THE odometer on his two-wheeled cart reads 13,861 kilometers, the distance Jürgen Berger has walked from Alaska to Costa Rica.
If he reaches the end of his journey, Tierra del Fuego in the southern tip of South America, he will have set a new Guinness Book world record for the longest walk uninterrupted by crossing water.
The road along the Pacific coast has taken him through the extremes of climates, but most of the danger has been the threat of careless drivers, he said.
Oh, and a snake that slipped inside his tent one night, he added.
BERGER arrived in Costa Rica in December of last year and re-outfitted here through his sponsors – friends and businesses in his home country of Germany. He and his dog Tok continued the trek southward this week.
During the weeks he was here, he swapped out his cart for a backpack and downsized his tent to something lighter and more manageable.
A sponsoring company in Germany is making a smaller, lighter cart for him that he should be able to pick up in Ecuador, he told The Tico Times.
He began the walk with a friend, Thomas Stenzel, who returned to Germany in September of last year from Mexico.
“NOBODY is crazy enough to go with me,” Berger said.
He trained for the trip in his hometown Freitel with first-aid and selfdefense courses, swimming or jogging one to two hours daily, and hiking up mountains with packs filled with stones or anything he could find that was heavy, he said. He also follows a vitamin regimen designed to prevent progressive damage to his joints.
To document the journey for family, sponsors, friends back home and people he meets on the road, he took a course in digital photography.
Highlights of his trip are on the web in English and German at www.projekt-horizont.de.
TO help gain credibility with business sponsors, he met with the Vice-President of the state of Saxony, Andrea Dombois, who gave the endeavor her thumbs up and signed on as a sponsor.
He also met Saxony’s Head of State Kurt Biedenkopf and the medallists of the 2000 Olympic Games.
He said there are “a thousand” reasons he is undertaking the journey of an estimated 33,000 kilometers.
“IT’S a great adventure. I would like to see how life is in (the Americas), and you can only do that when you walk and are with the people. You get really close to everything, to the different cultures,” he explained.
He did not speak English well when he started walking in May 2001. Now he speaks that language well and is tackling Spanish, speaking with people he meets on the road.
“That has been the hardest part, not understanding people,” he said. “It’s going slow, but every day it’s getting better.”
To help answer people’s questions, he passes out a flyer in Spanish, a professionally published leaflet in eight parts and two colors that explains his walk with words and photos and shares his contact information.
NOW that he has traded in his cart for a pack, he will have to trust the road signs to calculate the distance he walks.
He said he walks an average of 30 to 35 kilometers per day and would like to finish the trip in 2005.
“Thank you to all the people in Costa Rica. Thanks for your help. It is a great country,” he said before leaving.
He said he welcomes comments and assistance, and checks his e-mail on the road: firstname.lastname@example.org.