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Backpacker Magazine – September 2012

The Long Way Home

When Karl Bushby set out to hike 36,000 miles across four continents, he vowed he would only return to his native England on foot. Which could be a real problem if he ever wants to get there.

by: Bill Donahue


“I’m 42 years old and I’m broke and I’m homeless,” Karl Bushby lamented as he trudged along through the coarse brown sand of a beach in Melaque, Mexico, where I caught up with him last year. “I’m a professional parasite. I’m a professional hobo. I’m sleeping on other people’s couches. I’m 42 years old, and I have to walk other people’s dogs, just so they’ll feed me. My job is picking up dog shit!”

Bushby paused now, and when I looked over at him he was faintly smirking, charmed by the dolefulness he exuded as we made our way through the twilight toward the tiny village on Mexico’s west coast. There was a sparkle in his blue eyes, but a fleeting one. Since late 2008, mostly living in Melaque (pronounced muh-lah-kay, population 8,000), Bushby had been undernourished, subsisting on less than 2,000 calories a day as he cadged lodgings from friends and did them occasional favors in return. His skin was pallid, as though he were back home in the north of England, where his mother still works in a confectionery factory, and his movements were restrained—sluggish, even. “I’ve shut down the extremities. These days I’m just preserving my core,” he said. His tone was at once morose and faux dramatic. “I’m at the mercy of other people’s kindness. I’m a nobody. But in a matter of months, of course, I could be conquering the world.”

Well, not exactly conquering the world, but slowly plying his way across it. From 1998 to 2006, Bushby averaged about 2,000 miles a year. Not noteworthy by thru-hiker standards, but no one will question the pace if he completes the journey. The unprecedented length, along with potentially deadly obstacles like the Bering Strait’s shifting ice, make it a hike no one will likely ever repeat.

The expedition began, he said, as a bad bet. “I had something to prove to my paratrooper mates.” He also had something to run from—in 1998, he was still embroiled in the aftermath of a nasty divorce. He flew to Punta Arenas, Chile, with $800 and a wheeled cart full of gear.

Strangers fed and sheltered him. He scored a few meager sponsorships, and he just kept plodding along. Bushby walked up South America’s Pacific coast, battling wind in Patagonia and long waterless stretches in Chile’s northern deserts. He crossed Central America’s Darien Gap, a guerilla-ridden jungle region where he backpacked into a no-man’s land against the advice of the Colombian military. He walked through sizzling heat in the Southwestern U.S. and numbing cold in Canada and Alaska. Then, famously, he crossed the ice to Russia in 2006. And then, not so famously, he retreated (by plane) to this beach town in Mexico, where he could look for sponsors—film producers were nibbling—as he conserved funds. The unemployed Bushby had a grand total of $700 in his bank account when I visited him and he couldn’t even access that money, having lost his bankcard. The replacement was still en route. As we walked through the sand, Bushby cracked open his wallet to reveal a single 20 peso bill, worth about $1.70. “That’s it,” he said. “That’s all I have at the moment.”


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Star Star Star Star Star
http://www.onlinegmsale.com
Mar 31, 2014

because sooner or later escapees usually called on their families for help. Blue had only been home for a moment when the phone rang again. He agreed to meet the FBI agent on the other end of the line the next day.
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A few minutes later, a dozen armed officers burst into the apartment. They seized Blue, patted him down, handcuffed him, and placed him under arrest on charges of aiding and abetting his son's escape.

Star Star Star Star Star
Jesse
Nov 29, 2013

Regarding the child, you shouldnt speak with half the story. I too am a father who has a child that is 5, unfortunately the mother involved is another story altogether. Dont be so to quick to judge the man, and perhaps the pain is so immense its lead to this. There is a reason i too am looking at this article. Abandoned, or has no idea wtf he is?

Star Star Star Star Star
Trekking in Nepal
Mar 01, 2013

Acute Trek Pvt Ltd http://www.trekshimalaya.com an indoor outdoor trekking and tours operative takes you that further way to guarantee you has an unforgettable http://www.adventurestrekking.com adventure that you have been dream of. Whether you are looking for a quiet gateway, a memorable http://www.hikingsinnepal.blogspot.com outing with a family or an exciting nature adventure. We offer you with the best progressive information and itinerary leading focused and modified as per your requirements. Acute trek is an attempt to encourage Nepal to the exterior world while striving to defend an aged tradition as well as conserve the surroundings for generation to come.

Mr
Oct 09, 2012

Having grown up without a dad I agree with what others are saying but I would still like to donate to this guy.

Russ
Oct 05, 2012

I agree. No success can compensate for abandoning a child. If he hadn't done so, his story would be one of awesome discovery. As it is, it seems more like yet another father indulging his selfish desires at the expense of his child(ren).

Rebecca
Oct 05, 2012

I think I agree with MDP. Sounds more delusional and irresponsible than glorious and adventurous at this point. I was okay right up until the article mentioned the son abandoned at age 8.

coco
Oct 04, 2012

Lijiang is located in the upper reaches of the Jinsha River, has a long history, beautiful scenery, majestic natural environment, the descendants of the ancient Qiang, Naxi hometown.
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Old Town of Lijiang 2,400 meters above sea level, is the center of the city of Lijiang Naxi Autonomous County, is one of the historical and cultural city, is a national key scenic spots.
     Here is located in Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibetan roads, ancient times, frequent business travel activities, prompting locals flourishing population, and soon became famous bazaar and town. Generally believed Lijiang city began in the early Song Dynasty.,i hope you will like it!
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dave
Oct 04, 2012

Odd fellow. Not sure if I like or dislike him. But the story did carry me to the end. On such stories how about initiating a way for us "for now" adventurs a way to send a few bucks? Pay Pal has opened up this opportunity. $20 or $100 sent to people out there doing something!

MDP
Oct 04, 2012

Abandoning his son is a selfish, unforgivable act. I would love to go wander the world. Hell I'd love to go thru-hike the AT or the PCT, and I will, when my kids are grown.

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