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 the bikes from Shenzhen to London!

I’m back in the UK, one week to go, catching up with friends and family and planning to go pick up my bike which is currently in Farnham – how it ended up there is a long story…

I’ve been in Shijiazhuang – the capital city of Hebei, China since November and it was always in the back of my mind that I would somehow have to get our two sponsored bikes from LKLM from Shenzhen to London. I knew I had three weeks in Hong Kong before I flew out to London on the 28th March so I just thought I would deal with it when I was there. Little did I know it would prove more difficult than I anticipated.

I flew down from SJZ on the Sunday 8th March and had organised with LKLM that I would go and collect the bikes on the Monday. I had emailed them asking them if they could pack them in boxes which we could then easily get across the border and onto a plane that way, the problem was that only Will from the company could speak English and he was away, although my Mandarin is a lot better than it was trying to explain what we were trying to do and the fact that “No I cannot cycle them both down from Shenzhen” by myself, was proving a bit tricky, not only that they were adamant that if they put them in their cardboard boxes 1. We wouldn’t be able to carry them and 2. We would be taxed going out of China. I was a bit sceptical but I didn’t want to take chances so I talked it through with Dad and we decided to take things into our own hands.

I got in contact with Ed who owns Buxum Boxes who said that we could borrow two of histourmalet boxes, which we could then bring up to Shenzhen, put the bikes in and wheel them across the border. The fact that we had two second hand bike boxes that were very manoeuvrable on their extremely impressive wheels it was problem solved.

So we drove up to Sheung Shui after collecting the boxes, and wheeled the box towards the MTR Station. We could see security watching us and we were obviously a bit to slow because one of them caught us before we got through the barrier and said that we can’t take them on the train as they were too big. The guard was really nice about it and we explained what we were trying to do and asked what we should do. There are 5 border crossings between HK and The Mainland, but the problem is you can’t drive over unless you have a permit and you can’t even drive up to the border as it is a restricted area. So the guy told us we could get a taxi from where we were to the Lok Ma Chau crossing. To my amazement we managed to get both boxes in the back of one taxi.

We got through the border no problem with both boxes in tow and after a bit of haggling with those illegal car hire people who you always say to yourself beforehand ignore, ignore, ignore and then somehow find yourself in their car – the reason we initially followed her was that she had assured us that both boxes could fit in the car rather than having to take two taxis (with a smaller boot than those in HK) …well both boxes could fit at the expense of either me or my Dad not, what was she thinking! Anyway I got a bit pissed off and after some arguing in Chinese we got two cars for an okay price.

We reached LKLM luckily before Huang Jun (the Boss) and Flora (the Manager) were heading out for lunch and joined them for some really good spicy Sichuan food. We made our way back to the warehouse – they weren’t too keen on dismantling the bikes and fitting them into the boxes, but it was the best thing to do as we couldn’t really cycle it across and if we had, once we had crossed the border we’d still have to get it into the car and then onto a plane so better we did it there and then. It took a while but eventually we had two bike in boxes and all was good. One of their mechanics drove us back to the border and from there we headed home. The boxes had wheels that meant the boxes were very portable and we had no problem wheeling 64kg worth of bike and box across the Lok Ma Chau border crossing (well apart from the mainlanders and their lifts…see below) had we put them in cardboard boxes I see what they mean about not being able to move them.

So that was the easy part, I had two boxes and two bikes in my living room in HK and now how to get them to London in under two weeks! Luckily a good friend of ours, Rachel was heading back to London the following evening – so that was one bike accounted for. Beth picked it up from Heathrow at 5am – the next problem was that we now had to get that box back to HK as it was only on loan from Ed who needed it asap as was moving back to the UK and had his own bikes to bring back. To make life more difficult Beth was going back home to Nottingham the following day so I then had to arrange for the box to go to a friend of mine, Al, to look after until I found someone flying back to HK.

A week went by and still no success for either bike going out or box coming back. I was flying on Jet Airways and it was going to cost me 70USD per every Kilo over my baggage allowance, and I still had to take all the panniers, tent, stove and my things back. So carrying a 20kg steel touring bike was not really an option. After a number of desperate emails. Chris my ex-rugby coach who works for EGS Survey said that two of his colleagues were flying back that Sunday and then heading down to Bordon, Hampshire … perfect! My cousin is in Farnham that would make picking it up easy, not only that, Ed had said I could drop off the empty box at his distributor in Farnham, even better! So my bike flew out with BA thanks to Debbie and Stephen, with no problems other than it didn’t fit in the back of the taxi from Heathrow and they had to put the back seats down leaving Debbie to lie next to it!

Facebook saved the day again after making a desperate plea for anyone heading back to HK from London in the next week to contact me – not knowing what it was they were signing up for I quickly got a few responses and Ed’s box came back with Pippa.

So there it is after a logistical mission and a half with everything seeming to go wrong and plans changing 24/7, two days before I myself flew out I had managed to get two bikes to the England, if not London, one box to Farnham and one box back to Hong Kong. The even better news is that the bikes look great, very sturdy touring bikes, so far so good!

Many thanks to all those that were involved, LKLM, Ed and his Buxum Boxes, Chris, Debbie and Stephen from EGS Survey, Rachel, Pippa, Al and Michael who currently has my bike.

Next time I get sponsored bikes from Shenzhen I think I’ll start cycling from there!

Julia x

This is us trying to get into the only lift in the building on Shenzhen side trying to get up to 3rd floor immigration, take away the wheel chair, everyone else was perfectly able and had next to no luggage, just too lazy to get on the escalator 50m away. Had to wait almost 10 mins before we decided to take on the stairs – got up two floors to find that the door out was locked. The security guard laughed at us, saying he couldn’t open it, he was nice enough to help carry them down though!