November 1st, 1998 was a Sunday. Depending on where we were at the time, most of us were probably doing something very ordinary—shopping, watching the football game, walking the dog or making breakfast. It was, however, no ordinary day for Karl Bushby.
Today, Bushby is 46-years-old and in November of 1998, at the age of 29, the former British Army paratrooper took the first step from the southernmost tip of South America to embark on a 36,000 mile unbroken journey around the world—on foot. And Bushby has no intention of quitting until he arrives back in his hometown of Hull, England. The original plan took him up the entire west coast of South America, through Central America, straight up the west coast of the United States and Canada, and into Alaska. From there he would “walk” across the Bering Strait (which is over 50 miles of water, but more on that later), which separates Alaska from Russia. Once in Russia, the trip would take him across the world’s largest country, through China and Kazakhstan, and into eastern Europe. And from there it would be just a year or so to Calais, France, where he would walk through the tunnel that connects England to France (the Chunnel). And the whole journey, by Karl’s calculations, would take about eight years.
Bushby has walked up the entire west coasts of South America, Central America, the United States and Canada into Alaska, and across the Bering Strait to Russia. Across Russia, China and Kazakhstan, and into eastern Europe. Across Europe to France, and a quick trip across the English Channel to home sweet home.
In November of 1998, at the age of 29, the former British Army paratrooper took the first step from the southernmost tip of South America to embark on a 36,000 mile unbroken journey around the world—on foot. Bushby has no intention of quitting until he arrives back in his hometown of Hull, England.
The whole journey, by Bushby’s calculations, would take about eight years—but adventures of this magnitude are always laden with setbacks.
However, that was only the original plan. A trek this long was bound to run into some brick walls, and Bushby had more than his fair share of setbacks and misfortune. He began his trip with a few hundred dollars, about a hundred pounds of supplies packed into a makeshift cart-on-wheels and some camera equipment that National Geographic had donated so he could document his trek. Within a week of setting out from Punta Arenas in Chile, his toenails began to fall off, he nearly starved to death in Patagonia and he survived a severe dust storm in Peru. After a couple of years he had arrived at the Colombia-Panama border and had no choice but to find his way through the notorious Darién Gap that is riddled with terrorists and kidnappers. He swam in crocodile-infested rivers to avoid detection and was jailed for two weeks in Panama for not having legitimate identification. Then there was the problem of crossing that patch of water between Alaska and Russia—the Bering Strait. The Bering Strait is a little more than 50 miles across and a hell of a tough stretch by foot. So when Bushby arrived in Alaska in March, 2006, accompanied by the French adventurer Dimitri Kieffer, he walked a 150-mile route across broken ice floes, and arrived in the Russian town of Chutotka two weeks later.
Within a week of setting out from Punta Arenas in Chile, his toenails began to fall off, he nearly starved to death in Patagonia and he survived a severe dust storm in Peru.
But Bushby’s greatest obstacle was Russia itself, or to be more exact, the Russian bureaucracy. After zigzagging in and out of Russia for five years, he was arrested for trumped-up visa infractions and sent back to, of all places, Mexico. And Russia banned him from entering the country for five more years. Keeping in mind that entering Russia once more from Alaska was essential to his mission, the intrepid trekker took what he believed was his only option—plead his case with the Russian embassy, in Washington, D.C. So he walked a 3,000 mile detour across the U.S. to the Russian embassy, pleaded his case, and voilà, his ban on entering Russian territory was lifted and his visa was renewed. So, back to Alaska, back across the Bering Strait, and back into Russia. And the last that was heard from Karl, he is in Yakutsk, Russia, about 300 miles south of the Arctic Circle on a sublime journey that is sixteen years and counting.
He then found his way through the notorious Darién Gap that is riddled with terrorists and kidnappers, swam in crocodile-infested rivers to avoid detection and was jailed for two weeks in Panama.
But his greatest setback was the Russian Bureaucracy. After zigzagging in and out of the country for 5-years, he was deported and sent to, of all places, Mexico.
Understanding that walking through Russia was essential to his mission, Bushby took a 3,000 mile detour north to Washington D.C. to plead his case to the Russian Embassy. His ban was then lifted, and at last contact he was 300 miles south of the Arctic Circle. His sublime journey around the world on foot has spanned sixteen years—and counting.