Roundup of Long-Haul Expeditions

Long-haul expeditions around the world have restarted. Some have reached their final stages, while others are trying to out-manoeuvre lingering pandemic restrictions.

Out of Eden Walk

Since 2013, Paul Salopek has been walking the original migration route of humans from Africa to the tip of South America. In total, it will take him around 15 years to complete. It is the ultimate slow journalism story.

Eight years on, Salopek is now in Shanghai, preparing to walk across China. He estimates that it will take him 18 months to traverse that vast country.

He entered China through Myanmar, where COVID-19 forced him to put his Out of Eden walk on hold. While waiting out the pandemic, he witnessed first hand the fallout from the recent military coup.

Paul Salopek has made it to China. Photo: National Geographic

Speaking to National Geographic, he said that when he made it to Yangon to extend his visa he “inadvertently stepped into a world of bewildering anguish”. Initially, he felt that it would be disrespectful to continue with his cultural city walks. Eventually, he concluded that “walking the world should include both the desolating and beautiful”.

Now for the first time in 17,000km, he flew rather than walked from Myanmar to China. Continuing on foot was too risky. Leaving the country has weighed heavily on him. “It is a terrible thing to abandon your friends in such situations…you can walk away from a lot of things in life. Grief and shame aren’t among them.”

Around the world with a cat

Dean Nicholson left Scotland to bikepack around the world in 2018. Three months later, a stranded kitten adopted him. Since then, they have traveled the world together, Nicholson cycling and Nala on his shoulder or in her specially made basket. So far, Nicholson has been to 20 countries and Nala to 12.

After returning to the UK in 2020 to get visas for Russia, they went to Austria at the end of last year. Since then, they have been exploring the area waiting for restrictions to lift. Hauled up in Gmunden, they have been taking short excursions into the surrounding mountains. To pass the time, Nicholson has been marketing merchandise of his and Nala’s journey. The duo has reached almost celebrity status.

Today, Nicholson revealed that he now has all the paperwork needed to apply for an Article 50 permit to continue his journey across the EU. His current goal is to make it to Thailand.

Dean Nicholson and Nala. Photo: @1bike1world

UK Circumwalk 

Karen Penny, 55, is walking 17,000km around the coastline of the UK. She started in January 2019 and expected the walk to take three-and-a-half years. She now thinks she will finish on September 21, 2021. Despite a few months off waiting for COVID restrictions to ease, she is almost a year ahead of schedule.

She has already walked around England, Wales, and Ireland, and is finishing her walk in Scotland. She is now on her tenth pair of walking boots. For the entire journey, she has carried all her supplies and equipment in a backpack. She resupplies as she walks through towns and villages. She has estimated that she camps nine out of 10 nights. The rest of the time, passersby and friends offered her a place to stay.

She is currently walking to Aberdeen. Here, she will catch a ferry to the Shetland Islands on September 14. In her final week, she will tackle the various Shetland Islands. Her endpoint is the island Muckle Flugga.

Karen Penny has less than two weeks left in her UK circumwalk. Photo: Karen Penny

7,000km across Italy

Elia Origoni restarted his 7,000km walk across Italy in July. He was forced to stop his expedition in May to recover from injuries sustained in an avalanche. Seven weeks later, he was ready to head back to the Sentiero Italia.

He has walked through 14 regions of Italy and is currently in the Chiareggio Valley. He began the first week of September in San Fedele Intelvi, Lombardy, and walked up the Bocchetta di Nava. An unexpected problem here was the lack of water. The map indicated a water point but it was dry. He had to ration the small amount of water he was carrying. Luckily, he reached a village and was able to top up his supplies.

As the summer tourists left the mountains, the new month brought solitude for Origoni. It also signaled his last month of walking. He aims to end his walk in Trieste.

Elia Origoni’s walk across Italy has one month remaining. Photo: @eliaorigoni

Running from the UK to Nepal

Rosie Swale-Pope, 75, started running from the UK to Kathmandu in 2018. The pandemic forced her to stop in Turkey and eventually return to the UK. Her plan had been to re-start in Turkey as soon as possible. When it became clear that restrictions would not allow this any time soon, she decided to restart the entire journey and take a different route.

On June 25, she left Brighton, UK, her rough plan is to run to Norway, head north to Russia, then make her way through China and Tibet before ending in Nepal. After a month running in the UK, the North Sea forced her to momentarily stop her on foot journey and fly to Bergen. For the past few weeks, she has been working her way up the west coast of Norway towards Førde.

Rosie Swale-Pope celebrates her arrival in Norway. Photo: Rune Saevig

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About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca is a freelance writer and science teacher based in the UK.

She is a keen traveler and has been lucky enough to backpack her way around Africa, South America, and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything to do with the oceans and aims to dive and open-water swim in as many seas as possible.

Her areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife and adventure travel.

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