What was the initial reaction from your family and friends when you first told them your plans to fly out to South America and walk home?
No one outside the family took it seriously, and even after getting on the go, no one believed I would see it through. Once my family saw I was serious they got behind me 100%. My mother worked in a sweet factory in Hull and during the hungry days in Chile (once the initial funds had run out), she organized a 'whip around' in the factory, just pennies, but enough people chipped in and she would wire it to me via Western Union. It made all the difference in the world.
My father got a friend on board and put together the website. It became their mission to keep me upright and moving. Before starting I took a lot of stick from the lads in 3 Para, and I remember that being a huge motivator. Ever since then I've met people who tell me it cannot be done.
The Colombians did not understand how I could make it to Panama alive; the Alaskans and Canadians told me I would never make it across the Bering Strait. A lot of people have lost a lot betting against me. It seems the world is a slow learner!
Never one to do things the easy way, you've been determined from day one to walk every single step of the way home. This has so far caused you untold stress when crossing the Darien Gap. Now you are waiting to once again cross the Bering Strait. Have you never considered taking a flight from Alaska to Russia to give yourself at least a little slack and save yourself the time involved in waiting for winter to come around again when the strait freezes over? Also, why were the Russian authorities initially so awkward in terms of the visa situation?
There seems to be some confusion here. Firstly, I have only crossed the Straits once, and that is a miracle in its own right. Nobody would want to do that again. Right now the situation means moving back and forth from the point where I stopped walking each time I have to leave Russia.
This is not the fault of the Russians as much as the above mentioned combination of factors. We are requesting the Russians to cut us some slack on the restrictions, given our circumstances. The new visa rules are putting an overwhelming pressure on the expedition, but when you think back to our controversial entry into Russia in 06, we are lucky to be there at all.
The Russian authorities have been very good to me and the local government in Chukotka continues to help me in every way they can. However, the real key to our current issues lies with Moscow, and there is no real reason why they should treat me as a special case.
In terms of mileage, how many miles have you currently covered between the tip of South America and Fairbanks, Alaska? More importantly, how many more miles remain before you make it back onto British soil?
To Fairbanks it was 14,662miles (23,610km).
To date we are looking at a total of approx 16,856miles to Bilibino,
Chukotka. However, these are very conservative figures as they were
measurements from the map.
Of course, on the ground there's a certain amount of zigzagging that wouldn't be recorded. It's possible that the actual distance walked so far is up to 1000 miles further than the above figures.
As for the distance back to the UK, that's extremely difficult to say. Once again I will be walking down 'route corridors,' taking the best way I can. At present though I haven't got the exact route planned and therefore can't give you the distances. I reckon that once I make it out of this North East Region and down to the main roads then I'm about halfway home.
Did you have something of a restless spirit as a child, or has your curiosity to see new places and meet new people matured in more recent years?
As a child I was a bit of a loner, and spent most my free time travelling out of town exploring farmland and woods. I would always push on a little further when possible. I was a real little naturalist as a kid, always fascinated by the world around me.
As I grew I had a real thing for horizons. I would go out of my way to spend time simply gazing at a good distant horizon. I literally got a kick out of horizons, every horizon had mystery attached to it; there was a longing to know what one might find over that horizon.
All of this was re-kindled when I travelled overseas with the army, seeing the Arctic, jungles and deserts from the down-in-the-dirt perspective, and of course there was always that beckoning horizon. Being with the Parachute Regiment, the only way to do it was on your feet. That's the only way to know and understand an environment at its most fundamental level - and a damn good way to better understand yourself.
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