These 3 adventurers spent years at a time alone in the wilderness
These 3 adventurers like to set off alone for months or years at a time. They’ve crossed continents on foot and rowed across the world’s oceans. Each one of them has it own driving force, be it discipline, the craving of a zen-like state, or growth, but they all have chosen to live a life outdoors accomplishing feats few –or none- have attempted before.
Walking from Siberia to Australia: 3 years.
At eight, Sarah Marquis terrified her parents when she went for a walk in the Swiss Alps and did not return until the next day. At seventeen she crossed Turkey on horse back. But it was at twenty when Sarah understood what she was after. She went for a four-day trek in New Zealand. And though it was awful and it rained all the time, she felt a connection with nature that she craved to repeat.
Since then she has been walking solo for months or years a time, crossing lonesome landscapes where she is hundreds of kilometers away from the closest human being. She loves the moment, after weeks of walking, when all physical pain disappears, when her mind lets go of the past and the future, and she becomes completely present, self-less, in tune with all that surrounds her.
In the year 2000, the Swiss walked from Canada to Mexico, for four months (4,265 km/2,650 mi). Two years afterwards, she began her hike through Australia, which would take her 17 months to complete (14,000 km/8,700 mi). While in 2006 the solo adventurer spent eight months walking the Andes Mountains, from Chile to Peru (7,000 km/4,350 mi).
And in 2010 she embarked on her longest trip yet: a trek from Siberia to southern Australia (20,000 km/12,000 mi). Since Asia and Australia are separated by water, she traveled that tract on boat. Once on Australia’s northern shore, she walked to the country’s southern tip. The entire journey took her three years.
Since then, this adventurer has solo-walked many more miles. Her last completed trip ended in May 2018. It was a three-month walk through the jungles of Tasmania, where she broke an arm.
Sarah says she loves the mix of freedom and fear she feels at the beginning of her adventures. And she does not take her trips lightly, she prepares thoroughly before. For the three-year trip she prepared for two years.
She examines topographic maps to learn the terrain and choose the routes. She learns about the local plants so she can recognize edible ones, and reads about the local culture to know how to behave when meeting people. Sarah also checks the weather in the region for the last 20 years to determine how much condensation she can expect. The information helps when crossing a desert like the Gobi, for she relies on condensation to gather water drops to drink. Although during a dry spell in Australia she had to drink snake’s blood.
On the road
Once on the trip she walks for 10 or 12 hours a day, sometimes covering 20 daily kilometers, others, if it is too rocky, only 3. At around 4 pm she looks for a safe place to camp. Unless she feels she is in unfriendly territory, then she travels at night and hides during the day. Like once in Mongolia when a group of horsemen followed her for days. She has also been stricken with jungle fever, held against her will for hours by men with automatic weapons, and been rescued by helicopter from wildfires. But she has made it through. And the 46-year-old dreams about new trips, this time to Africa.
Rowing three oceans: 502 days.
For this adventurer it is all about getting out of her comfort zone and finding out what she is capable of achieving. It is about the growth that ensues every time she faces a challenge, whether she succeeds or fails. And that is why Roz Savage, a native of England that until her thirties had a safe job, chose to row across the Atlantic Ocean alone and unsupported.
Out in the sea
In 2005 she left the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and rowed west until she reached Antigua, in the Caribbean (103 days, 4,723 km/2,935 mi). She had crossed the Atlantic.
In 2008 Roz challenged herself again, this time by crossing the Pacific Ocean. The first leg of the journey was from California to Hawaii (3,740 km/2,324 mi). It took her 99 days, on the second try, that is. For in 2007 she had already set off to do the crossing, but the weather was not on her side. She capsized three times in one single day, and lost all her necessary equipment. So, 10 days into the journey, she was forced to turn back and wait until the next year to accomplish her goal. In 2009 she began the second leg: she left Hawaii and rowed to Kiribati. And in 2010, from Kiribati to Papua New Guinea. She had rowed across the Pacific for a total of 250 days (12,874 km/8,000 mi), and had won two Guinness World Records while doing so.
And in 2011 she crossed her third large Ocean: the Indian. Originally she wished to start further up north, but on that route she could encounter Somali pirates. So she heeded advice and chose a southern route: from Australia to Mauritius, in Africa (154 days, 5,885 km/3,657 mi).
The now 52-year-old also prepares thoroughly for every trip. She has a written plan of what to do in every imaginable situation. For once in the ocean, she is alone, for months. During her voyage in the Indian Ocean she did not see land or a human being for five months. But she does keep connected. Roz carries a satellite phone and another phone that works with her laptop. She calls her mom regularly, posts new entries on her blog, and keeps in touch with a weather expert on land.
She also travels with tracking equipment, ipods, radio, camera, solar panels, and compact food.
Since she is a passionate reader, in the ocean she listens to audiobooks, specially science fiction and novels, citing as her favorites: book 1 of Game of Thrones, Nobody’s Fool, Chainfire (book 9), Vets Might Fly, Neverwhere, or the comedic Round Ireland. And in land she prefers books that keep her driven: Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, The Celestine Prophecy, Conversations with God, The Alchemist.
The best part
All in all, the Oxford law graduate (where she was in the rowing team) has spent 502 days rowing in open water. In her first trip, the crossing of the Atlantic, she lost all communication for the last 24 days. It was a “privilege,” she says, for it allowed her to experience silence and peace.
One of her favorite moments at sea was in the Pacific, at night, when looking at the stars she felt insignificant and connected to all. And when she is in her boat, she is quite aware that she is just one more animal. And loves it when turtles and whales approach her with curiosity.
Bodybording the Amazon river: 6 months.
Mike Horn believes in discipline. “Who is motivated to jump into a river where you might be eaten by crocodiles, piranhas, parasites, things like that? What you need in life more than motivation is discipline.” Is not a random example, he is talking about his own experience, for in 1997 he did jump into a river with crocodiles and piranhas. And stayed there for almost six months. He was bodyboarding the Amazon, the second largest river in the world (or the first, according to some) from its source to its mouth, in South America.
The adventurer started the journey in Peru, trekked 600 km (372 mi) through the Andes Mountains, and climbed Mt. Mismi, the source of the Amazon. Then he bodyboarded the river until it became too wide (40 km/24.8 mi) and the currents too strong. At that point he switched to a pirogue (type of canoe) for the rest of the journey.
During those months, Mike would spend the day in the river or hunting in the jungle and the nights resting on the riverbanks. He made the trip alone and unassisted. Others had tried the feat, but the South African was the first one to accomplish it (7,000 km/4,250 mi).
Mike was born in 1966 in Johannesburg. Growing up his parents gave him a lot of freedom. He could roam the surroundings in his bike, the only condition was that he was back home at 6 pm. As an adult he joined the South African special forces, where he learned to track animals and to survive in the jungle.
Circumnavigating the globe
While the Amazonian expedition was his first great adventure, many others followed. In 1999 he set off to circumnavigate the world around the equator, by himself. He would have to cross two continents by foot and bike and sail across two oceans. Mike started in Gabon, Africa, sailing towards South America. He landed in Brazil and made his way to the opposite coast of the continent. After traversing the Amazon Jungle and the Andes Mountains, he reached Ecuador. From there, he sailed west to Africa, to Somalia. And walked across the land until he returned to Gabon. The circumnavigation took him 18 months in which Mike covered 40,000 km (24,845 mi).
And in 2017 the South African crossed Antarctica by himself, in less than two months (5,100 km/3,168 mi). For he thinks “you owe it to yourself to live each day to its fullest.” And for him, that means to continuously face new and greater adventures.