‘Like trying to break into a maximum security prison’: World adventurer ends two-week ‘nightmare’ stuck on ship off NZ coast

Once Upon a Saga

Torbjørn Pedersen nears the end of his epic adventure.

Torbjørn Pedersen has had plenty of tough journeys while travelling the world, after all he’s coming to the end of an epic mission to visit every country without taking a plane. But getting into New Zealand has been “like trying to break into a maximum security prison”.

Aotearoa is number 197 out of 203 countries, but despite setting off from Australia last month bound for Tauranga, it has been anything but plain sailing for the Danish adventurer.

“I understand why Yemen and Afghanistan would be hard to reach. But NZ?” Pedersen said, summing up his two-week nightmare trapped on a container ship off the coast of New Zealand.

At issue was that the ship he was on, the Toronto Trader, needed its hull cleaned before being allowed to dock in Tauranga. But bad weather meant it was too risky for divers to do the work. For the last two weeks the ship has been drifting just outside New Zealand’s maritime border.

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* ‘Confused and frustrated’: How a world traveller nearly came unstuck getting into New Zealand
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Pedersen had hoped that he could get on the divers’ boat, but that was scuppered over safety concerns. He also stated there were bureaucracy issues involving NZ Customs and the Harbour Master as well. Another offer to pick him up from a good Samaritan had to be canned when the skipper of that vessel realised just how far off the coast the Toronto Trader was.

Torbjorn Pedersen has finally arrived in Auckland after a nightmare few weeks stuck off the NZ coast.

Torbjørn Pedersen/Supplied

Torbjorn Pedersen has finally arrived in Auckland after a nightmare few weeks stuck off the NZ coast.

For Pedersen, who is also known as Thor, the delays nearly proved the final straw on a journey that has seen him crisscross the globe for nearly nine years.

He is aiming to become the only person to visit every country in the world on a single journey without catching a flight.

“As the years go by the weight of it all only gets heavier. I curse every minute I’m delayed in reaching my home country. But how does one quit after more than eight years and only seven countries from making world history?”

Another very personal reason that Pedersen doesn’t want to spend time travelling any longer than he has to is that he wants to start a family with his wife, Le Gjerum.

The couple were originally going to get married in New Zealand, but an enforced stay in Hong Kong due to the pandemic lockdown meant they wed early.

“As the pages fly off the calendar any chance of starting a family with my wife becomes smaller. Yet, quitting the project now would probably condemn me to a lifetime of regret. This situation is by no means optimal,” said Pedersen.

The Dane, who is also a goodwill ambassador for the Red Cross, said he had seen plenty of New Zealand from afar.

“I see NZ every day. On clear days I can see the North island and on less clear days I can still see Great Barrier Island and Motu Kaikoura Island Aerodrome,” said Pedersen last week.

The Toronto Trader has faced some stormy seas.

Torbjørn Pedersen/Supplied

The Toronto Trader has faced some stormy seas.

After failing to get into Tauranga, the ship headed to Auckland last week, and it was still not clear whether the ship would be cleaned. If it couldn’t, it was heading back to Australia, dashing Pedersen’s hopes of bringing his journey one step closer to completion. Thankfully the weather cleared up enough for the divers to do their work and on Monday morning, Pedersen finally got his feet onto New Zealand soil.

Now the mission is to get to the remaining countries as soon as possible.

Only Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Sri Lanka and the final destination in his epic journey, the Maldives, remain.

He has been in touch with a shipping general manager who has said he is willing to help him, but the coronavirus is still having an effect on his travels.

“A month ago all the Pacific countries were still closed due to the pandemic. Because of limited internet in the last three weeks, I’m left in the blind and have annoyingly not been able to work on the next leg.”

His arrival into Auckland now means that is his “priority”.

Another bonus of finally reaching New Zealand on Monday is that he was presented with his 10th Danish passport from Inger Mortensen, Denmark’s Honorary Consul-General to New Zealand.

Pedersen getting his 10th Danish passport from Inger Mortensen, Denmark's Honorary Consul-General to New Zealand.

Torbjørn Pedersen/Supplied

Pedersen getting his 10th Danish passport from Inger Mortensen, Denmark’s Honorary Consul-General to New Zealand.

For more information go to Once Upon a Saga, or follow Thor on Instagram and YouTube.