'The wilderness is brutal to idiots' - Polly Evans talks to LFTO

She has cycled round Spain, ridden horses through Argentina and hiked her way through the Canadian wilderness.

Her worldwide travels have inspired her to write such award winning books as It's Not About The Tapas and Mad Dogs And An Englishwoman.

Here Polly Evans talks to LFTO about these experiences and why arctic Canada is a must-see for any keen walker...


What is Canada like?
When I first visited Canada it was life changing. I�d not been very good with the cold prior to that but I quickly became hooked on it. I love the solitude, the silence and the beauty � it gets under your skin and at the end you don�t want to leave.
Siberia has that too but it�s less accessible and you need to be able to speak Russian.
When I was first in Yukon there was a strange sense of panic because there are no mobile phone signals out there and people couldn�t get hold of me. But that soon became a beautiful sense of joy. How fantastic it was to be so inaccessible and to get rid of your worries. It�s what going on holiday used to be like � a sense of getting away � you don�t really get a break these days.
An area called Tombstone Territorial Park provides particularly stunning hiking. When I was there in late summer / early autumn the colours were turning on the tundra and it was sensationally beautiful. The wildlife is also fantastic � from the little ground squirrels to the big grizzlies and brown bears. To see such graceful animals really adds to the hiking experiences and makes this one of the best spots I have ever visited.
Yukon is twice the size of the UK with just 31,000 people (and most of them are in one town), so the opportunities for walking or canoeing are endless.


Do you find the wilderness daunting?
I didn't find it daunting because I had good guides. But you have to be careful - the wilderness is brutal to idiots. If things start to go wrong there�s no room for error. Small mistakes can kill people. Nature isn�t forgiving to fools or people who are arrogant.
There�s no space for brashness or trying to prove yourself in the wilderness. It favours those who are humble and intelligent. The people who tell you how brilliant they are, are always the ones struggling by day two.


You hiked for nine days without passing another person. Did you miss civilisation when you were there?
I never got to the stage where I missed civilisation but after several days in the wilderness with rehydrated food you start to talk about what you�re going to eat when you get back. For me it was burger and fries and a big beer, which is not necessarily something I�d have normally.
I didn�t miss a bed too much because I like sleeping in a tent. I feel cocooned there.


Did you have tough moments out there?
I had done quite a lot of day hiking before the trip and my endurance has always been quite good but there was one point when my legs buckled and I just collapsed. I had just come down a really long scree slope and I stepped down from a boulder and my legs gave way. We realised I had to stop there and set up camp at the next available opportunity.


So is the region accessible to those who aren't super-fit or awesome at navigation?
The walk we did was tough and you needed to be fit but there are areas with fantastic paths and there are plenty of walks you can do that don�t require great levels of hiking experience.


You also learned to dog sled in the Yukon territory. What was that like?
The dog sledding was surprising because they�re often portrayed as fierce, scary animals. That�s far from the truth. The greatest threat is that you may get licked to death! They all had tremendous personalities � each one an individual.
They would only pull if they wanted to and for that you had to build a bond and you had to love one another. It takes a while to gain their friendship � I was told they�re like a class of six-year-olds and it�s true. They�re very mischievous and they like to have a laugh.


Where else in the world would you like to visit?
I�d like to see more of north Russia and need to learn basic Russian for that. I�d also like to see more of northern Canada and Alaska. I�ve never seen polar bears in the wild and that�s something among many, many things I�d like to do. I also fancy the idea of a long walk in Sweden or Norway � perhaps the Kungsleden trail in the north of Sweden.


Polly Evans will speak at Discovering the Canadian Arctic - taking place at the Royal Geographical Society, in Kensington Gore, London, on Wednesday, November 11th. For more details call 0207 591 3100.