The Final Push

Our arrival

The last few days of our journey 

299 days after leaving London we arrived into Hong Kong. The last two weeks were tough, the rain started and we were having to push out 90-110km per day to get there on time. We managed to leave our GPS tracker in a family’s house on charge just befor Guilin and Beth’s phone got waterlogged in the rain so we were having to navigate our way through the most populated areas of China with a dog-eared paper map, and Julia’s very bad notes from google maps!

With Chinese New Year fast approaching as we entered Guangzhou we were seeing hundreds of motorcyclists on the opposite side of the road, with their belongings piled high, going home for the holidays. The sense of everyone going home to see their families was spurring us on. However as we approached the mega city our high spirits were drowned as the sunset and the rain intensified. We followed what we thought was the right road towards the city centre but established 20km later that we should have turned and were now heading north of the city.

Two hours later, shattered and drenched we rolled into a hotel, still 7km north of the centre but now within the inner ring road. Unfortunately in China only certain hotels are registered to have foreigners, ridiculous excuse was the hotel was not big enough!? Anyway, back out on the streets we proceeded to spend another hour trying to find somewhere that was either open, inexpensive or in the immediate vicinity as Beth’s chain had just fallen off for the second time that day. 10pm we were in a room, showered and stuffing our faces with noodles from the restaurant next door.

With google maps memorised we set out later than we hoped the following morning after a brief stop to a bike shop to get Beth a new chain. It wasn’t too difficult getting out of Guangzhou but there were a few maneuvres to be made after  crossing the bridge of Kai Fa Da Road which landed us in a shipping port. A bit lost we decided to have dinner, get some wifi and put us back on track.

What we have found in Chinese restaurants is that people tend to over order and leave half eaten dishes, a shocking sight. Us, being hungry cyclists, jump at this and often land ourselves with their leftovers, which is great, although wish it wasn’t the case. On that occasion we also somehow ended up with a whole fish and a cauldron full of strange potato balls because the table on the other side of the room decided to gift it to us. Not sure if they’d spotted us scavenging but it would have nicer if they just paid our bill, because we couldn’t eat it all 🙁

That night we rode until almost midnight, the roads were quiet and cycle lanes appeared so it was a nice ride into Dongguan. We thought we would be closer to LKLM our bike sponsors in Shenzhen who we were meeting the next day when we stopped. It was still 65km and our aim to be there by lunchtime was looking less and less likely. Still without a map, Julia wrote down all the directions to LKLM’s HQ, Beth was still half asleep and therefore wasn’t overseeing the process hadn’t realised that she had literally writing “In 4km turn left”. Not knowing any of the street names we were supposed to be cycling down we managed to get very lost twice and at 3pm gave up, and had lunch. Slightly ashamed at cycling all the way from London but getting lost in Shenzhen we called Flora to rescue us in their van. It was consolation knowing we went the same distance had we not been lost, despite being 20km away from our destination.

At LKLM, the birthplace of our bikes, we were shown around, the bikes got a checkup and we then spent the evening with Flora and Huang Jun in their flat where they were having a New Year dinner with friends and family. Our last meal in China and it was definitely the best.

Due to our inability to get anywhere without going in circles first we were facing an early morning border crossing into Hong Kong in order to cycle to the star ferry before 4pm in time to see all the wonderful people waiting to greet us at the finish line in Statue Square. Thankfully the crossing was easy, no need to take the front wheel off. We crossed at Lok Ma Chau where there is a 1km restricted zone as you come out of the immigration building. There were no signs or security that told us it was a restricted zone, Julia only knew because she lives in Hong Kong. So the rebels that we are, decided to get on our bike and cylce through the restricted zone! At the checkpoint a km down the road a policeman ran out of his little box and aggressively pointed at the sign, that was facing away from us, so towards the oncoming traffic. Apologising, we said no-one told us and we have to go out of the gate to see the sign so why don’t just let us stay out?! He wanted us to go back and get a taxi, ridiculous, but we said ok but we have cycled all the way from England why don’t you just let us out. He accepted and we were through!

We have to say that Hong Kong is not a place we enjoyed cycling!! The roads are narrow and it isn’t easy when you don’t have a map. Anyway we made it to the star ferry minutes to spare, only to be refused entry onto the Star Ferry to Central and had to get the boat to Wan Chai. Funnily enough we ended up not paying the $1.50 each or the $14.50 premium for the bicycles because there was no ticket office.

15 minutes late we arrived at Statue Square, an emotional, overwhelming experience to find so many people there to greet us. We were both shaking! The cycling was not over yet though…still needed to cycle up the hill to Julia’s house!



Getting out of Kashgar


We have a story and a half about getting out of Kashgar!

A combination of poor map reading skills and overwhelmingness of people, traffic and roads led us to circumnavigate Kashgar by 180 degrees via its outer ring road – alarm bells started ringing when we saw signs saying “Kashgar City Centre, this way –>”

We turned back and with the light slowly fading we came off the main road and started asking people if we could camp in their courtyards. After our third rejection we asked a group of men standing on the roadside and one of them led us to a community centre building with a large courtyard in the centre. Much to our relief we weren’t to be subjected to the cold and were brought up to a small office with a bed. We were settled and thought we were in safe hands, would have a good sleep and be able to finally get out of the city early in the morning, until someone decided to tell the Police…

The Policeman did the usual ‘stare at our passports and pretend he understood what it said’. He seemed not to have a problem with us being there.

Half an hour later whilst we were eating some food in the restaurant across the road – he handed Julia his phone. Having previously encountered the most senior english speaking Policeman earlier in the week when Beth got her phone pickpocketed, we were not surprised to receive an earful down the line. “It is not safe outside” he said, “But, we are not outside” she replied. “You have to go back to your hotel”….”But it’s not safe outside”.

Anyway Julia hung up as he was just ranting on and not going to be persuaded. We thought we’d be able to explain to the other Policeman (it was almost 11pm by this point) but he, as all Police in China (so far!) seemed not to see reason, and escorted us out of the community centre and drove alongside until we reached the lit main road heading towards the city centre. There he said we could go ourselves to the hotel.

Well there was no way we were going 5km into the city just to stay in a hotel! We rounded a bend out of sight of his car that was sat watching us and ducked into the dark parallel side road, obscured from the main road by a line of trees. We doubled back on ourselves and asked a couple who were chatting outside their house if we could sleep anywhere. Finally! Someone understands that foreigners don’t need 5 star treatment, just a small room, piled to the ceiling with cardboard boxes, cold but dry, will do!