Karlis Bardelis in Home Stretch to Complete Circumnavigation

Karlis Bardelis has begun the final 5,000km of his human-powered, round-the-world journey. He is cycling from Kilifi, Kenya to Lüderitz in Namibia, the place where he first hit the road eight long years ago.

The Latvian adventurer thought he would have completed this final stage by now. But then, in January 2022, he began a 10,000km row from Malaysia to Tanzania. When he made it to Africa, he became the first known person to row from Asia to Africa. Unfortunately, he did not land in Tanzania. Stronger winds than he had expected than he had expected pushed him too far north. He hit the East African coastal current and ended up landing in ever-dangerous Somalia in June 2022.

There, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the State Security Service and the coast guard helped get him to land safely, but he had to abandon his boat. The plan was always to go back to Somalia and restart, but logistically it was nightmare.

Endless complications in Somalia

Initially, the army watched over his boat. They told Bardelis they would tow it to port and stow it in a sea container. But once Bardelis was back in Latvia, the army stopped responding to him. Local fishermen eventually seized the boat and “basically held it ransom,” Bardelis explained.

Eventually, he struck a deal with them and found a logistics agent to move the boat to Mogadishu. But again, this did not go according to plan. Since a terrorist Islamic organization controlled the roads, the boat had to go by sea. In Mogadishu, the boat was loaded into a sea container bound for Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Bardelis waited there for the boat in January 2023.

Solo rowing from Asia to Africa.

Rowing alone from Asia to Africa. Photo: Karlis Bardelis


There, customs and red tape held up the boat for a further two months.

You can only make the short crossing from Somalia to Kenya between January and March because of the strong currents and winds. The boat arrived so late that a 2023 crossing became impossible. Then, the boat was only permitted to remain in Tanzania for three months, so Bardelis had to move it to Kenya.

Clearly, with some adventures, the logistics are as hard or even harder than the physical feat.

Many would question why Bardelis went to such trouble to save his boat. He could have borrowed another one for the final rowing leg, but he was adamant about using his own craft. “This boat is like a home to me,” he explained. “It has survived so much, and kept me safe. It’s been my most reliable companion on this journey.”

Cloak-and-dagger start

At the start of 2024, he moved the boat from northern Kenya to the point where he finished the last part his row, just 90km from the Somalia-Kenya border. He did all this in secret because of the danger he faced the last time he was Somalia. 

“I went in under the radar,” he explained. “I know quite a few Somalis follow my tracker and have seen my social media…It was scary to be back out there in that position, in Somalia. We didn’t have any lights on and rowed as fast as we could to get to the safer Kenyan side.”

Despite the stress of restarting “it felt amazing to be back on the boat and to get the boat back.”

Karlis Bardelis and Arturs Skroderis at the finish of their row.

Karlis Bardelis and Arturs Skroderis at the end of their row from Somalia to Kenya. Photo: Karlis Bardelis


He rowed this short section with his friend and experienced sailor, Arturs Skroderis. They covered the 385km route to Kilifi, Kenya in just three-and-a-half days. In the first 24 hours alone, they paddled 155km because the currents were so strong.

The duo landed on Jan. 30. Bardelis spent a few days getting the boat ready to ship back to Latvia and preparing for the final leg of his circumnavigation. He set off on his bike today and has put out the word on social media for fellow adventurers to join him for sections as he pedals westward to Namibia.

Some legs solo, some not

Bardelis never considered this a solo journey. He has now had companions for four legs of the adventure. In 2016, he started in Namibia and rowed with Gints Barkovskis to Brazil. In 2018, he restarted in Brazil and cycled on a tandem bicycle to Lima, Peru, with his then-girlfriend, Linda Zuze. They pedaled the 5,400km in 102 days.

In 2018, he rowed alone 26,000km across the Pacific, landing in Malaysia after an astonishing 715 days. He became the first person to row from South America to Asia. Then in 202,2 he started his row from Asia to Africa with fellow circumnavigator Dimitri Kieffer. Kieffer joined from Malaysia to Sri Lanka.

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.