On the road again. Direction: Alaska!

The following article by Piotr Chmielinski appears on ExplorersWeb in its original and unedited form.

On the road again. Direction: Alaska!

By Piotr Chmielinski

After a ten-month break in their journey, Michał Woroch and Maciej Kamiński, participants of the WheelchairTrip, are on the road again. With their Land Rover called Defender now repaired, the friends are heading towards Alaska. Ahead of them are about 7,000 kilometers.

Michał Woroch and Maciej Kamiński, yesterday, before sunset, on the road 101 from LA to San Francisco. Photo. Michał Woroch

Joy after receiving Defender from the RosyOrangeLLC auto service in Los Angeles, CA. From left – Andrzej, Olaf, Ania, Michał, Eduardo, Maciej, Fabian i Bartek. Photo. Michał Woroch

Maciej Kamiński at the Defender’s steering wheel – a test drive in California. Photo. Michał Woroch

Michał and Maciej. Each of them has spent almost half of their lives in wheelchairs. Disability, however, did not prevent them from the desire to travel and explore the world. On the contrary, it probably gave this journey a new dimension – the new landscapes, views and impressions are important, but not as much as the process of moving, being on the road and meeting new people. For the first time they experienced that during the trip around Europe, which even more awakened their dreams of reaching new and distant places. So, they bought a more than twenty-year old Land Rover Defender, which they called Defe and, after winning the Andrzej Zawada’s Award granted by the jury of Kolosy (the largest in Europe explorers festival held in Poland) to young travelers with interesting ideas, they set out for South America in November 2016.


The expedition began in Buenos Aires. They conquered Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica. While traveling through South America they came up with the idea that it would be interesting to continue their travel also through North America. They felt so good on this journey, being able to overcame many difficulties and challenges, and at the same time to gain many interesting experiences, that they decided to move forward the destination of the trip by several thousand kilometers and instead of stopping in Costa Rica, to stop in Alaska! Traveling through Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, they reached the United States. Unfortunatelly, while driving near Los Angeles, Defe sufferd a major engine failure. Repairs carried out several times ended with an unambiguous diagnosis stating the need to replace the “heart” of the vehicle. The time needed to find a replacement engine and refit of the car determined the inability to reach Alaska before mid-August and possible snowfall making it difficult to move around this land of almost an eternal winter. After 257 days of driving and covering around 35,000 kilometers, the two friends announced that they were suspending the journey, but with a firm decision that they would continue it the following year.

And what they decided, they did.

Just before leaving Los Angeles, Michał answered a few questions:

Q: After almost year’s break, you return to the route of your trip – what feelings accompany this return?  Excitement, any fears?

A: Let me begin with the fears. I just worry about our Land Rover. First, it has stayed in the workshop for ten months, and time and lack of use can often be detrimental to a vehicle. Secondly, the engine we have replaced in Defe was completely refurbished. Although it should be failure-free, there is always a risk that something went wrong in the rebuilding.

Yes, I am excited about the start of our trip. I thought it would be less of an excitement than the first time around, but it is the same. This is just the beginning, but everything is already joyful. Even cleaning the inside of the vehicle, although there was much more to clean than we expected. During our absence, some kind of animal moved in to Defe. Fortunately, it did not cause great damage, but we had to do a lot of general cleaning, including the washing of mattress covers and other items.

Q: What happened in your life during this travel break?

A: For me, there was no break in the expedition. All things that happened during these ten months were closely related to the WheelchairTrip. Starting from travel festivals, during which I had the pleasure to share our experiences with the audience, and ending with gathering parts and coordinating the rebuilding of the engine – all pertained to our expedition.

Q: If you look from the perspective of almost a year, did the trip change something in your life? Did it bring something new?

A: It seems to me that it built in us a lot of self-confidence; we realized that if we want something we could do it, even if it often seems impossible. Before the beginning of our trip, before we left Buenos Aires, I was wondering what this trip would look like, whether I could manage or find solutions to the problems encountered on the way. Now, I know that I can do a lot, and if I cannot do something, I accept it with humility.

In addition, there is something else. Something I did not expect, it is another value added to my life. This is the energy and reactions that I felt after meeting people. In my wildest dreams, I did not think that our history could give someone a wind in their sails.

Q: How do you imagine Alaska?

A: I have no preconceptions about Alaska. Beside checking the basic information, I have not been preparing much for this trip. This is our own style of traveling that we developed together with Maciej – we listen to the road. This allows us to avoid many problems, and at the same time generates opportunities to meet wonderful people. I know it will be a beautiful time.

Q: What kind of images and impressions do you expect or hope for?

A: With the images – we will see. As I mentioned earlier, I have no preconceptions. Even while in Poland, when I thought about the trip and time in Alaska, I set a few tasks for myself. One of them is taking better pictures. I would like to bring back good photographic material from this trip. I am not entirely satisfied with the ones from the previous part, which may be due to the fact that sometimes I just did not have the energy left to take pictures. I hope it will be better this time. The upside is that in my imagination in the US and Canada it should be easier to accomplish that than in South America.

We will be keeping you posted about the journey of Michał and Maciej to Alaska in subsequent reports.

For previous story check – https://pythom.com/Alaska-must-wait-2017-08-02-54635and https://explorersweb.com/2017/08/02/alaska-must-wait-2017-08-02-54635/