Karlis Bardelis Nears End of His Round-The-World Trip

On June 21, Karlis Bardelis reached Africa and has almost completed his human-powered, round-the-world journey. The last stage of his circumnavigation saw him row 4,800km from Malaysia to Somalia. He was initially supposed to land in Tanzania but changed his plan in the final days of his journey. He has not divulged why, but updates on his journey suggest it was because of damage to his boat.

[Editor’s note: A later story explains the last-minute change of plans.]

A six-year journey

Bardelis began his epic journey in 2016. He started in Namibia and rowed, as part of a pair, to Brazil. In 2018, he restarted in Brazil and cycled on a tandem bicycle to Lima, Peru, with his then-girlfriend. They pedaled the 5,400km in 102 days.

Starting in 2018, he solo rowed 26,000km across the Pacific, landing in Malaysia after 715 days. He became the first person to row from South America to Asia.

Bardelis sits in his tiny cabin on his ocean rowboat.

A long wait

Bardelis had planned to continue, but COVID forced him to pause his circumnavigation. He flew back to Latvia and waited.

A year and a half later he was back in Malaysia, ready to recommence his challenge. When he arrived in December 2021, his boat, Linda, had suffered some water damage. He made repairs and then figured out the final stage of his journey. Rowing across the Malacca Strait was almost impossible due to strong headwinds. To avoid this, he cycled 850km across Malaysia to Kuala Perlis, the new starting point for his final row. He pushed off in January 2022.

His next stop was Sri Lanka. There were two reasons for this, he needed to cross an antipodal point, and he wanted to pick up Dimitri Kieffer. Kieffer paused his own circumnavigation to join Bardelis and learn the ropes of ocean rowing. The kindred spirits rowed together for nine days before Kieffer hopped off the boat in the Maldives to continue his own expedition. Bardelis tackled the remaining 3,900km solo.

Bardelis at sea, covering his head from the sun and holding up the peace sign with his fingers.

Photo: Bored of Borders

A tough home straight

The last stage of his journey has been fraught. The first few weeks saw winds push him the wrong way. Next, he had to cut one of his anchors loose as he was unable to retrieve it from the deep corals it was stuck in. On numerous occasions, he had to row for over 20 hours straight to ensure his boat did not drift backward.

At the start of June, he still had 1,000km left to paddle. Huge waves and strong winds were throwing him off course and he began to question if he would be able to land in Tanzania. “I really don’t know where I will land, but one thing I know for sure, it is 1,000km until Africa,” he wrote on social media.

Just days later the situation worsened. The metal binding that held his steering rudder in place broke. He attempted to fix it using a rope but it was far from ideal. On June 12, with 407km left, his boat capsized. He lost his glasses, water pot, toilet bucket, and sunscreen to the ocean.

Bardelis sits in his row boat at sea, watching the sun set behind him.

Photo: Bored of Borders


On June 21, he landed in Kismaayo, Somalia. There are few details about his final few days at sea, or his landing in Somalia, other than that he is safe.

Bardelis is now making his way back to Latvia.

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.