It has been almost 20 years since Jacques Sirat started his journey around the world, and in that time he has run about 21,000km, walked about 10,000km and cycled about 170,000km.
Touching down in Oamaru yesterday, Mr Sirat said he was travelling around New Zealand for the first time in a journey that had taken him across Bolivia, Bosnia, Australia, France, and many more locations.
Having spent time cycling around Christchurch, small towns and the countryside, yesterday he tried his hand at cycling on a penny-farthing.
Mr Sirat said he would spend the night in Oamaru before leaving this morning to continue his journey.
Now 50 years old, living free from the hustle and bustle of everyday life is a dream come true for Mr Sirat.
During his childhood, he saw a picture of a cyclist on a salt lake in Bolivia, which he vowed to his father he would reach someday, Mr Sirat said.
“I said to him, ‘one day I will be there’.”
Entering his 30s with that dream in mind and a desire to escape the daily grind of his job, he decided to take a year off to travel and spend time running.
“After one year of running, I came back home.”
He then promptly resigned from his job and rented out his house to live off the rent and travel.
His years of travel had given him many experiences he would never forget, Mr Sirat said.
Eventually reaching that salt lake in Bolivia stood out, as he had finally fulfilled his childhood dream.
He has encountered his share of hardship on his travels around the world as well.
Travelling in Bosnia after the Bosnian War ended at the end of 1995, he was attacked by soldiers due to having a French passport and, as he biked away, they pointed guns at him, he said.
“I was really afraid.”
At one point, he was even detained in a jail in Yemen for three days until he convinced authorities he would leave the country, he said.
Despite a love of running, he quickly adopted a bike on his travels due to the freedom it allowed him.
“It’s my home,” he said.
It allowed him to travel anywhere in the world and carry the basics.
“I live with little things and I miss nothing,” he said.
“I don’t need a lot: water and food.”
Next he would head to Invercargill, then eventually Auckland, Mr Sirat said.
In April, he planned to travel to Africa for a few years.
Mr Sirat said he did not know how long his journey would continue and would just stop when he got tired.
Eventually, he wanted to live in South America.
“I spent four years there and I really love it.”
But for the meantime, he would continue travelling, camping under the stars and enjoying a frugal lifestyle, occasionally contributing to a small French newspaper to make ends meet, he said.
“I love this.”
By DAVID DE LOREAN
PHOTO: DAVID DE LOREAN