March 20, 2015 / 2:03 PM / 4 years ago

Epic tales, vicarious thrills on offer at Polish festival

GDYNIA, Poland (Reuters) - Cycling 3,700 km (2,300 miles) across the frozen Siberian tundra in temperatures as low as minus 50 Celsius (-58 Fahrenheit) is not for everyone. If you’re intrigued by the idea but put off by the thought of all that pedaling through the cold, then Poland’s Kolosy festival could be the next best thing.

The annual event in the Baltic port of Gdynia provides an opportunity for thousands of spectators to hear hair-raising yarns from sailors, mountaineers and other intrepid explorers.

This jamboree of real and armchair adventurers takes its name from the Polish word for the Colossi statues on Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, and is held every March.

This year participants were able, through speakers’ eyes, to experience the thrill of climbing K2 in the Himalayas, winter climbing on Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, efforts to circumnavigate the North Pole, and descents into deep caves in Austria and China.

Among those with a story to tell was Krzysztof Suchowierski, 30, of Poland, who, with no previous exposure to extreme cold, joined Ioann Chechnev and Igor Kovalchuk of Russia to cycle from Neryungri to Chersky in Siberia.

“We cycled 76 days in winter through severely cold Yakutia to commemorate the victims of Soviet repression,” Suchowierski told Reuters in an interview, referring to the millions who endured hard labor and prison camps under Stalin’s Gulag.

Here’s what else he had to say:

Q: What was the goal of your journey? 

A: We wanted to talk to students in Yakutia’s schools about the Gulag prisoners’ tragic fate and to experience, while getting there, weather conditions similar to those in the Gulags.

Q: What obstacles did you encounter on the way?

A: Physical and mental exhaustion caused by pedaling through snow, malfunctioning gears and brakes, and punctures. Before we could fix a tire, we had to stop a car and warm up the tire and tube inside.

Q: How did you prepare beforehand?

A: I slept on a balcony, swam in cold water and cycled long distances. We also asked polar explorers for advice.

Q: Would you do it again?

A: Yes, it was a worthy cause, and I plan to be back there this December to walk about 1,000 km pulling a sledge along the Kolyma River.

Editing by Michael Roddy and Mark Trevelyan

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