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Published - Saturday, June 12, 2004

Record-setting world walkers honored in their hometown

CALEDONIA, Minn. Not only were the Kunst brothers born here, but so was the wanderlust that sparked them to walk around the world.
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On Friday, a sign and a plaque commemorating the brothers' record-setting earth walk were unveiled at Caledonia North Park.

On June 20, 1970, David, his brother, John, and a mule named Willie Makeit set out from Waseca, Minn.

Two years later and half a world away, John was killed and David was wounded by Afghan bandits.

After recovering from his injuries, David once again set out, this time with his other brother, Peter, from the site John was killed.

A year later, Peter had to return home and David completed the last leg of the journey alone, walking into Waseca on Oct. 5, 1974.

"My mom had an adventurous spirit, and she instilled that in me during my Caledonia years," said David Kunst, back in his hometown for the unveiling ceremony.

The idea of walking around the world came from his best friend, David Kunst said.
EarthWalkers Peter Kunst, left, and David Kunst stand beside a sign recognising their feat of walking around the world after unveiling it Friday at North Park in Caledonia, Minn. PETER THOMSON photo
"We were trying to think of things to do that hadn't been done, and it seemed every one that I came up with, he told me it had been done already," David Kunst said.

When his buddy suggested walking around the world, Kunst said he just laughed.

"How could you do that without getting your feet wet," he said he asked his friend, reminding him of the world's oceans.

Turns out, his buddy had it all mapped out, and that's when 30-year-old David Kunst decided to take up the challenge.

"My buddy, he was the ideas guy, I was the adventurous one," David said, when asked why he ended up walking with his brothers and not his buddy.

"Looking back, I'd have to say that John and I were terribly naive," he said. "We were just going to grab our backpacks and start walking."

Then, someone asked how they were going to carry all the supplies they'd need for the walk, like food and water.

Hence, the mules, of which there were four over the duration of the walk.

David and John traveled as ambassadors for UNICEF, but somehow, erroneous reports got out that the brothers were collecting money for the organization.

That could be the reason why they were attacked by bandits in Afghanistan, David Kunst said.

Despite John's tragic death and a four-month recovery from his wounds, David was determined to complete what they had set out to do.

David and brother Peter resumed the walk.

Peter said one of his most vivid memories of the walk was crossing the Khyber Pass on the northern frontier of Pakistan.

"We traveled with a prince who guaranteed our safety," Peter Kunst said. "We could watch the tribesmen changing guard every mile or so on our route."

Peter had to leave David in Australia after traveling with him for a year because the leave of absence he had taken from his job was up.

"It was hard to leave him," Peter Kunst said.

David did just fine alone in Australia, though, meeting the woman on his walk through that country that would eventually become his wife.

When David Kunst walked into Waseca from the west, he had taken more than 21 million steps, 14,450 miles and crossed 13 countries, four continents and wore out 21 pairs of shoes.

David Kunst is the first person verified to have circled the landmass of the earth, and that feat landed him in the Guinness Book of Records and Ripley's Believe It or Not.

"Never let someone tell you that you can't do something you've set your mind to," David Kunst said of the culmination of his own dream.

"Everyone has something inside them that they want to do, and it's different for different people," he added. "If you have passion and determination, you can do anything."

When asked what got them through the hard times on walk and if they ever thought about giving it up, Peter said it was simply a matter of persistence.

"We're both stubborn cusses," he chuckled.

For more information about the Kunst brothers walk, check out the Website http://home.earthlink.net/~earthwalker1.

Linda McAlpine can be reached at (608) 791-8220 or lmcalpine@lacrossetribune.com.

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