Motorcycle adventurer guides documentary shoot into the Arctic
Paul Mondor carries the confidence of a motorcycle rider who has sought the most unforgiving winter landscapes in Canada, and has lived to tell the tale.
An adventurer on two-wheels, the 50-year-old “Iceman” has survived the bleak Labrador ice road twice, and his claim to fame is being the first person to ride coast to coast in the dead of the Canadian winter.
Now against the backdrop of the vast but frozen northern tundra, Mondor and a documentary film crew have their sights set on riding to Tuktoyaktuk, a town north of the Arctic Circle, and everywhere else in-between. With two motorcycles and a support vehicle, they leave from Vancouver Feb. 13 for a 10,000-kilometre round trip.
“I hope we hit some hellish weather to make the whole thing interesting,” laughs Mondor, a bus driver with the Sooke School District and a Saanich resident. “If it’s too easy we won’t get people’s attention. We’re hoping for really bad stuff to happen.”
Joe Lloyd, owner of Curbsyde Productions, and his crew plan to shoot The North, the next project in his Reconnecting with Canada documentary series.
Mondor, Lloyd and his wife Flora Lloyd will share on-screen commentary and narration. The video project is planned as a mix of motorcycle touring and vignettes of geography and communities through B.C., Alberta, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.
“Canada is a winter country and we want to show as much of that as we can on camera,” Lloyd says. “We’re doing it on a motorcycle, but the focus is on Canada and its people.”
Mondor expects the venture to be cold and at times dangerous, although not as deadly as driving a motorcycle across Labrador in the winter.
“Tuk(toyaktuk) will be tough, -30, -40 C. The roads are well surfaced and maintained, but it’s ice, like Labrador,” he says. “But the temperature and challenge won’t be like Labrador.”
Mondor tried to convince Lloyd to shoot a Labrador adventure, but that proved to be a logistical nightmare and a touch isolated.
“Shooting up to Tuk is more doable, there is just more to shoot, with activities like dog sledding,” Lloyd says. “Labrador is very hard to film.”
The shooting schedule includes riding the ice road from Fort McMurray to Fort Smith, trying to swim in an ice hole in isolated Tuktoyaktuk, viewing the Northern Lights and swapping dog sleds with Inuit people for his 2011 BMW F800 bike. The frozen road from Inuvik to Tuk exists only in the winter, offering an overland route rarely documented.
“I’m looking forward to exchanges, to seeing the daily lives (of Inuit people). These guys live in -30 C for half the year. It’s incredible,” Mondor says. “We want to document northern peoples and cultures. This kind of adventure tourism hasn’t been done from a motorcycle point of view.”
The venture is sponsored by BMW and tourism agencies in B.C., Alberta, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. This is Mondor’s first documentary, but he’s had enough media interviews to feel comfortable on camera.
“This is about the people and the land,” Mondor says. “We expect to see polar bears, wolves. The geography around Inuvik and Tuk needs to be seen to be believed.”
Lloyd said he is in final negotiations with a television network to air the Reconnecting with Canada series, although he couldn’t divulge which network. The northern Canada episodes will be on the Curbsyde website.
Lloyd will also be riding a BMW bike during the shoot in northern Canada, but Mondor is the final authority on safety.
“Joe’s never ridden the winter stuff — it’s a trial by fire,” Mondor says. “I’ll push him, I’m not putting Joe in a place were he will kill himself.”
“Paul is the kind of guy you want around if something goes wrong,” Lloyd says. “I’m looking forward to the ride and not having to worry.”
Mondor and the Curbsyde crew are leaving Vancouver Feb. 13 and will be uploading video footage to the Internet during their journey. Check out www.rwcnorth.tv for more information on the project.