Expeditions Update: Underway, Still Delayed or Canceled?

As restrictions around the world ease, a few expeditions put on hold by COVID-19 have restarted. Others wait, while still others are indefinitely postponed.


Solo Row Across the Pacific

Paraplegic ocean rower Angela Madsen set off on April 24 to row the Pacific Ocean from Long Beach, California to Honolulu. Forty-five days in, the journey has been anything but easy, mainly because of adverse weather. She has deployed her sea anchor many times, but wind and seas often pushed her in the wrong direction nonetheless.

She has been ”swamped twice and had a knock down” when trying to row in a gale. The pitching seas swatted her off her seat into the gunwale and she considers herself lucky that she wasn’t thrown entirely out of the boat. “I thought for sure I was going over, but I didn’t,” she said. She has also had to deal with sores from sitting too long and problems with her water maker.

Angela Madsen sets off across the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Row of Life


Still, as of June 7, she had covered almost 3,000km and remains as positive as ever. When she turned 60 recently, her family called and sang happy birthday to her. She celebrated the event with a moon pie and a shot of Hawaiian-made Kōloa Rum.

On hold

Out of Eden Walk

Since 2013, Paul Salopek has been retracing the routes of the first hunter-gatherers. Starting in Africa he plans to mimic their global migration by walking to South America. After 18,000km, he had to pause and wait out the pandemic in Myanmar.

Initially, he self-isolated for three weeks but has now settled in an isolated village in the foothills of the Eastern Himalaya, which nudges into Myanmar. The electricity comes and goes, and soon the monsoon will hit and flood the roads, but he accepts the reverses stoically. “These matters are trivial,” he says. “The ancient humans I follow hunkered for 10,000 years on the vanished land bridge between Siberia and Alaska, waiting for glaciers to melt. If nothing else, long walks teach patience.”

Myanmar. Photo: Paul Salopek


Running from the UK to Nepal

Seventy-five year old Rosie Pope set off in mid-2018 to run 8,500km from the UK to Kathmandu. She has been has been in Turkey since she was ordered to stop running on March 30 because of the pandemic.

She has been the sole guest at the Hilton hotel in Safranbolu since then. The hotel is technically closed but they have put a stationary bike and weights in her room, so she can exercise. “I’m so grateful for their help,” she says. Pope is ready to continue her run to Nepal the moment restrictions ease.

Rosie Pope stays fit in Turkey with weights and an exercise bike. Photo: Rosie Pope


Round-the-world cyclist and cat

Scotland’s Dean Nicholson has been cycling round the world since September 2018. Barely three months in, a stray cat named Nala decided to see the world with him. The inseparable pair are now in Hungary, the 18th country so far, waiting for restrictions to lift. In May, Nicholson had to extend his visa to allow him to stay an extra 90 days in the country. Although a lockdown remains in place, some restrictions have eased, so Nicholson and Nala have been exploring the local area by bike.

Nicholson and Nala. Photo: 1bike1world


UK Circumwalk

Karen Penny was in the Shetlands, about a third of the way through her UK circumwalk, when the lockdown forced her to return home. Since then, she has been constantly monitoring government updates to try to plan a restart date. Currently, Wales Scotland and England each have different restrictions, and it will only be feasible to restart when there is full movement everywhere, including in the Shetlands, where local barriers to travel remain in place.

Karen Penny: home and waiting. Photo: Karen Penny


Postponed or changed

Walking the length of the UK

Ben Cook was about to begin his two-year, 12,000km walk across Africa when COVID-19 grounded him in the UK. At the moment, the former member of the Hairy Handlebars duo, who cycled last year from London to Tokyo, says that his Africa plans have been “put on ice”. In the meantime, he has decided to walk the length of the UK with his dog, Darcy. “I want to reconnect with my homeland the best was I know how, by walking,” he says.

Ben Cook and Darcy will walk the length of the UK. Photo: @adventure_cookie


He plans to begin the 2,000km walk from Landsend to John O’Groats on June 21. He figures that it will take six to seven weeks, if he walks about 50km a day. As no hotels or hostels are open in the UK, Cook will be wild camping all the way. Although his start and end points are fixed, the exact route remains flexible. “I like to make it up as I go — way more fun that way!”


Ultra running across the Himalaya

Belgian ultrarunner Peter Van Geit had planned to spend six months fast hiking 5,000km and 300 passes over the Himalaya. As he was making his way across India to start his expedition, the state of Himachal Pradesh curbed the entry of all foreign travelers, forcing van Geit to return home to Chennai.

Currently, the lockdown continues across India, and van Geit admits that even if restricted lifted tomorrow, he wouldn’t be able to cover the 300 passes he originally intended. Still, he remains hopeful that the Himalaya will open in time for him to traverse at least 100 passes. “The summer lasts until October, so we still have four to five months,” he says.

Van Geit has used his stay-at-home time to document his completed journeys and create webinars to advise others who dream of undertaking similar projects.