Bolivian President Evo Morales offered encouragement Thursday to the team planning a voyage from South America to Australia aboard a boat made of reeds from Lake Titicaca.
"It's impressive. We must value great initiatives. It will be a journey for peace, for integration," he said during a visit to the La Paz workshop where Aymara Indian artisans are building the craft.
Morales, himself an Aymara, chatted with the expedition organizer, U.S. adventurer Phil Buck, who is making his second attempt to reach Sydney from the Chilean coast on a replica of the reed rafts made by the indigenous peoples of South America long before the arrival of Europeans.
The Viracocha III is scheduled to set out in January from the Chilean port of Arica with a multinational crew of 10 and Buck as skipper.
In 2000, a reed boat captained by Buck successfully crossed the 3,800 kilometers (2,360 miles) separating mainland Chile from Easter Island.
Three years later, Buck sailed from Viña del Mar, Chile, aboard the Viracocha II with the goal of reaching Australia, but was forced to abort the voyage in Easter Island due to extensive damage to the boat.
Buck's quest is inspired by the achievements of Norway's Thor Heyerdahl, who in 1947 sailed his reed craft, the Kon-Tiki, from Peru to Polynesia.