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By Hook or by Crook, but NOT by Plane!
Odysseys of Another Era

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Magellan led the first circumnavigation of the world by boat

"It is far easier to live placidly and complacently. Of course, to live placidly and complacently is not to live at all." - Jack London

"So why are we doing this?!?" It's a question many of you have asked us and we even ask ourselves sometimes. We quickly remind ourselves that our explorations are being followed by thousands of students who are hoping to better understand the cultures and histories of places far from their own homes. We hope you will go on to help create a better world in some way, big or small. Despite the hardships, we know that our adventures and stories are well worth the effort. In this dispatch, we'll share with you some of the trials and tribulations endured by a few of history's more famous explorers. They didn't all have the best of motives, and they may not have gotten stuck in Panama for 10 days, but you can be sure they had their fair share of rough seas!

Ferdinand Magellan, 1480-1521  Click the picture for more info
Ferdinand Magellan is best known for having led the first circumnavigation of the world by sea, even though he didn't actually make it all the way himself. A Portuguese explorer funded by Spain and with a Spanish crew, Magellan was constantly facing threats of mutiny from his crew (in other words, they wanted to overthrow him!). In 1519 he set out with 5 ships and 270 sailors. Late in 1520, Magellan discovered what he called the Strait of All Saints, which was eventually named after him. While sailing through the land at night, the crew saw countless fires from distant Indian camps and named the land Tierra del Fuego (land of fire). Magellan dramatically underestimated the length of time it would take to cross the Pacific Ocean - he thought he could cross the ocean in a few days, but it took him 4 months! In the end the crew survived on a diet that included delectable sawdust, leather strips from the sails, and rats. A stopover in Guam replenished the ship's provisions, but their troubles were just beginning, and when they got to the Philippines they got caught up in a local war and Magellan was murdered in the spring of 1521. Which just goes to show you that you should try to avoid wars when you travel around the world!

Only 155 crew members survived to this point, enough to continue with only two of the ships. To ensure that at least one would make it back to Spain, one headed back to the east, the other kept going west. As it turns out one was captured by Portuguese soldiers and most of the crew were killed. The one that kept going west, however, made it with 17 of the original 270 crew members still alive, almost three years after they had left.

Marco Polo, 1254-1324 - Click picture for more info from another student in Arizona
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Marco Polo was the first European to cross the entire continent of Asia and leave a record of what he saw and heard
Marco Polo was a famous explorer known for his travels to China. The most interesting and creative information we found on Marco was written by Amy, a 5th grade student in Chandler, Arizona. "Marco Polo". For more entertaining stories from Amy's classmates about other famous people, visit their Images of Greatness website.

Here's what Amy had to say about Marco Polo, who was born (in 1254) and raised in Venice, Italy:

When Marco was a teenager, he, his father, and his father's friend left on a long trip. On their trip they visited many places. On this trip, Marco Polo discovered eye glasses, ice-cream, spaghetti, and the riches of Asia! When he returned, no one believed his stories of the riches he found in Asia. Marco Polo showed them some of the riches he had brought home. That made Marco Polo famous. When Marco was near death, a priest came in his room to ask him if he'd like to admit that his stories were false. Instead, Marco said, "I did not tell half of what I saw." Those were his last words.

For more info, click the picture!
As great as Marco Polo was (and even though he got a water game named after him), some say that the travels of 14th century Arab, Ibn Battuta, made the journey of Marco Polo look like a stroll around the block. We wonder how Battuta's experiences compare to our World Trek adventures. Ibn Battuta, "The Traveler of Islam," left his birthplace of Tangier on June 14, 1325 at the age of twenty-one, with the intention of making the Pilgrimage to Mecca (in Saudi Arabia), something expected of all Muslims at least once in their lifetime.

"I set out alone, finding no companion to cheer the way..." So begins the tale of a journey that began in Morocco and encompassed 25 years and 75,000 miles. It was a difficult route but one well-traveled, with rest stops soldiers to escort him through dangerous lands. But when Battuta reached Upper Egypt, war with the Turks blocked his direct path, a fated event, which changed the course of his life. He was forced to take a detour into Syria where he began to crystallize his ambition to visit all the Muslim lands of the world. By the time he reached Baghdad (today the capital of Iraq) he had resolved never to cover the same ground twice. (As some of you may know by now, when we left San Francisco, we resolved never to travel by plane. We'll see how long that lasts!)

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Ibn Battuta covered more than 25,000 miles in the area highlighted
During the course of Battuta's travels, he amassed great fortunes, at one point he even sent large sums of money back to his family in Morocco. But he was always trying to get people to reform things, and every time he eventually lost the support of the local leaders. Even after an Indian ruler restored his fortunes by appointing him ambassador to China, he eventually lost everything but his clothes and prayer rug.

On his return home, his experiences were heard with disbelieving ears. But the Moroccan ruler ordered that his secretary record Battuta's adventures. Thanks to these efforts, we now have the story of the person considered by some to be the world's greatest traveler before the "age of steam." It's a tough book to find in the stores but check it out if you can because it's considered one of the greatest travel books ever written.

As for the World Trek Team, we haven't yet eaten sawdust and leather strips; we're not traveling the world with our dads; and we have yet to amass great fortunes... BUT we still have two years left. Just wait and see!

The Team

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The Trekker's Survival Guide to Colombia
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