Thomas Kellenberger to reach Mindanao this week, targets May 25 arrival in CDO

BERN, Switzerland (MindaNews / 16 May)— The Swiss trekker Thomas Kellenberger is slated to arrive in Mindanao via Surigao City on Wednesday, May 17, and will try to finish his two-year fund-raising trek in Cagayan de Oro City before the month ends.

Kellenberger looking at the rice terraces in the northern Philippine mountains. (Photo courtesy of Kellenberger Thomas)

Speaking to this writer via a Messenger call from Baybay, Leyte on Sunday, May 14, Kellenberger said he had already walked 14,200 kilometers in 611 days.

He will take the ferry from San Ricardo, Southern Leyte and a few hours later will touch ground in Mindanao in the port of Lipata in the city of Surigao, where he will expect a small group of welcomers from the Island Kids Philippines NGO for which he is raising funds.

It was the first chance to speak with Kellenberger since he arrived in the Philippines from Vietnam. He said he had “a very good time” walking north in the provinces of Ifugao and Benguet where the weather was cool. He said he also had time to visit friends in Manila and meet other similar non-government organizations where he did some benchmarking for the next projects with them.

But Kellenberger still needs to walk some 480 kilometers, averaging about 37 kilometers daily, before he arrives in Cagayan de Oro as he targeted on May 25 where, aside from his Filipino supporters and friends, the Swiss Ambassador to the Philippines and a Swiss television crew will await his arrival.

Kellenberger was hospitalized early this month while in the area of Calauag, Quezon province after he could not sleep at night and experienced numbness in the legs and panic attacks. Doctors later diagnosed his symptoms as a result of low potassium level in the body.

But with continuous dextrose and potassium treatment, Kellenberger recovered enough in two days to be discharged from hospital. “I slept through 22 hours in the hospital, I just slept straight,” he said.

“I thought then that that was it, I’m done,” said Kellenberger of this unexpected setback. “It was a bad experience.”

He said he thought he was doing well enough because he had logged up to 55 to 60 kilometers in the previous days, but apparently the high temperatures in the day had sapped him of precious minerals in the body.

He said the temperatures were so high in the Philippine summer (in the high 30s Celsius) that he had to change his routine, starting to walk in the late afternoons just to avoid the hot sun and continue until the late evenings or the early mornings as long as it was still cool enough to walk.

“It was simply unbearable heat, it was very hot,” he said. “After walking in the day, in the evening I felt like I had a fever. But that fever was caused by the overheating of my body, and that was dangerous.”

Sometimes, Kellenberger said, he took advantage of cloudy weather to start his walk early, or ended at night in places where he found easy room accommodations like lodges or low-budget hotels where he could sleep with airconditioning.

Kellenberger also said he had to supplement his water intake with high-electrolyte drinks like Gatorade or Pokari Sweat and even discovered that the local San Miguel alcohol-free beer was excellent in restoring nutrients.

“During the day when the sun was high, I was drinking fluids even while walking. I was taking in maybe a half-liter every half-hour to stay hydrated,” he said.

He said he planned to walk through Leyte in four days and arrive in Surigao city at the northern tip of Mindanao on May 17, before moving on to Butuan City, Gingoog City and then take the shorter route through the mountainous but cooler route through Claveria, Misamis Oriental before finally reaching Cagayan de Oro City.

“My feeling now is that after walking for nearly 21 months, I have seen everything that I wanted to see and had experienced so many adventures, and it is time for me to arrive, it is time to get home,” said Kellenberger.

“I am so close now, I am already speaking Bisaya with the locals in some parts of Leyte, and I’m just excited that I will finally reach Mindanao,” he added. (Brady Eviota for MindaNews)