May 11, 2006 -- Hours after arriving by ferry in Britain and after pedaling 335,000 miles in 211 countries over four decades, Heinz Stücke had his bike stolen.
The German adventurer had pitched a tent and was fast asleep in the seaside resort of Portsmouth, England, on Monday, when his ancient cycle went missing. Stücke had even taken the precaution of covering his bicycle with a canvas, and tying it up with string and bungee cords.
"I even left my tent door open so that I could see it, but when I awoke at 3 a.m. it had gone," he said.
Stücke has been traveling on his trusty bicycle since November 1962 and has claimed the title of "Most Traveled Man in History" in the Guinness Book of Records between 1995 and 1999.
It had taken Stücke, better known as "bike man," across mountains, deserts and jungles. This rusty two-wheeler with its myriad far-flung destinations -- Tahiti; Hawaii; Johannesburg, South Africa; and, Maputo, Mozambique -- painted on the frame was certainly not an object of desire.
Constable Paul Jones, who received the report of the missing bike, arranged for a replacement to be donated to Stücke from the Hampshire police force's lost property department.
Stücke had survived being shot in Zambia, stung by bees in Gambia, arrested in Cameroon, and even being hit by a truck in the desert of Atacama in Chile. Good fortune was also on his side on Tuesday when he received a phone call from the police telling him that his bicycle had been discovered abandoned in a park.
A local family has now taken him in, and his host, Paul Muscat, who is an engineer by trade, has been helping him fix the damage caused by the thief. After a bit of welding, the bike will be restored to full health and ready for his onward journey, first stop being London and then onto the ice caps of Greenland via the springs and geysers of Iceland.
Stücke manages to live on $4,000 a year, which he makes through journalism and photography. He told ABC News that he realized his bike was a passport to life and that his travels had started as "essentially a desire to see faraway, exotic places, for adventure and to discover."
"In the 1960s, in somewhere like Papua New Guinea, where people hadn't had contact with the outside world, it was still possible to make discoveries," he said.
He enjoys indulging in local culture and sampling the gastronomic delights of a country. For example, he says he'll never forget the dhal and rice in India. After long rides his hunger is so acute that he is overjoyed to eat a banana leaf, he said.
This week, England will be bidding farewell to the 66-year-old as he continues his odyssey.