LONDON – He was hit by a car in America, attacked by a crocodile in Australia, detained as a suspected spy in Egypt and had his boat capsize in the Atlantic. On Saturday British adventurer Jason Lewis finally came home, completing a 13-year, 46,000-mile (74,000-kilometer) human-powered circumnavigation of the globe.
The 40-year-old carried his 26-foot (8-meter) yellow pedal craft the last few miles up the Thames, pushing it across the Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich where his expedition began in 1994.
"I'm overwhelmed, I'm overwhelmed," Lewis told Sky News television just after stepping across the meridian. He struggled for words as he described his feelings at the close of his odyssey, which brought him around the world, powered only by his arms and legs.
"It's been my life, for 13 years, I've put everything into this," he said. "To be honest I didn't know it was going to happen. There were many times in the trip where it should have failed."
Lewis set off with partner Steve Smith in July of 1994, crossing the Channel in a pedal boat, and biking to Portugal. From there he made his way across the Atlantic, a 111-day journey to Miami that included close encounters with a trawler, a whale, and a Cuban gunboat. Smith was even swept overboard when the boat capsized.
By that time the relationship between the two adventurers had begun to deteriorate, and Smith and Lewis crossed the U.S. separately, with Lewis strapping on his roller skates for the 3,500-mile (5,600-kilometer) trip to San Francisco. It was on this leg of the journey that he was hit by a car.
Months later Smith and Lewis pedaled from San Francisco to Hawaii, where the two split for good. Lewis continued on to Australia, and was saved from hitting the Barrier Reef by a local boat, which towed him ashore. In May 2005, Lewis returned to kayak the length of the 30-mile (50-kilometer) tow — so as to ensure the trip was completely human powered — and was attacked by a crocodile, which bit off a piece of his paddle.
Making his way by pedal boat, kayak and bike, Lewis crossed Australia and navigated the Indonesian archipelago to arrive in Singapore. He crossed Asia by bike, reaching Mumbia, India, in March.
He then pedaled to Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, hitting a sunken wreck on the way. Three months later he was questioned as a suspected spy after entering Egyptian territory without permission. He was eventually released, and powered his way across Europe, arriving in Greenwich, in southeast London, to cheers from family, supporters and the Duke of Gloucester, the expedition's British patron.
The trip was meant to help raise funds for humanitarian causes and draw attention to environmental causes, according to Lewis's Expedition 360 Web site. Lewis said some of his other, original motivations had changed.
"Instead of running away from England (as I think I was at the beginning) it is now more a question of riding forward on the back of ideas that I feel passionately about," he wrote on the site.