By Lisa Rosetta Staff Writer
Forrest Gump may have jogged across the country, but 55-year-old Dave Kunst of Newport Beach, Calif. has walked around the world.
He spent more than four years of his life traveling 14,450 miles across 13 countries on four continents, and wearing out 21 pairs of shoes along the way. Kunst is in the Guinness Book of Records as the first verified person to walk around the world.
"There isn't anything that you can't do," he said. "Look what human beings can do if they make up their minds. They can walk around the world."
Kunst, decked out in a blazer with a map of the world on it and a rugged Indiana Jones hat, recounted his exploration of the land masses spread across his chest for a CU audience on Nov. 6.
It only took Kunst about an hour to recap four years of stories, including tales of murder, marriage, royalty and robbery.
His journey began on June 20, 1970, when he and his brother John left Waseca, Minn., for the New York Harbor with $1,500, some maps and a mule named "Willie Make-It."
"Most people thought we were crazy," Kunst said. "They didn't think we could make it."
But the brothers did make it to New York, acquiring media attention and calluses on their feet along the way. With a new mule and great determination, the brothers crossed the Atlantic in a boat and began their overseas travel.
Kunst noticed many differences from America.
"Most people didn't have washing machines," he said. "If you wanted clean clothes, you had to go down to the river and wash and scrub them, then hang them on trees to dry. It just goes to show how lucky we are. We have everything -- choices, choices, choices."
The brothers continued on through Spain, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Iran. In France, Kunst dined with a peasant family who recognized him from a picture in the local newspaper. He ate French bread, cheese, marmalade and coffee.
The two brothers also met Princess Grace of Monaco.
"She was charming. She was beautiful. She was special," Kunst said. "She said, 'You know, I've met lots of people before, but I've never met two men with a mule.'"
The princess accepted a gift of a lucky mule shoe. She wrote to Kunst after he completed his global trip.
In Afghanistan, most of the people lived in straw huts and had no electricity, toilets, showers or clean water. Kunst said the only place he could find safe drinking water was at the American Embassy. Even worse than the intense heat and lack of cool water, though, was the imminent danger of bandits. One man warned Kunst, "Make no mistake -- people will kill you for your possessions."
This warning became a reality to Kunst when six bandits attacked him and his brother on a remote roadside in Afghanistan. The bandits shot Kunst in the chest and his brother John in the heart, killing him instantly. The bandits took off with cameras, tape recorders and $25.
"I had never been so sad in my entire life," Kunst said. "I went into shock."
After spending several months in the United States recovering, Kunst returned to the same spot where he had left off and continued on to Pakistan with his other brother, Pete.
"While I was in the hospital, I remembered something my brother John told me once, and it made me feel much better, because I felt the same way. He said, 'Dave, I want this walk. If I die while walking around the world, you tell mom and dad that I died happy,'" Kunst said.
The brothers walked through the Kyber Pass in Pakistan, and, according to one of the newspapers there, they were the first foreigners to walk through the pass since Alexander the Great.
The brothers continued on through India, and then traveled across the Indian Ocean to Australia. Halfway through Australia, Pete had to return to his job in the US, and the mule "Willie Make-It II" had a heart attack and died.
Kunst was about to leave behind a cart he had picked up in Turkey, the "The USA Turk Machine," when an Australian school teacher, Jenni Samuel, offered to tow the cart behind her car. Kunst walked 1,000 miles to Sydney while Samuel drove beside him. By the time they had completed their transcontinental trek, they were in love. They are now married.
Kunst left Australia, returned to the US and completed his journey across the western part of the US. On Oct. 5, 1974, Kunst walked back into Waseca, raised his hat, stomped his foot, and became the first man ever to walk around the world.
"There isn't anything that you can't do if you make up your mind, set
your goal and put your best foot forward," he said.