TO RETURN TO MY HOMEPAGE, PLEASE CLICK ON www.cyclinghomefromsiberia.com
Current Location: Hong Kong
Distance cycled: 12,652 Km
Distance to home: 27, 348 Km (approx.)
(if anybody has contacts in NEW ZEALAND I would really appreciate it if you could put me in touch – many thanks)
“Our moral nature is such that we cannot be idle and at ease” Leo Tolstoy
“It is an unnatural business to find yourself in a strange place with an underutilized brain and no particular reason for being there, and eventually it makes you go a little crazy.” Bill Bryson
THE rains poured and the rivers thrashed as I tumbled my bicycle across half a dozen misty passes and down to coast of the South China Sea. I was greeted by a variety of deluge related obstacles on the way: flooded villages necessitated wading, whilst collapsing cliffs (which spat and slumped muddy rocks in my path) necessitated evasive maneuver steering. None of this seemed to particularly faze the local Chinese people, who just got on with their daily lives and good naturedly cheered me through the various minor perils.
These excellent Chinese hats double up as both sunshades and umbrellas – a great idea in China!
My hat (on the other hand) is next to useless (unless I happen to fall off and land on my head).
Some roads were flooded
After a few weeks of such pleasant melodrama, I wheeled my bike out of China and onto a ferry … an hour later we were docking in the SAR (Special Administrative Region) of Hong Kong. Now this was somewhat different to mainland China!
Hong Kong had always been a major landmark on my map, and I am glad to say that it does not disappoint. At street level, you are surrounded by heaving crowds who gently sweep you along in whatever direction they happen to be moving. Old green trams clatter along the clean grey streets, whilst fashionable shops blast you with cool air conditioning as you wander past. Turning your head to look upwards, you see an array of glittering sky scrapers, interconnected by networks of bustling sky bridges… in between them you might occasionally catch a glimpse of the warm blue sky. As if this is not impressive enough, the city proper is fronted by a magical, lush harbour which rocks and sways round the clock with sea traffic. It is dreamlike to go watch over it at night – the sounds of civilization drift across the water as rippling party lights are reflected back up to the stars. In some ways I find all this cosmopolitanism slightly daunting, especially since everybody I meet seems so jolly successful! It is therefore a relief to discover that not far from all the human enterprise, there is an extraordinary back drop of green islands, sandy beaches and dignified mountain tops. Hong Kong is indeed a nice place to hang out for a while, in all sorts of ways (some of them quite unexpected).
As it has turned out, I have been, and will be here for a while – 2 months in fact. The reason for this is that I have now run out of land to cycle on, and I am faced with some bigger sea crossings. One of the goals of this journey is to make my way all the way down from Russia to New Zealand using only bike and, where necessary, boat (i.e. I am not allowed to fly). Whenever I meet the sea, in most cases I can simply jump on a ferry. However, there are also a few substantial stretches of water (such as the South China Sea) where there are no ferries. This leaves me with the interesting task of trying to hitch hike the oceans with yachts and cargo ships and oil tankers. After a lot of emailing and asking around for help, I am most grateful to Jon King and his yacht Talio for offering me a passage (leaving at the start of September) as far as the Philippines. Once there (all being well) I just keep island hopping south until I eventually get to New Zealand.
On realizing how long I would need to stay here, I tentatively told my old friend Chi Lam (now a successful Hong Kong banker) that I would be in town for considerably longer than anticipated… with characteristic generosity he handed me the keys to his spare flat, graciously urging me to “Treat Hong Kong… like an oasis in the middle of your long journey”. Sounded good to me!
It is weird to stop moving like this. But it is also good. Always on the move is not a good way to live for too long. It has been refreshing to have time off the bicycle; it is a privilege to get to know people for more than one or two days; it even feels fun to do some voluntary work. Probably, missing out on being able to build deeper friendships and not having a purposeful job is what I have been missing the most over these last eleven months. It is so easy to take such things for granted.
Once I leave these shores, I realize that I will be forced to stop even pretending that I am heading towards home. I am heading south and into (what I expect will be) the toughest adventures since Siberia… through the perilous high seas (with pirates), across the exotic spice islands (with corrupt bureaucrats and mountainous jungles) and down to the mysterious land of Oz (with poisonous snakes and strange Australians). (joke)
As always, many, many thanks for your kind emails, prayers and donations to Viva Network. In Manila I will be spending two weeks working with the children at risk projects they operate there – more info to follow.
To kindly donate more money to help street children and orphans through Viva Network, please visit www.justgiving.com/cyclinghomefromsiberia
China is a great and beautful place… I hope to return one day
I think this one requires a little explanation! It actually has to be my most stunning “Mr Bean of global cyclists” moment of the journey thus far… AND it was caught on camera. What happened was this: having been hosted by some wonderful Chinese friends at a university for a few days, it was time for me to make my noble departure… the group gathered to bid me a safe, grand and victorious journey, and I positioned my camera to take a final “self timer” shot. I set the timer going and ran to pick up my ludicrously heavy bike… then wheeled it hastily over to join the line up… then realised I was moving far too fast and had far too much momentum to stop in time… and (o how foolish) that I could not reach my breaks in time… and thus (as you will by now have worked out) I crashed into my unsuspecting friends in their behinds (rather to their bewilderment)… and – of course – at that very moment – the shutter clicked. Ooops.(!)
…and finally, here is a funny Bill Bryson quote to make you smile:
“Prolonged solitary travel, you see, affects people in different ways. It is an unnatural business to find yourself in a strange place with an underutilized brain and no particular reason fro being there, and eventually it makes you go a little crazy. I’ve seen it in others often. Some solitary travelers start talking to themselves: little silently murmured conversations that they think no-one else notices. Some desperately seek the company of strangers, striking up small talk at shop counters and hotel reception desks and then lingering for an uncomfortably long period before finally departing. Some become ravenous, obsessive sightseers, tramping to see everything, Me, I get a sort of interrogative diahorrea. I ask private, internal questions – scores and scores of them – for which I cannot supply answers. And so as I stood by a greengrocer’s in Thurso, looking at its darkened interior with pursed lips and a more or less empty head, from out of nowhere I thought, ‘Why do they call it a grapefruit?’ and I knew the process had started.” (Notes from a small Island)