Page last updated at 11:43 GMT, Sunday, 7 October 2007 12:43 UK

Human power fuels 13-year odyssey

By Caroline Mallan
BBC News

After 13 years spent circumnavigating the globe under his own steam, British adventurer Jason Lewis pedalled his custom-designed boat back to Greenwich on Saturday.

Moksha pedal boat
The "Moksha" boat is Sanskrit for liberation (Photo: Expedition 360)

Jason Lewis does not have to scan his memory for long to come up with the low point in his epic voyage around the world.

"It's quite amusing in retrospect, of course," says the environmental adventurer. "I mean, what are the chances?"

Lewis broke both legs, narrowly avoided an amputation, spent six weeks in hospital and nine months in recovery before continuing his record-setting skate across America.

He endured all that after a freak road accident. He was run down by a drink driver while in-line skating along the side of a Colorado road.

"He was 82 and also had cataracts," he said of the driver responsible for his near fatal collision, just over a year into the journey.

It was a great time of evening and the white cliffs where like a beacon. It was a very symbolic way to reach English soil
Jason Lewis

More than 12 years and several near-misses after he set out, the eco-adventurer is to navigate his custom-designed pedal boat up the Thames on Saturday morning to end at the Meridian Line. It is where he first began his voyage at the age of 26.

Dark days en route

The former self-employed cleaner, who grew up in Dorset, cycled, swam, in-line skated, kayaked, walked or pedalled his boat over five continents, two oceans and one sea before tackling the treacherous English Channel last Sunday.

Now 40, Lewis says that while he had many dark days as he travelled the 46,505 miles (74,842km), he has no regrets at dedicating so much of his life to the voyage that aimed to raise awareness about the environment through an education programme for school children.

"Completing this was just one part of the motivation, as was the physical challenge," he says.

"They are not enough to keep you going, you need more and for me that was the education part of what we were doing."

That said, he does confess to the odd pang when he remembers that being a professional adventurer does not come with a pension scheme.

Jason Lewis skating
Jason Lewis in-line skated across America (Photo: Expedition 360)

The journey was interrupted for weeks at a time as Lewis and his team of supporters worked to raise money to continue. Odd jobs along the way included work on a cattle ranch in America and a funeral home in Australia.

The upside, he says, include countless memories of kind strangers who helped along the way.

Lewis singles out Christmas Day 1994 spent with the crew of an AT&T cable laying ship in the middle of the Atlantic.

"It was stationary and we were close by and pedalled up beside them and they invited us aboard for Christmas dinner."

Expedition 360's global route
1: Greenwich to Portuguese coast
2: Atlantic ocean to Florida
3: Miami to San Francisco
4: California to Hawaii
5: Hawaii to Australia via Solomon Islands
6: Australia to south-east Asia
7: Asia to India via China and Eastern Tibet
8: India to east Africa
9: Africa to Turkey
10: Turkey to France
11: France to Greenwich

Daunting crossing

Lewis says he was nervous about the final few days of the trip, especially crossing the Channel.

"It might just be 20 miles of water, but it's always been one of my worries because it's such a mercurial piece of water."

His first glimpse of Britain came on Sunday evening as he crossed the busy shipping lane and approached the cliffs of Dover.

"It was a great time of evening and the white cliffs were like a beacon. It was a very symbolic way to reach English soil."

Putting down roots

Lewis has only returned home once in 13 years to visit his ailing father.

Circumnavigation: What it takes
Start and finish at the same point
Travel in one general direction
Reach two antipodes (meaning places diametrically opposite each other on the globe)
Cross the equator
Cross all longitudes
Cover a minimum of 40,000 km

In addition to the education programme, Expedition 360, as Lewis' journey is known, raises funds for children's charities that have inspired him along the way, including an orphanage in East Timor and a home for the poor in Mumbai.

Lewis originally travelled with Steve Smith, a university friend who first came up with the idea. Smith left the journey in 1998 to write a book about the first stages while Lewis continued with the help of a string of volunteers who joined him for various legs.

Looking ahead, Lewis says he probably has a book in him and he relishes the chance to put down roots after so many years on the road.

"That's been the hardest part, always saying goodbye... the lack of community and people who know you for more than a few weeks."

Around the world in 13 years
03 Oct 07 |  In Pictures

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