THE LONGEST WALK
The work before you is the record of the first (and only) crossing of the Western Hemisphere … It all began while at Sea. I was a cadet in the British Merchant Navy, and the ship was firmly rolling. The map however on the bulkhead remained stationary. I wondered what had not been done. The Americas had not been covered end to end. Therefore I resolved to have a go, but on foot.
The story begins in South America and at the most southerly community on Earth. Whilst under a dripping bush kissing - “Yoshiko, a man has a gun at your head!!” Not at all flustered, she stood up, bowed, and spoke in Japanese. The gunman ran off. Sometime later, a posse on horseback happened by, hunting an escaped prisoner from Ushuaia. I thought ‘… only a few hundred yards into South America and already an adventure!’
By summer, we were over 3,000-miles to the North, in the city of Mendoza. According to Dr. Oginogo’s test, Yoshiko was pregnant … and so we sorted about for someone to marry us. The wedding party itself was broken up by the Army - all steel helmets & sawn-off shotguns. They demanded to see the papers of our Argentine guest. They must carry internal passports. One of my friends was Juan, whose uncle was president of Argentina. He had long hair and was constantly being forced off buses by troops. That was until they found his identity.
Yoshiko would fly from San Juan airport, which was over a hundred miles further north. We agreed to meet up again in Panama. That is if I could survive…? So, I made up the distance and was accompanied by Herman. He, too, was taken off buses because he had the only beard I ever saw in Argentina. This was the last time I traveled with anybody in this large country, which took 13-months to cross. After Herman, in Colombia, I was joined by a street urchin in the gushing rain. We walked together for a few miles, and he imagined he was the son of an ambassador!
As I got more North and into the Peru I would sleep on the steps of churches and failing that even prison. There, they might drag out a couple of planks/ bricks to lift me off the free-flowing urine. I asked one prisoner why he was inside? “Assassin” he told me!
In Costa Rica, I was invited to a bed for the night by a bald man. I had not entirely covered my target distance and so must decline. I continued on a bit and had a rough night in my tent because I was parked on an ants’ nest. Under the light of a candle, I could see the ants lined up along my thigh. They were up on forepaws preparing to bite. So, I spoke to them -- of course in English! “You stay down at the bottom of the groundsheet. IT WORKED! In the morning, I found a snake sleeping inside my sombrero. And sadly learnt that the kindly bald man had been murdered during the night.
Any film of these adventures is inspirational. It also has a covert of being true, every blessed inch of it. You do not know, but irrespective of a mass of world records, I was unfit. I had the worst skin in my community, which within hours turns into terrible, bloody shoulders. So, I decided on a new tack: I asked for a small cart to be built by the Brigham and Cowan shipyard workers of South Shields.
Too many to mention here – every day on the road was an adventure, and I was living my dream. These daily adventures are all in the book The Longest Walk. Now, what I ask is you can be better in LIFE?!