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Kiwi duo tick off 110 countries in Quest

Kiwi duo tick off 110 countries in All Nations Quest _____________________________________________

By Kip Brook

Two New Zealanders trying to visit every country in the world in 160 days have so far found English a minority language on the globe.

Of the 110 nations John Bougen and James Irving have visited to date only 10 of those countries use English as the predominant language.

``In reality that should be nine because Barbados had a version that defied comprehension,’’ Bougen said.

``French is essential in North, West and Central Africa as Spanish as in South America, the Caribbean and Central America – neither of which we can speak.’’

The pair are trying to enter all 193 recognised countries on the globe in 160 days. To date they have entered 110 countries in 92 days and been on 131 flights and travelled almost 130,000 km.

They could not have undertaken their epic journey at a more perilous and terrorist-fraught time.

They have completed 57 percent of the 193 countries they need to visit and shortly leave Africa for the Middle East.

Despite upcoming concerns about their guaranteed safety, they have had some wonderful experiences on their tiring journey which so far has seen them wait the equivalent of 14 days in airports.

``The best food so far is the “captain” fish cooked virtually any way and served prodigiously through out West Africa,’’ Bougen said.

``The humble steak sandwich in Windhoek was also savoured as it was the first non-snack food that we had had in three days and certainly helped erase the memory of the sand filled waffle consumed in Kinshasa.’

They are down to two meals a day and nothing they have tasted to date compares to the New Zealand chardonnay which they pine for.

Their best customer service so far outside airports was a smiling tailor in a side street of Libreville, Gabon, who altered and repaired John Bougen’s shirts in an hour and only charged a few African francs for his trouble.

The best moments of their trip were in Kinshasa.

``The view we saw approaching the cities of Kinshasa and Brazzaville was stunning,’’ Bougen said.

``They were glistening in the late afternoon sun, with the mighty Congo narrowing between the two of them. And the sheer and utter relief of escaping the desperation and extortion of Kinshasa….and that was just the airport.’’

Breakfast at Victoria Falls beside the Zambezi, with the local wildlife parading by for their enjoyment was a sight they will always remember.

``It was like looking at a living zoo. Literally a Gerald Durrell moment….A monkey at my table.’’

Their most frightening moment was a taxi ride to Minsk Airport when their thuggish-looking driver and assistant took them into a forest track without explanation. They thought their days were ended but somehow survived.

Any time spent in a West African Airline Office has been the most frustrating time spent.

``Also trying to find out what the soup of the day was in the French speaking city of Libreville was difficult. `What is the soup de jour?.....It is the soup of the day sir.’

“The pair will spend Christmas with their wives in Dubai. Their more immediate worries are the fall out of the Mombassa bombing and missiles launched at an Israeli charter aircraft. The closure of the Australian and Canadian embassies in Manila does not auger well for safety in that region either.

``Iraq is anyone’s guess. We still no flight schedule for the Amman to Baghdad sector.’’

The pair have not been able to renew yet their expired visas for China and Afghanistan.

he intrepid duo are supporting Save the Children charity as they attempt to travel 200,000km, spend 400 hours in the air and move in and out of 200 different airports.

Their route is South America, through North America across Iceland to Europe and eventually through Africa and Asia. They plan to arrive back in New Zealand on February 1.

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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