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Deaf 68-year-old on world expedition makes it to Malta

Vladimir Yarets

Vladimir Yarets

Bending over an imaginary walking stick, Vladimir Yarets slowly paces around a carpet of photographs that tell the story of his silent travels around the world.

The deaf 68-year-old from Belarus soon lifts his head and, smiling broadly, straightens up and starts jumping around and shaking all his limbs energetically.

As he sinks back to a crouch for a few seconds, he quickly shakes his head, disapprovingly signalling he will not let himself wither away in a sedentary life because of his age.

And the fact that he cannot hear will not stop him from achieving his life-long goal: to make it into the Guinness Book of world records for being the first deaf person to complete a round-the-world trip on a motorbike.

As he squats, pretending to be on his bike, he points at a large map of the world where he has marked the 75 places he has already been to.

Last week, he ticked Malta off his list, marking the island as his 76th destination since he set off from Minsk on May 27, 2000.

Mr Yarets turned up unannounced at the University Residence in Lija where he has been staying until he sorted out his flights to South Africa. Emirates and Thomas Smith helped him with cheaper transport for him and his bike, a BMW covered in stickers from countries he has visited. He leaves for his next point of call today.

The two bags strapped on either side of his motorcycle are covered in photographs of his adventure which, so far, has taken him over 300,000 kilometres across the globe.

As he crosses different continents and experiences different cultures, language barriers are never an issue for him as he manages to communicate through universal gestures and a ready smile.

While in Malta he has been assisted by a young Russian student who helped him by writing down anything that needed to be communicated to him. The student also helped out during the interview by translating for Mr Yarets, who jots down a key word to set the theme for his reply and then acts out what he means.

When asked how he manages to fund his travels, he writes the figures "5 per cent" and "95 per cent". He points at the larger number and imitates expressions of people who were not impressed by him. Then he points at the other number and mimes a person clapping then handing him money. Several of these people signed his visitors' book that contains encouraging messages and stamps from various establishments he has visited while in the country.

He then brings out his wallet and produces a Youth Hostel Association membership card through which he gets better prices at low-cost hotels where he usually spends his nights.

With the help of the student he explains that he likes Malta because of the historical value of the buildings and the many churches.

His favourite place, so far, was America because he really enjoyed driving on the wide, smooth roads.

He loves the country even though, while in the small American town of Peoria, in October 2003, he was involved in a serious traffic accident when his bike crashed into a lorry. This kept him in hospital for almost a year after which he continued on his mission to travel the world.

Ever since he was a child, Mr Yarets, who now has two sons, has had a passion for travelling. In 1967, he set off on his first challenge to conquer the whole territory of the (then) Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, from Belarus to Magadan. Then, the Soviet militia had refused to give him a driving licence but this did not stop him from carrying on with the trip. On returning home, with a pack of newspaper cuttings as witness to his unique marathon, Mr Yarets showed them to local authorities and, finally, received his driving licence... which he has not stopped using since.

www.yarets.com

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