Record walker strides into class
World trip: Man tells how he became the first to circle the Earth on foot
By Rex Waggoner
Ventura County Star writer
Friday January 14, 2000
The world according to Dave Kunst captured the active imaginations of
students at Camarillo's Carden School on Tuesday. With theatrical
enthusiasm, the 60-year-old stood before a map of the world talking
about his modern day odyssey in the early 1970s.
"I was the first man to walk the world on foot," he told the enthralled
youngsters. His feat is featured in the 1991 Guinness Book of Records,
Ripley's Believe It or Not and the 1997 Guinness Book of Record Breakers.
"Why did you want to walk around the world?" asked Jeremiah Maxel, 10.
"Because I had two good legs, and it was something I could afford to do,"
answered the Earth-walker, who now lives on Balboa Island in Orange
"I also wanted to prove that if you set a goal for yourself and have
determination and motivation, there isn't anything you can't do. And that's
the message I want to give to all of you today."
Kunst condensed his adventures -- which took four years, three months
and 16 days -- into 30 minutes.
"I was a 30-year-old engineer surveyor when my brother, John, and our
pack mule, Willie Make It, left Waseca, Minn., without much money on
June 20, 1970," he began. "Most of the people we talked to along the way
thought we were crazy."
He told of being fed and housed by locals and visiting with Princess Grace
in Monaco, of being the first non-Asians to walk through the Khyber Pass
since Alexander the Great, and of a robbery and the murder of his brother in
Afghanistan by bandits. "I was badly wounded by the bandits and spent 20
days in a hospital," said Kunst. "I was devastated psychologically and
returned to the states for four months.
"My brother once told me that if he died while walking around the world,
'You tell mom and dad I died happy.' I knew I had to continue the walk, so
I returned to Afghanistan and picked up my journey from there."
In Australia, his replacement mule Will Willie Make It II died of a heart
attack. Providentially, a passing schoolteacher, Jennie Samuel, offered to
tow Kunst's small supply wagon (picked up in Turkey) behind her car. She
drove more than 1,000 miles in first gear as he walked beside the car. Love
blossomed and they later married, he said.
Armed with a lengthy scroll bearing the signature and stamp of every mayor
and every city in which he spent the night, Kunst returned to his hometown
on Oct. 5, 1974.
"My biggest discovery was that the world is very small if one man can walk
all the way around it," said Kunst, who wore out 21 pairs of shoes walking
14,450 miles crossing four continents and 13 countries. "I took 20 million
steps," he told his impressed audience.
He was able to rest his feet when he bridged the oceans by air. "I can't walk
on water," he said with a laugh.
After the presentation, which included a graphic description of some of the
more exotic foods he had eaten, Kasi Nelson, 8, asked with her face scrunched
up, "Did you really eat eyeballs from sheep?" "Yes," he said. "What did they
taste like?" she continued. "I don't know," he answered. "Iswallowed them
whole, and I didn't think about it." Marissa Fuentes, 7, said she wouldn't like
to follow in his footsteps around the world, "but I would like to learn Spanish,
and you made me think I can do it."
Kunst smiled at her and said, "Yes, you can. Just make up your mind to do it
and put your best foot forward."
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