July 19, 2004
|Wednesday, June 02, 2004|
birthplace to be recognized
By Jan Lee
David Kunst is the first person to walk around
the world, an adventure that took four years, three months and 16
days. He wore out 21 pairs of shoes while walking a total of 14,450
miles across four continents and 13 countries.
Dave and Pete Kunst walking through
Islamabad, Pakistan, in 1973 with National assembly Building
David and his
brother, John, started the journey. Twenty-eight months into the
walk, John was killed by bandits in Afghanistan and David was
wounded. After David’s recovery, another brother, Peter, joined him
on the walk for one year. David completed the remainder of the
The brothers, sons of Al and Augusta Onstad
Kunst, were all born in Caledonia. Their great-grandparents, Leonard
and Katherine Hill, owned a hotel with a restaurant in Caledonia.
Their grandparents, Frank and Eva Kunst, owned a harness
shop that later became a shoe store, and Otto and Belle Onstad owned
the Onstad Dairy in Spring Grove.
Their father worked for
the H.P. Nelson Lumber Company. Their mother and her friend, Mrs.
Gene Schiltz, delivered Onstad milk in Caledonia for two years.
The Kunst family moved to Waseca, Minn., in the
"Honoring the Kunsts was my idea," Irma Klug of
Caledonia stated. "I knew the parents. Augusta delivered milk to our
house. She was our milkmaid."
A sign is being been placed in
Caledonia’s North Park (North Kingston Street) to recognize the
Kunsts’ connection to Caledonia’s history.
Sawyer Sign Co. of
Dresbach, Minn., made the sign, which will be unveiled on Friday,
June 11, at 5:30 p.m. at North Park, as part of Caledonia’s
At 6:30 p.m., David and Peter
will be in the lobby of the new Caledonia Middle-High School to sign
their books. The daily journal David kept during the walk was made
into a book, "The Man Who Walked Around the World." Peter wrote
"Steps of Adventure" in 1981.
Also, Caledonia artist Jeannie
Barber has painted a mural that has been mounted on the west side of
the Hodges Fitness Center building on East Main Street. The mural
depicts the Kunst brothers with their mule and cart.
Saturday, Peter and David and other family members plan to walk with
a mule and cart in the Sesquicentennial Grand Parade beginning at 1
p.m. and moving from Main Street to the Fairgrounds.
Caledonia Performing Arts Council has assisted, and the Caledonia
Chamber has been good to back it," Klug said about the Kunst
projects and activities.
The seeds to
attempt the historical walk adventure were planted during David’s
One summer day when he was about 9 years old, he
talked two of his neighborhood friends into going with him to see
his Grandma Belle in Spring Grove.
They set out walking
across country trying to follow the highway toward Spring Grove.
They made it about seven miles, when his mother showed up on the
highway. She had spotted them out in a pasture and hollered for them
to get into the car. It was a walking adventure that he never
When he is asked if there was ever anything in his
background that instilled in him the desire to walk around the
world, he tells the story of walking to his
David wrote many letters to
shoe and clothing companies, but was unsuccessful in obtaining
He was given the go ahead to walk for UNICEF
(United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund), which aids
children in more than 100 countries by helping to solve problems of
health, hunger and education.
Because of the danger of
theft, he did not collect money during his walk, but contributors
gave directly to UNICEF.
With a letter from Senator Hubert H.
Humphrey, $1,000, and no experience as world travelers, he and his
brother, John, set out on foot from Waseca on June 20,
While walking east across the United States, a pack
mule named Willie Makeit carried the brother’s five sets each of
wash ‘n wear clothes, their water, sleeping gear, etc.
document their walk, they carried a plastic scroll, which they had
stamped and signed by the mayor, an official or the people they
stayed the night with. People were for the most part hospitable by
providing food and lodging at many of the stops.
recalled getting a police escort through LaCrosse. It was so hot the
squad cars were heating up and the police officers asked, "Can you
walk any faster?"
Before leaving New York City, they touched
the Atlantic Ocean and then flew across the ocean to New Lisbon,
Portugal. Willie Makeit II, an Army mule, and a dog named Drifter
were purchased to continue the trek.
