Thursday, March 30, 2017

World walk blog China 24 & 25 ( The Wrap Up Report )
World Walk Blog China 24
Total for 328 road days: 12,948 kilometres. Please check out my blog 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.
Monday 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. Tonight 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.

World walk blog China 23
Date: 18 March 2017 at 13:46:14 GMT+8

Thanks everyone for your nice St. Patrick's Day wishes. I walked a marathon and camped at a grocery store. After a nice chat I retired to my tent and enjoyed listening to Irish music. Phil Lynnots ' Old Town' is an all time favourite of mine. Thursday 34km. I wanted more but as happens so much when I stopped for a break I discovered a good place to stop for the night. Please see photos. It was a kinda covered garage area where people lived and have restaurants. I asked if I could sleep there. Just as I settled down a rat ran past me! It was only 9.30pm, so a long night ahead of me. First I remembered the advice I received in many places on my world run all those years ago. " Be sure to wash your face before going asleep, otherwise the rats will oblige!"

Not really wanting to pack up and head on and do the extra ten kilometres that I really wanted, I just pitched my tent. Problem solved, an a solid nights sleep. Also in the picture I am sorry that every time this young boy saw me he cried. In the picture he looks like he can't make up his mind about me!

Wednesday 53. That night I was stuck for a place to camp and came to a huge roundabout just beyond Nandan. The town itself  was bypassed. I walked over a long bridge above the town, so I just kept going. It was after midnight. The roundabout had a lot of shrubbery, so I camped in the middle of it!

This last week there have been less towns and villages. It's also  been raining a lot. Now I am also getting to the business end of china. Perhaps, ten days to Vietnam.
World walk blog China 22

Latest distance 12,694 kilometres walked in 322 road days on Thanks to Scott Richards for updating my website.
Not a lot to report in southern China except the roads are the worst to date. There is a lot of road construction and mud. I have missed a couple of diversions as they were in Chinese!

Monday I walked 45 kilometres and camped on the grass beside a monument. Earlier in the evening I stopped at a grocery store for a tub of pot noodles and as happens so much, the nice family brought me inside. They were watching a Chinese/ Japanese war movie on television. I have noticed that almost every time I turn on a television here there is such a movie on. The Chinese like to talk about the two Japanese invasions which have occurred. One of them was a massacre in Kunming in which hundreds of thousands of Chinese died. Because of this there has been a lot of Chinese animosity directed towards Japan. I heard a podcast where a Japanese politician has said that the Chinese keep asking them to apologise for the atrocities. The Japanese politician said that they must have apologised 25 times.

I took great interest in the movie and wondered why it was subtitled. I guess that's good for foreign propaganda! It seemed the Chinese Calvary troops were marching in October snows. They were in bad shape but because the spirit of Chairman Mao was with them they inflicted huge damage on the Japanese troops and then went onto a great victory. That's usually the Chinese gist. Apparently, Chinese and Japanese children's history text books differ.
Today, Tuesday I got off

To a slow start and only had an hours walking behind me by noon. I had stopped for a late breakfast, more of a brunch. A man who took a photo with me later returned to present me with a print.

So, on I walked, past a lazy dog lying in the middle of the highway. I have seen a lot of this here, Chinese dogs are not going to win any IQ tests! With all my clothes destroyed by mud it was time for me to buy some more clobber. I even had a tear in my sleeping bag repaired. I tell you between mud splashes and sleeping bag feathers I am a real mess! Tonight after my 40 kilometres I found a hotel and was given a room, as long as a shipping container. It is a huge bedroom for it even has seven built in wardrobes. So, I did a major laundry in the shower and have all my clothes hanging up. About two weeks to Vietnam. I want to be in Australia in about a month. I plan to fly to Melbourne as Michael Gillan, my crew man will be working at the Coburg 24 hour race there. I will help out too. Then the plan is that we will spend 3 or 4 days driving to my Aussie start in Perth. Talk soon, thanks for stopping by 😀

World walk blog China 21

My walk for the next week or so will be along route 210. From where I am tonight in Tuchangzhen to Mashan, as mapped in the last photo.
I walked east for a couple of days this week with little southern gain and towards the end of my China walk I will have to walk back west for another couple of days, once again with little southern gain.  Sometimes when treadmill, not getting anywhere stuff like this has to be done; its best for the morale not to follow the map too closely, just walk and enjoy!

