World walk blog China 24 & 25 ( The Wrap Up Report )
World Walk Blog China 24Total for 328 road days: 12,948 kilometres. Please check out my blog www.myworldwalk.com. I am walking around the world for cancer awareness. Life is precious and early cancer screening saves lives.
41 kilometres took me to a SinoPec petrol station. I asked if I could pitch my tent, instead I was given a bed and a shower, can't beat that!
Next day. After 45 kilometees I got to pitch my tent at another SinoPec station.
There has been a lot of rain lately and I am having difficulty staying dry. It's also difficult for me to dry my clothes after I wash them for there are no dryers. It's a constant battle to stay clean and fresh.
I walked 39 kilometres. Eventually after almost two months I left highway 210 for good. Now I am on back roads towards the Vietnamese border, some 300 kilometres, a week away. I stopped for pot noodles at a grocery store and was allowed to pitch my tent on their veranda. The nice people made me tea before they went home.
World Walk Blog China 25
China: The Wrap Up. There was one day in northern China when I felt I was destined to just meet buffalo and watch people play Chinese chess. I started my day by sharing a toilet with a buffalo. The rest of the day at every stop I watched men and women play their popular board game. I guess that was my celebration for walking my 13,000th kilometre of the walk.
Around this time I noticed that pages I tried to open on my smartphone were closing or freezing. My GPS was about 220 metres out of synch. I was also to lose my access to Facebook. Facebook and all things Google are banned and blocked in China. However, I installed a VPN ( virtual private network) app on my phone. This effectively is an unblocker. I used one called Betternet. They have a free option which I recommend. Obviously, VPN's have to be downloaded before entering countries which impose censorship as they are also blocked. Foreign newspapers and news websites are also unavailable to Chinese people.
VPN's were initially used by spies and journalists who worked in war zones so as they could communicate with the outside world. The VPN bounces the internet signal around thereby becoming difficult to detect. The user's device is effectively in another country, be it Europe, America, Australia etc. While they themselves are still behind enemy lines. Interestingly, while walking in China I got many security notices from Google, Facebook etc to inform me that my account was in operation on the other side of the world! Because of this I often had to re-enter my passwords. One Canadian man living in a small town in southern China told me that the Chinese Communist Party have many trolls who patrol the internet and find ways to cut people's VPNS off. For that reason, I didn't identify him in this blog. I reckon I did okay, except for my last few days I managed to escape detection for the whole of China. I suspect that was because you may remember I made a post about propaganda. I felt many times I was being monitored. it would have been easy for them to have stopped me at any time. All they had to do was to block my sim card and put me on a banned list of the phone companies. As foreigners need to submit passport details I wouldn't have been able to get another one. I have been told by many readers that they felt there were times when I was far too critical of the system. One man mentioned to me that he wanted to send me a message but felt it was unwise to as messages can be monitored. I was well aware that six British tourists had recently been deported from the country for watching banned videos in their hotel rooms. They were on a tour of a Genghis Khan museum near Ordus, Inner Mongolia Province. I felt that China was a bit like Russia. Because I was writing in English, a little-understood language, that I could write more than what would have been permitted by a local in their native language. Yes, I did push my luck, I sometimes pushed the boat out into stormy waters. I risked having my visa revoked but you got the full story, that's the only way I know how to operate.
And then there were the irritation police all too frequent visits to my hotel rooms. I lost count of how many at about ten. What was that all about? The Chinese like to monitor the movements of foreigners. Groups are easy to manage. Solo travellers are a challenge. One may wonder why they opened up the country at all. I don't have the answers, just my own theories and information which I have picked up on. For such a large population a certain amount of education and training abroad is necessary. To be able to do this China, just like Russia has to reach reciprocal visa agreements with western countries. Generally, western countries honour these agreements, China does it begrudgingly. Occasionally tourists complain, things are okay for a while and gradually it all starts again. China is terrified of dissent. Many NGO's don't register. Part of their agreement is that they will not take part in any protests and will also actively discourage it. That's the reason why so many NGO's don't register.
