There are very few who have done as much in their lives as Pete Fleck already has.
Followers of the Londolozi Blog will remember Pete from 2014, when we competed in a race across Madagascar, but unfortunately his name has been conspicuous by its absence from any Londolozi social media since then. Pete’s frustrating work visa issues (he’s from the UK) have still not been resolved, but if there was ever an example of the triumph of the spirit over adversity, it is personified in Pete.
He’s hit a few bumps along the road, but has somehow always seemed to turn it around into something epic.
Not even 30 years old, Pete has already rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, become the 3rd youngest person ever to complete the Yukon Quest (a 1000-mile sled dog race across Canada and Alaska) and fitted in all sorts of adventures the likes of which most only dream of. And all this was before he even came to Londolozi.
I remember sitting at the Founders Camp bar one evening in around April 2014. This quiet, unassuming, English trainee ranger was sitting next to me, and I happened to have been talking to Tracking Academy co-Founder Alex about the possibility of the Madagascar run. I knew absolutely nothing about Pete’s background at the time, but when Alex said that the timing of the run might not work for him, Pete spoke up and said “I’d be keen to run with you if no-one else can.” Little did I know it but the resultant conversation was to be one of the best things to ever happen to me. In Pete I found the best training and racing partner I could have asked for; a tough, uncompromising person who would simply get on with it, no matter what. Most importantly, I found a friend for life.
I hoped that when I said goodbye to him at Antananarivo airport after the race, he’d be back at Londolozi in a matter of months, but it was not to be. Instead of sitting around simply waiting and hoping however, Pete decided to get on with things, and return to one of his true loves, sled-dogs.
As I write this, he is in Alaska, about as far away from Londolozi as one can get. Go any further around the world and you start coming back again. The team of sled dogs he has been helping train over the Alaskan winter has just run their musher, 57-year-old Mitch Seavey, into the history books by breaking the course record of the world famous Iditarod Sled Dog Race, a 979-mile epic through the Alaskan backcountry.
In mostly sub-zero temperatures and with less than six hours of daylight a day, Pete would be taking the dogs on long training runs into the stillness of the forests and mountains, getting them ready for what has been called The Last Great Race on Earth. Whatever Pete and Mitch’s methods were, they worked, and Pete can now be immensely proud to have played a crucial part in the team’s preparation.
You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.
My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. The only person you are fighting is yourself and your stubbornness to engage in new circumstances.”
– Jon Krakauer – Into the Wild
The above quote is pertinent in that it was at the same bus in the Alaskan wilderness that features in Into the Wild that an incident took place which sealed Pete’s initial position at Londolozi. He told us about it in what is regarded as one of the best stories ever heard here, about a night lit only by the full moon, in which he and his sled dog team were camped by the bus, when growls at midnight from some of the dogs woke him. Fearing an ‘Ice Bear’ – a bear that emerges from hibernation in the middle of winter to find food, and will by default be starving and incredibly aggressive – Pete ventured out towards the river to investigate.
Peering over the riverbank, he stared in awe as a pack of wolves padded silently along the frozen river below him. The stillness was immense as the pack stopped and stared at him in the moonlight.
I’m not going to even try recount the story in it’s entirety because I won’t be able to do it justice. Suffice it to say that it sent shivers down many a spine.
Upon hearing of his team’s victory in the Iditarod this morning, I felt compelled to cite Pete as an example of how we should all be living our lives. The unknown has never held any fear for him. Change is not scary, but even if it is he embraces it with open arms. He achieved legendary status within his first ten days at Londolozi by walking so long and hard on such severely blistered feet that he eventually had to be given a wheelchair to get around camp. And I don’t think a smile ever left his face during that time.
There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
Pete, as much as we hope you get back to Londolozi one day, we hope even more that you continue to live your life as the great adventure it seems destined to always be!