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North Korea a hurdle for Kiwi pair


North Korea a hurdle for Kiwi pair on intrepid All Nations Quest trek

By Kip Brook

Two New Zealanders who set out to visit all 193 nations in 160 days are expected to fall three countries short of their target but will still set a world record for a single journey.

Afghanistan and tiny African countries Sao Tome and Principe have defeated James Irving and his cousin John Bougen in their epic and sometimes perilous All Nations Quest attempt.

They are in Asia, yet to tackle North Korea, and have been on more than 200 flights having so far visited 168 countries in the last 140 days. But three countries have eluded them since they set out on August 28.

The Guinness Book of Records has told them no record exists of anyone visiting the most countries in a single journey.

They found it impossible getting into the two African nations and lost valuable days in their countless and desperate attempts.

``Afghanistan has also defeated us,’’ Bougen said today.

``There is only one airline flying in from anywhere vaguely close to Kabul and all flights were oversold and even if we managed to get on to one their hand written manifests were unable to advise whether the outgoing flights had any spare seats or indeed when they were going.

``There has to be an opportunity there for someone to set up an airline as the queue of people trying to get onto flights beggars belief.’’

To date the pair have travelled 206,702 km, used 89 different airlines, been on 209 flights, spent 343 hours in the air and waited 517 hours at airports and stations.

They still face a serious hurdle in entering North Korea in their epic and exhausting global quest.

Mounting tension in the area are doing John Bougen and his cousin James Irving no favours in their bid to enter every country in the world in record time.

``Our planned route is somewhat flush with US troops at the moment so other options are being evaluated,’’ Bougen said.

Irving and Bougen have entered the home stretch of their record-breaking adventure.

They began their perilous journey in some of the most tense security times the world has ever seen more than five months ago in an attempt to visit all 193 countries in the world.

Bougen said they had completed their Middle East leg of the journey, partly thanks to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff.

``His letter of support which was translated into six different languages has saved our bacon on a number of occasions, the last time being at the Bahrain / Saudi Arabian border,’’ Bougen said.

``Our Arabic extends to one word, so his validation of our efforts was essentially what opened the door to yet another entry into a nation.’’

He said the security in Kuwait was the most intensive they had found anywhere to date.

``No wonder, given the massing of US troops at every conceivable point in the region and they still had a very strong memory of what happened here just on a decade ago.’’

Meanwhile, Bougen and Irving have been through every continent in the world and are now ticking off Asia and the Pacific in the final four weeks.

They are having to spend at least a night or two on a number of infrequently visited Pacific island nations such as Koror in the Palau group of Islands and Majuro in the Marshall Islands.

``We hope that the likes of Cyclone Ami do not chose to revisit for the sake of all that live in the South Pacific and our itinerary which has been amended by the team at Flight Centre on at least 20 different occasions, as schedules change or are cancelled,’’ Bougen said.

At this stage it is unlikely that they will make it to all 193 nations in a single journey as it was impossible to enter two African countries -- Sao Tome and Principe.

The pair are supporting Save the Children charity as they travel more than 200,000km, spend 400 hours in the air and move in and out of 200 different airports.

Their trip is costing $nz350,000 which they are meeting themselves and through assistance and sponsorship from the Flight Centre, Zoom, Vodafone and Mike Henry Travel Insurance.

They are seeking to set a world record of entering 190 recognised nations in 160 days and are expected back in New Zealand in mid-February.

Mr Irving was born in Christchurch and his home is in Brisbane. Mr Bougen was born in Timaru but has spent most of his life in Auckland.


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