Jason Lewis, the only man to circumvent the globe on human power lets us in on his 13-year journey
Jason Lewis embarked on adventures with his college mate Steve Smith to get away from books. They would board trains from King’s Cross Station, London and get off at random destinations. “We had no camping equipment or stored food and would sleep in stray barns along the way,” says Lewis of the experiences that gave them a sense of liberation. Post university, Lewis resigned himself to running a window cleaning business close to home. But after a call from fellow adventurer Smith in 1992, they decided to revisit those free wheeling college adventures on a much bigger scale – a circumnavigation of the Earth on human power alone. Chris Tipper helped build the pedal-boat that had to be strong enough to cross the largest water bodies. The boat, Moksha, and Lewis survived a 13-year journey together.
Crossing troubled seas
“We left from the Greenwich line in July, 1994 and pedaled across the Atlantic to America. We then crossed the continent on our own – Steve cycling, while I skated,” Lewis begins, describing how their boat capsized in the middle of the Atlantic, Lewis was hit on a highway, breaking both legs and recovering over a period of nine months. Once in Miami, Florida, 18 months after they began, Smith decided to head home and Lewis crossed the Pacific on his own. “It was sheer will power that got me to land (Australia),” Lewis says as he recalls being stuck in a cross current, pedaling in the same spot for two and half weeks.
Lewis survived broken limbs and blood poisoning and was crossing from the Great Barrier Reef to the Australian mainland on a kayak when he was chased, and almost killed, by a crocodile that “took an unhealthy interest in me and the kayak”. He then went on to bicycle across Australia and kayaked his way to Indonesia, Singapore, South Asia, China, and India up to Mumbai. After Mumbai, he pedaled down to Somalia, up the African continent through Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt. In the course of his journey, Lewis dodged sentry boxes in the Tibet region, was arrested and jailed by the Egyptian police before reaching the safety of the Mediterranean and kayaking his way up the Thames to the beginning. “I started out an amateur and returned a seasoned mariner who understood the liberation and loneliness of being nomadic,” says Lewis, who has written a book series (The Expedition Trilogy) and released a documentary film (The Expedition) on his journey apart from beginning new teaching curriculums in America and Australia that focus on teaching through adventure.
A journey shared
He is now the brand ambassador for a unique collaboration between Johnnie Walker and Dunhill linked by a limited edition trunk that epitomises a connection between all three parties. “Both Johnnie Walker and Dunhill began small but became iconic institutions over the course of a long journey,” explains Jonathan Driver, global brand ambassador for Johnnie Walker. “You will cope with anything that comes along once you have made it past the beginning. And that is what resonates between the Johnnie Walker Blue Label-Dunhill collaboration and me,” concludes Lewis.