It was very special
meeting Princess Grace of Monaco, and Italy was the country they and
the mule had the most fun in, David noted.
was a culture shock. They had to purchase a Turkish wagon and
covered it with "American" canvas. Since they would be crossing hot
desert country, the water supply carried in the wagon was most
Temperatures reached 125 degrees while crossing
the deserts in Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan. Their travel speeds
went up to 30 miles per day, at 3 miles per hour.
miles outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, six bandits came to their camp
at 10 p.m. the night of Oct. 21, 1972.
John was shot to
death and Dave was wounded by a bullet in the chest. He played dead
until someone found him the next day and took him to an American
dispensary hospital in Kabul, where he stayed 20 days.
took a four-month break from the walk and came back to the United
States to recuperate and spend time with his family.
With help from the American Embassy, David
made arrangements to return to the location where John was killed.
This time, he was joined by another brother Peter, who took
time off from his employment to walk part of the way with
The pair continued across Pakistan, where a Pakistani
tribal prince provided an escort through the Khyber Pass, then they
continued on to Calcutta, India.
David touched the Indian
Ocean and flew to Perth on the western coast of Australia. They had
to leave their mule and dog in India because they couldn’t take them
Two-thirds of Australia is desert and they
were there during the fly season. In addition to coping with the
abundance of thirsty flies, which were trying to get moisture from
their nose, mouth and eyes, they had to traverse 250 miles of the
worst road in the world.
The dirt road was very bumpy,
shaking their wagon until it broke down. They were grateful to some
aborigine people who repaired the wagon so they could continue
Willie Makeit II died of a heart attack and in this sheep
country, there weren’t any mules, so they continued on.
headed home, so now Dave was on his own. One day near Sydney, an
Australian school teacher named Jenni Samuel came driving by in her
small model white car. She offered to help.
They hooked the
wagon to the car and she drove four miles per hour, pulling the
wagon, while Dave walked along. They had to stop several times to
let the over-heated engine cool down.
Dave touched the
Pacific Ocean and flew to Los Angeles, continuing his walk from
In Colorado, David had to get special permission to
go through the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel of the Rocky Mountains
since no one had ever been allowed to walk it before. This 1.7 mile
long stretch west of Denver is the highest motor-traffic tunnel in
On Oct. 5, 1974, the walk ended when David reached
his home at Waseca.
"You learn to be a survivor," David
stated. "There’s two reasons I didn’t die – I’m too stubborn and I
was in great shape."
"The greatest danger was traffic, and
the number one problem was the language barrier."
they stand all that walking? Walking 15 miles every day produced
sore leg muscles and blisters and calluses on his feet. Sooner or
later he knew they’d get toughened up.
Food was not a problem
along the walk as they carried a lot of foodstuffs and water on
their pack mule. Also, people were hospitable to their needs along
Only once they got sick with dysentery. From
European Turkey to Asian Turkey, they drank some water from a water
bag made of goat skin. "We were sick for 10 days, but we kept
going." While going through the desert, there was a period of 22
days that he hadn’t taken a shower.
The time David was the
most scared was one night in Turkey when they saw dark shadows and
dogs were barking. "We slept with two knives – a knife in each
David admitted they were naïve. Some of the newspaper
pictures of them with their mule were embarrassing. But in the long
run, "publicity was very important to help us make the
David’s photo has appeared in the Guinness Book of
World Records, and his walk earned a spot on Ripley’s Believe It or
The daily journal he kept, which got to be over 30 feet
long, was made into a book, "The Man Who Walked Around the World,"
co-authored by Clinton Trowbridge. The walk is recorded with the
Minnesota Historical Society. Peter also wrote a book "Steps of
David was honored as a Community Hero and was
given the opportunity to carry the torch for the 1996
For David, the walk around the world was an
adventure into new territory, and, that Australian schoolteacher who
helped him across Australia, has since become his
to search results....
Posted: Thursday, June 03,
Article comment by:
Dave & Pete
are great friends. I knew them well when they were in Perth,
Western Australia. They did a grand job and are wonderful
ambassadors for their country. Well done, Dave and Pete! Best
wishes to Al and Augusta,