It's not even possible for a foreigner to book a train or bus journey without submitting a passport. One Irish ex-pat who wanted to take a train to meet me on the road couldn't make it on that particular day as his passport was in a government agency. Last December when my brother died suddenly I decided to return for his funeral. I booked three flights in all. After they were booked I received three phone calls from a Shanghai-based agency who attempted to cancel my flights saying they had problems with my credit card. In the airport, I had more hassle and it was only for the dedication and patience of a friendly clerk that I made my brothers funeral. The lady said she was having trouble retrieving my reservation. Just as I was giving up and walking away she called me back to say she had found it.
That's China. I found it to be a hair pulling country but was able to separate the love I received from so many beautiful people from so much frustrating officialdom and bureaucracy. China is my favourite country of the walk to date.
Back to my walk. One day I got lost on county road 08 and ended up on some rough trails which eventually faded to a trickle. I pushed my way through an almost jungle for about one hundred metres until I came to a clearing. I followed an animal trail and saw some welcome cow dung. Not that I was overly concerned but cows always mean that people are not too far away, for there is no such thing as a wild cow. People obviously also means food and water, but also a way out. The pathway widened. I pushed Karma past some surprised women who were working in the fields. They chopped sugar canes in the shade of bamboo and banana trees. For the umpteenth time, I reminded myself that I was surely seeing the world close up and personal. I walked through a light smog covering my nose and mouth with my bandana for plastic rubbish stank the late afternoon air. Eventually, I found my way and arrived in a small bustling town called Dingdangzhen. With the help of a man called Li You Ce, I found a hotel. He was sitting inside a shop when I stopped for directions. As bold as brass I coaxed him outside and asked him to walk through the town and show me the hotel. My Chinese is still terrible. Even after four months in the country, I can barely speak a half dozen words, for Mandarin, the world's most widely spoken mother tongue is a difficult language to master. Next day I had a long, difficult 35-kilometre day. Once again due to the GPS problems (as mentioned earlier) I took a wrong turn. That time I was following another road which ran out. I was grateful that my friend Benjamin had been watching my route and progress from the comfort of his armchair back in Berlin. He had sent me an email to say that the road I was approaching was more of rough track. From his Google satellite images, it appeared to be pretty muddy but doable. He hoped that once I crossed a railroad track I would be okay for a while. Well, I came to the railroad tracks and perhaps his satellite image didn't show the high fences blocking my passage forward. With the rapidly fading light, I noticed a high overpass bridge. It was off in the distance to the right of where I was standing. I walked over a beat up single track road and came to the underneath of the bridge. there were two tracks. One to the left and the other to the right. As the one on the left looked like a steep and uneven rise I took the track to the right as it was more of an even and gradual spiral. It led to a cabbage field which I had to climb into. I could see a light from a house I had just passed. Hopefully, nobody would bother me. I pushed my way over mini hillocks and water pipes. Through tight gaps between trees and eventually onto a small gravel road which led to another minor road which took me across the bridge and over the railroad tracks. Somehow, I ended up on another muddy trail as I pushed my way south and towards a large bright star in the sky. I knew I needed to keep going in a south-easterly direction so I took my compass out and shot a bearing. So as not to keep wasting time and to practise nighttime navigation I made what I called a 'memory map' in the sky. My southern bright star was in the six o' clock position. I needed to adjust to the south-east in the seven o'clock position. Just to the left of my bright star were three stars in an L shape. The heel of this was pretty much south-east. I followed this for about an hour occasionally through puddles and eventually came to a road where I came to a T-junction. There was light traffic and I turned to the right as that's the way it was mostly going. That night I made it to a small nameless village and camped on the decking of a grocery store. The friendly people sat chatting to me for about an hour before I turned in for the night. I know many of my friends like to finish their days walking by camping in solitude. As you all know by now I am a people person, I need to be with people and like the whole family experience, to communicate, even at a basic level by sign language and charades. That's what drives me. Here the family allowed me to charge my mobile phone and power pack overnight.
