meet anyone who had known Walter Bonatti ?
Yes I did. Her name is Palma Berger, 72 years, Australian-born. She was a tour guide in Dawson City when Bonatti landed in June 1965. She took him around on the Keno, the steamer aground on the banks of the Yukon River. I had an interviewed with her, she is a really fun a woman with an interesting experience. Then in Fort Yukon I met the daughter of Cliff Fairchild, the pilot who took Bonatti on his canoe up to Old Crow. Cliff was a good guy too, an interesting character. Walter was right. So many fascinating stories in the Far North!
What has changed in 50 years on the Yukon River?
The flow of tourists along the 400 km of river from Whitehorse to Carmacks has certainly ballooned. The current is gentle and the shores are spectacular shores, and the technical difficulty is at the reach of almost everyone. But it is in Circle, at the north of Alaska, that you can see the major differences. The global warming has been affecting the lives of the Arctic inhabitants, be it men or animals. Last summer was the wettest of the last hundred years and the winds reached almost 90 km by hour just as I was trying to cross the so-called Yukon Flats, at the South of Fort Yukon. There were constant winds and storms of an exceptional violence. And this situation is quite different from what Walter described in his reportage for Epoca. There is also an increasing amount of floods and pollution coming from the extractive industries. It is really a bad time for the native population of Alaska.
What is the most important thing that you have learned about the river?
I learnt that before being afraid there must be a concrete reason. Because to fear something that might never happen is a huge obstacle that we create for ourselves. Only the right dose of fear can save your life. This is about being able not be too fearful, but not too bold either.
And now what are doing?
I am preparing a the TV Series on shipping, produced by Kobalt Entertainment, which will probably come out next year in Italy and abroad. And then I am getting ready to start a schools tour together with Sports Without Borders who sponsored me and invited me to share my experience with the kids which whom they do sports.
Are you already thinking about your next trip? What will it be?
I have so many ideas and so many dreams, but first I have to finish this great adventure and take the time that I need for the final and most fundamental stage of this experience: the sharing.