Record-setting adventurer back in Switzerland
The Swiss-based explorer, Mike Horn, has arrived back in Switzerland to a hero's welcome after becoming the first person to circumnavigate the globe along the equator without using any means of motorised transport.
Dozens of well-wishers from his home region of the Pays-d'Enhaut rang traditional Swiss cow bells on Thursday to greet the South African-born adventurer at Geneva airport.
"I can't believe I'm back on home soil," Horn told swissinfo as he passed through customs.
He said if he was asked to make the trek again, he would probably say no: "If anyone told me he was thinking of doing it, I'd tell him he was really stupid."
Horn took 17 months to walk, sail, cycle and paddle his way around the world. On his quest, he never strayed more than 40 kilometres from the equator. He survived tropical storms, deadly animals, stolen equipment, imprisonment and even the threat of execution.
He set out from the West African state of Gabon on June 2, 1999 and arrived back where he started last Friday. In between, he crossed three oceans, tropical rainforests, snow-covered mountains, volcanoes and swamps.
His 40,000-kilometre journey, which he called "Latitude Zero", took him across the Atlantic in his trimaran to Brazil, up the Amazon and over the Andes into Colombia and Ecuador. He then crossed the Pacific to the islands of Indonesia, from where he sailed over the Indian Ocean to Africa.
"They say the world is round, but towards the end I didn't believe it. It seemed like it would never end," Horn told reporters after his homecoming.
As well as the physical effort, Horn had the added psychological worry of having to find food and of not knowing where he was going to sleep each night.
"I had quite a few bad days," he said. "But I didn't have a problem with motivation. Every step I took was a step closer to my goal," said Horn, who saw in the new millennium alone in the middle of the Pacific.
His most trying time came in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo where he was captured by rebels and imprisoned for four days, and told was going to be executed. He was saved by the intervention of Ugandan soldiers.
Elsewhere, his trimaran was badly damaged in a storm in the Indian Ocean and he was attacked by ants in the Amazon.
"It was all part of the expedition. But God looked after me," he said. "For about a month and half in Africa, I went as fast as I could, just to save my skin."
Horn, a hydrospeed, canyoning and skiing instructor, lives near the alpine resort of Chateau d'Oex with his wife, Cathy and their two daughters.
Their emotional reunion came last Friday, when Horn arrived near the Gabonese capital, Libreville, to complete his odyssey.
"The thing this trip has taught me is that I still have a lot to learn. But with the willpower and manpower, you can achieve anything," Horn says.
And his next challenge? "To try to spend some time at home. Then I'll be going to Siberia, if my wife will let me."
By Roy Probert
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