Posted by: Mr Bed Bug in Canada Bed Bugs on September 12th, 2021

The thrilling globe-trotting adventures of Winnipeg-born Idris Galicia Hall earned her the title of the female Indiana Jones.

She slept at the foot of a sphinx in Egypts Valley of Kings; almost died of thirst in East Africa; faced fascists, bandits and bubonic plague; survived being kidnapped in China; and visited places no westerner stepped foot in before.

Hall was only 16 in 1922 when she answered a newspaper ad seeking someone with Beauty, Brains and Breeches World Tour Offer For Lucky Young WomanWanted to join an expedition.

Her honey-blond hair, good looks and adventurous spirit landed her the job and the stage name Aloha Wanderwell.

She set off to see the world decked out in riding breeches and dads slightly altered tunic.

Aloha travelled 120,000 km through 43 countries in Ford Model Ts, becoming the first woman to drive around the world while still a teenager.

The ad was placed by Captain Walter Wanderwell, who wasnt a captain at all, but embarked on an ambitious global expedition in 1919 to promote world peace.

Walter, a Polish soldier whose real name was Valerian Johannes Piecynski, was an accused rumrunner once jailed in the U.S. on suspicion of being a German spy.

He was on the radar of J. Edgar Hoovers Bureau of Investigation (now FBI) which held an extensive file on him.

Love blossomed between the sturdy, stocky Walter and Aloha somewhere between India and Egypt.

He divorced his estranged American wife and they married. He was 29, Aloha, 18.

They had two children and carried on covering 610,000 km and 80 countries from 1922-27.

Their adventures ended one fateful day in 1932.

Walter was shot dead on their luxurious yacht, the Carma, docked in Long Beach, California.

Witnesses described a man in grey peering through a porthole.

A jury acquitted the prime suspect. The murder remains unsolved.

Aloha remarried the following year and carried on exploring the world.

She passed away in 1996.

But what a trail this explorer, aviator, filmmaker, vaudevillian, and author blazed.

Aloha was born in Winnipeg October 13, 1906, to Margaret and Herbert Hall, a British Army reservist.

Her thirst for adventure was kindled at an early age by reading her fathers books. She dreamed of travelling the world.

When her father accepted a commission as lieutenant in the Durham Light Infantry, her mother moved Aloha and her younger sister to England, then later Belgium and France, to be closer to him behind the lines.

He was killed in action in Ypres in 1917.

Alohas mother eventually sent her to a convent in Nice, France to knock the attitude and tomboy tendencies out of her.

Thats when Aloha responded to Walters ad, hoping to secure a position as secretary and driver.

His idea for a world tour came about after seeing boys leaving college and wasting two or three years in making up their minds about what they wanted to do, reported the Daily Mail in 1930. He figured travel was the solution.

Aloha became the star of the Wanderwell Expedition, a travelling circus about travelling that filled theatres to capacity.

They made silent films and gained international recognition when they released a documentary titled With Car and Camera Around the World.

The expedition was funded by selling leaflets, paid speaking engagements and showing their films.

He spoke 10 languages, Aloha four.

At some point, Aloha became a pilot.

Aloha and Walter survived numerous scrapes, including his frequent misadventures with other women.

Walter had a habit of impersonating military officers and upsetting missionaries in exotic locals because of his alleged communist subversive activities.

They sometimes used kerosene for gasoline in the Ford Model Ts, crushed bananas for grease in the differential, and elephant fat for engine oil.

In India, oxen often towed the vehicles across mudflats and rivers.

In China, when civil war raged making it impossible to buy fuel, labourers pulled the car 128 km.

They visited the Amazon basin where Aloha made another film, the earliest recorded, about the Bororo tribe in Brazil.

In China, when captured by bandits, Aloha was released after she taught them to set up and fire machine guns.

The couple survived typhoons, bitter cold, and hellish roads.

But Walter didnt survive the bullet in his back when someone crept into his cabin while the yacht lay at anchor in the Long Beach harbour.

Aloha told investigators the culprit was William James Guy, who joined them on a boat trip to South America but was turfed ashore for trying to start a mutiny. She said he surfaced in California and tried to strangle her husband.

Others on the boat identified him as the man in grey.

Guy, also on J. Edgars radar, was acquitted after jurors decided he couldnt be positively identified. A witness testified Guy was visiting 48 km away at the time of the murder.

Aloha later married a former cameraman, Walter Baker, and carried on as explorer and filmmaker.

She learned to fly a floatplane. Her plane went down in the Brazilian jungle near the Rio des Mortes (River of Death). She lived with a local tribe for months before being rescued.

Aloha continued to promote the 1920s expedition before getting involved in journalism.

When she died, the ashes of the girl from The Peg, were buried at sea.

Some exerpts from Alohas journals:

Italy: Garish headlines: Flamboyant saviour Mussolinis Black Shirts appeared ready for the stupendous takeover. All terribly exciting.

Toulon Air Base: Rooms were like iceWe slept in our uniforms, fought blood-thirsty bedbugs all night in an unfair wrestling match.

Madrid: We had not been able to earn a penny. Funds were disappearing fastWe were reduced to fusty rental quarters with budgeted food allowance. Outlook dismal.

Portugal: Warned against brigades in these lonely mountains. O, yes. Hair-raising stories of bands sweeping down on city travelers, robbing or holding for ransomIn the driving rain I looked into the muzzle of a gun! I dropped pistol down my breeches.

Barcelona: Such poverty! Donkey dung mud villages since the days of the Moors. Women appeared dehydrated like old apples.

Carpathians: #3s radiator froze, #2 pulled up behind and stalled. Drifting white flakes settled as we five worked like demons. Nothing in the engines moved and the cars rapidly became white mounds in the vast white landscape. We were snowbound in the Carpathians!

Egypt: We drove onto the desert sands, their encampment on the rump of the crouching SphinxOverhead trillions of stars; below, the Nile, oasis palms, distant hazy glow of Cairo my feet on the colossal Sphinx, half-ridden in sand; above, the mighty Nemes headdress framed those sightless eyes.

Yemen: Devoured by mosquitoes, unable to sleep; about 4 a.m. camel riders stealthy approach! Bedouins? Wahabis? I was afraid to call out to Capmight set off an attack.

India: I was off to maelstrom BombayIn and out between bullock carts; missing buffalo by the skin of my teethCrews of near-naked coolies loading the weighty ingots made steering hazardous Fourth day, we were unable to cross a broad river Eager to earn a few annas, peasants hitched three pairs of oxen to #3.

Central India: Weaving our way through town, several people stopped us to warn about the bubonic plagueIf you see a crew of Untouchables whitewashing a ring encircling a dead body on the street, that is bubonic. Below us, the cremation terrace, greasy blue smoke rising from funeral pyres. Other shrouded corpses lashed to pole stretchers lying ready on ghats. The stench was foul.

Bengal: Final forty-eight hours of driving, no sleep, no dry rags, I ached with wracking shivers; fingers were seized to the wood steering.

China: We put in at Shan Hai Kwan to be bathed, deloused and fedOur main anxiety was how to avoid that weeks bloody war zone. Corpses lay half covered, some bolt upright in ditches, hideous fly-blown limbs scattered by explosions. Sometimes we heard the boom of artillery


Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard

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