Thomas Kellenberger makes final push to CDO despite health concerns

Thomas Kellenberger and friends refresh themselves with buko juice in Surigao City. Photo courtesy of Mark Bayron

BERN, Switzerland (MindaNews / 20 May) — Feeling weak but still determined, Swiss trekker Thomas Kellenberger eyed May 25 as his arrival date in Cagayan de Oro City,

Kellenberger reached Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte Thursday evening, after a late departure from Surigao City to address health issues that have troubled him since his arrival in Quezon province. 

Kellenberger, who arrived in Surigao on May 17, opted to remain in Surigao for two nights after a local doctor that he had consulted advised him to rest his bad back, which had resulted from a 2016 fall that he had in Cagayan de Oro while assisting a pregnant woman.

The doctor also warned Kellenberger against carrying his heavy backpack while trying to finish his trek to Cagayan de Oro, and to try biking to lessen impact and prevent further damage to his back and spine and keep his “neuropathic” condition from worsening. 

Kellenberger told this writer in an internet call about the recurrence of the symptoms – including numbness in his legs and difficulty in sleeping at night — that he had experienced shortly before he was hospitalized in Quezon province last May 3 and 4.  

“The symptoms are confusing, my feet feel alternately hot and then cold. I also felt anxious because my leg was numb and I could not sleep at night,” he said about his first night in Surigao. 

He said he had already felt the same episode of symptoms before arriving in San Ricardo town in Southern Leyte where he took the ferry to Surigao.

“Thomas did not come down for breakfast. Then I had to call him two times so that he could join us for lunch. We were starting to feel alarmed because he was just in his room sleeping,” said Mark Bayron, a friend where the Swiss stayed in Surigao. 

“Last month was exhausting to me because of the long distances I had to travel and the high temperatures that I had to endure along the way,” said Kellenberger. 

He said that he now weighs 77 kilos, down from the 91 kilos when he started out on his trek from Switzerland on August 25, 2021.

He said he feels that his upper body strength has declined over the nearly two years of his walk. “I started out carrying 22 kilos without a problem. Now I can feel the weight of the 15-kilo rucksack, now the bag feels heavy.”

He added that because of his condition and the doctor’s warnings, he would try out new  strategies such as walking  shorter distances, and to alternate between biking and walking, and to advance his bag to the next stops.   

“Thomas felt frustrated because of the delays and the health issues he is facing in the last stages of his walk. He told me that he did not know that the last 300 kilometers would also turn out to be the hardest,” said Vincent Eviota, who had biked with Kellenberger from Surigao to Cabadbaran.

Kellenberger had planned to travel next to Butuan City and then to Gingoog city, where he would take the mountainous but shorter route through Claveria, Misamis Oriental before exiting in Barangay Bugo, already in Cagayan de Oro. 

“After having gone through so much, I really want to finish this,” said a determined Kellenberger, who has  targeted May 25 as his arrival date in Cagayan de Oro.

Once finished, he would have walked nearly 15,000 kilometers through more than 20 countries in a two-year fund-raising trek for the Island Kids Philippines Foundation that he started in 2007 with Filipino partners. (Brady Eviota/for Mindanews)