Then I walked a 37-kilometre day past more sugarcane and paddy fields. Other fields were ploughed by buffalo and old seemingly home-made motorised farm vehicles. I was coming to the end of the mountains in southern China. For two months solid I had been walking up steep mountains. Sometimes the passes were eight or nine kilometres long. Gradually that shortened to two or three until I was walking on what seemed almost like a high plain, even if it was only a couple of hundred metres.
I found a cheap hotel in a village. It was the third such hotel in a row that didn't even ask me for my passport, that always suited me, no police visit.
March 25th, Road day 333 of my world walk. So many days on the road and still I am fascinated to watch people work away in the fields. Young and old, sometimes three generations working away collecting what seems to me to be bundles of sticks and other what seems to me to be meaningless products. They continue to smile and stare as I walked past fields of red-coloured soil and rocks. rarely did I stop at a grocery store when I wasn't offered something else. Like when I went into a mobile phone shop to buy a cable. I asked for a glass of water and the lady there insisted on giving me three hard-boiled eggs and some biscuits. That night I walked until midnight and stopped at 51 kilometres to camp in a field.
I was getting to the fag end of China, close to the Vietnamese border. My left leg had suddenly become sore, I limped for a couple of hours the previous night and despite a solid sleep, it was still sore.
I made it to a town called Longzhou. I expected it to be a small town, instead, it turned out to be about the same size as Limerick City in Ireland and about an hour and a half to walk through. One never knows what to expect in China, everything is huge. That night I got to a small village just west of Bajiaoxiang. After stopping at another grocery store for a drink the owner locked up. I had wanted to walk on but as I sat outside under a sheltered roof I decided to settle down on a few chairs behind a pool table.
Then another 50-kilometre long day took me to within five of the border. For the only time in China, I didn't feel safe, for it's an extremely safe country. There was a construction site. I approached the security hut and before I could finish showing the guard my Google translated message to ask if I could camp there he ushered me inside his security hut. He was going off duty and gave me his bed in his hut. Also some delicious melon. That summed up China, hospitality from border to border.
One night the previous week I watched the Chinese English-language television network. A pretty slick channel called CGTN China Global Television Network and obviously aimed at a western audience. I have, to be honest from what I have seen of it, and I'm sure it's censored, I couldn't fault it. That night there was a report on a famous Shanghai-based bakery which was shut down due to using expired flour. The companies motto was " In flour we trust!" It seemed a newly set up government whistleblowers scheme led authorities to investigate. An employee who asked the owners why they used out of date flour was told to shut up. I have noticed that many of the confectionary snacks that I eat in China are inedible. I throw a huge percentage away. Recently there was a baby milk scare in which many babies died due to contaminated milk formula. The Chinese president Xi Jinping seems to me to be doing a great job. He is making great progress at weeding out much of the countries corruption and prosecuting those responsible. Perhaps communism suits China best. With a population of 1.4 billion, such a large group of people are not easily managed. I remember working for a large American Corporation. They embarrassed trade unions for they wanted to deal with an orderly organised group of people, rather than thousands of individuals, all with different opinions. Look at India, with a population of 1.1 billion it likes to call itself the world's largest democracy Perhaps if India had been a communist country it would be progressive. Instead, the country seemingly stands still with one hand on its hip and the other one scratching its backside. "What happened?" I can almost hear them ask. While the Chinese got their finger out as they continue to build and expand on their massive OBOR. Their One Belt One Road, return to the Silk Road rail, road and maritime infrastructure stretch across 30 Asian, European and African countries. It's their plan to ship food back to its people in addition to building trade with the world. As mentioned before China has built and provided aid for many of these countries. A long cherished dream to have a western coast can be obtained by building a road across Burma, that would give china a west coast, just like the American Pacific, access to the Indian Ocean and right up to the Indian border is Chinas California. China is a country with a vision. Thank you so much to the humble Chinese people for an eye-opening experience.