Emil Carlberg: Adventure on the run from bulls and grizzly bears


New Zealand: a country of hobbits, orcs, sheep... and two adventurous and sometimes foolhardy guys from Sweden.

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Three months after I was back from my bike trip in the United States, adventure called on me again, this time with Dunedin as my destination. It’s about as far away from Gothenburg as I could go, both in city and country.

My friend Jonathan and I started our journey there with a goal of reaching Auckland in about four months, with four rules to live by:

  1. Only travel by foot
  2. Don’t walk on any roads along the way to Auckland
  3. Only sleep in our tents
  4. Don’t try to kill each other if we got mad... or hungry.

After more than three months, we reached Auckland, tired, hungry, and looking like sh** — but happy like never before.

I can imagine it was how Frodo and Sam felt after they reached Mordor and destroyed the ring — if that would’ve happened in real life, and wasn’t a movie filmed in some places on New Zealand.

Otherwise, the off-road hike through New Zealand was one of my toughest adventures, maybe even the hardest. But I got so many good memories from it.

One memory that stands out is when we were chased by bulls. We had hopped over a fence during our hike and saw what we thought were cows on a hill inside the pasture, so we started to walk up the hill on our way north. But suddenly, as if they were all stung by wasps, they started to run. We quickly saw that these were no cows. They were bulls — big bulls!

We ran in a panic back toward the fence, and could hear the bulls approaching fast behind us. I threw myself over some prickly paling, and so did Jonathan. Five seconds later, nine snorting bulls broke in on the other side of the fence and stared at us.

My heart was pumping 180 km/h, and Jonathan’s was too. But we survived without any wounds.

It’s a memory to remember forever, and it reminds me Tumbler Ridge, where a couple of friends and I stood eye to eye with a grizzly bear and her two cubs, 300 metres in front of us. Luckily, they ran away after staring at us for awhile. But, those seconds passed really slow. That’s the first time I saw wild bears so close.

We have some smaller brown bears in Sweden, but they’re shy and live up in the northwest. When I walk in the forests outside Gothenburg, I don’t have to be afraid of meeting one of those, only moose and boars. And trolls, of course.

Emil Carlberg is a Swedish adventurer.

[Editor's Note: Another adventure called for Emil Carlberg last month, cutting short his stay in Fort St. John. Carlberg is off on a sailing trip that will take him from Sweden, and to Norway, Denmark, North Germany, Finland and Russia. His column about his worldly exploits will still appear weekly in the Alaska Highway News through to September.]

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