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Saturday 13 October 2018

George Meegan - 19 000 miles

From 1983
On Sept. 18 George Meegan walked down a lonely gravel road on the Alaskan tundra. Pulling a little cart behind him, he stepped forward to the water’s edge and let his boots touch the ripples of Prudhoe Bay. Then he began to cry. “I’ve just lost my best friend,” he said. “I’ve run out of road.”
With those words, Meegan, 30, ended the longest continuous walk on record—19,019 miles, from Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America. He marked the completion of the six-year, eight-month trek by planting 18 flags: one for each of the 14 countries he had traversed; three for his family; and a Union Jack for his native England. Why did he walk? “Britain has a history of lone people doing these things,” he explained. “But this journey is not just for Britain. It’s for the people of all these nations. I want them to know I’ve never forgotten them. I’ve met desperate people whose only horizons are prison walls,” adds Meegan, who himself was briefly jailed for vagrancy in Argentina. “I hope my trip reminds them that freedom exists.”
Meegan took the first of his estimated 31 million steps on Jan. 26, 1977 when he set off from Ushuaia, Argentina—the southernmost community on earth, except for Antarctic scientific stations. He was accompanied by a woman friend, Yoshiko Matsumoto, then 26, whom he had met in 1975 while traveling in Japan. Their destination was Point Barrow, the northernmost point of land in Alaska. (Last July Meegan recharted his course to Prudhoe Bay when weather experts informed him that the tundra to Point Barrow would be mushy and too difficult to cross.) The pair, who at first could only communicate by means of a Japanese-English dictionary, fell in love and were married in September 1977 in a police station in Mendoza, Argentina. Yoshiko, who couldn’t keep up with Meegan’s 25-mile-a-day pace, began hitchhiking ahead and waiting for him in a tent at night. “Looking for that tent at night kept me going,” recalls Meegan. “We’d flash tiny flashlights at each other over the distance. We had a happy reunion every night.”
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