Today I had a wonderful day, as usual I stopped to lay a few more bricks in the friendship wall that is China. My 39 glorious kilometres started with a stare out with a horse. I met my usual share of characters along the road and could have taken just as many photos again for this region is just pumping with vitality.
With the help of a shopkeeper I found a cheap inn. However, I am sharing the room with two smokers! Still, for the cost of a coffee and a Mars bar it's a bargain. It's raining outside. Inside I am comfortable and there is wifi.
Once again I had a police visit. Five officers, one of them spoke English. He was apologetic telling me he was only doing his job. Still he barked questions at me like...
 " What are you doing? Where are you going? Where have you come from today? Do you have a weapon? I showed him my pocketknife and told him it was for peeling apples. " Open your bag and show me inside?
I didn't offer to show him Karma which was parked downstairs.
Increasingly, I have to be forceful trying to protect my passport as its common for officers and hotel clerks to grab it roughly from one another as they examine the strange English script. I have also had people trying to hold it with a cigarette or a drink in their hand.
I love the Chinese people but I will be glad to move on.
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Saturday, March 11, 2017

World walk blog China 20

Update: 12,570 kms walked in 319 road days on

> As I wandered through towns and villages in southern China I continued to get a great kick from the people. Their warmth is infectious. I particularly enjoy playing with the children. Often it's a big enough shock for them just to hear a foreigner speaking ' funny ' without one who pulls faces and goes through the whole gambit of animal noises! Sometimes I screw off the orange cover of my plastic beaker and hold it between my teeth to cover my nose, orange nose. That always gets a laugh, from the young and old.
> After a 47 kilometre day I was walking long into the evening. I was wondering where I would stay that night. Just then I came to an illuminated hot springs resort which had a large car park. There was nobody about so I decided to pitch my tent in a quiet corner. Just as I was setting it up a security guard came along. He phoned the manager. My luck was in for the friendly manager of the Yu Long Hot Springs brought me inside for a free session and then later I was given a comfortable bed in a VIP lounge, luxury!
> I left pretty late the next morning. For the next three days drizzle was to accompany me towards Duyun. I walked over muddy potholed roads,
> Splashed by trucks and several times Karma saved me from slipping on the greasy surface. Sometimes she is like my Zimmer frame! I had to be particularly careful when walking down steep hills.
> China has been pretty much like one big building site, so much construction and modernizing going on. I understand that many new treasures and archaeological sites have been discovered in the process.
> After my session in the hot springs I was jaded on the road the next day for it took a huge effort to walk my 32 kilometres. Perhaps I didn't drink enough water during and after the session. I also went through a couple of days where I didn't get good quality food, for I made bad choice stops in some eateries where the food was cold or not palatable.
> But I was soon  back to form, I was turbo charged for I pounded out a mud soaking 57 kilometres over a 13 hour day. I only stopped once, for a late lunch. That was in a town with a name which has to be pronounce carefully ' Fuquan! '
> Well it was that kind of a day and evening. I walked past several villages where dogs barked me down the road. Dogs here are not really kept for pets, they are always kept outside. More like cheap alarm systems. I was wondering where I would stop for the night. Just then I came to a place that looked like a grocery store. It was also a restaurant and doubled up as an inn with a bed for the night. What luck I got a clean bed in a basic room for little more than the cost of a coffee in Europe. Dinner cost the same. The old man gave me a basin of hot water to wash myself and then another to soak my feet.
> Further on down the road I met a couple of English cyclists who had just cycled from Hong Kong. Pam and Steve were on a six week cycle holiday and they spoke of the axles and gear mechanisms on their bicycles getting clogged up with the mud.
> I noted that Steve rode an old classic bicycle, a Hollingsworth  which he rode to India on over forty years ago. He also rode from the UK to South Africa.
> Just like for me, Steves inspiration was Dervla Murphy, the Irish woman who cycled to India on a three-speed bicycle in the '60s.

Tonight, Saturday, tired and wet I got five refusals in Duyun before I finally found a hotel that would allow me to stay.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

World walk blog China 19

> 12,353 kilometres for 314 road days.
> A tough 46 kilometres walking across a steep mountain pass. For most of the day I walked past construction sites and a road widening project. Hardy women  dressed in high- viz vests, hard hats and sometimes an apron mixed it up with the lads. They worked harder lifting blocks, mixing concrete while many men stood smoking cigarettes. At the top of a mountain pass I was pleasantly to find a vendor selling fried potatoes and hotdogs. There was drizzle that day, combined with many roadside gravel piles which were scattered along the road it made for a muddy day. Even though the nylon shell of my waterproof walking pants are easily cleaned with a damp sponge, they just get mucked up again. Mud is perhaps the most embarrassing consequence of such a journey. I am regularly eyed up and down by smart dressed people who have just jumped out of a car or meet me when I stop. One can only feel dirty, no matter how one tries to stay clean, a splash from a truck and I am a mess again. That night I camped at a petrol station just six kilometres north of Zunyi City.
> In the morning just before I cleared the city a boy of perhaps ten years of age ran out in front of me. He was lucky that a careful bus driver slammed on his brakes, the boy also missed being hit by a truck by an arms length. He was shouting and running across that wide road to get to his friends. To me he seemed oblivious, almost like a dog that wanders out in front of traffic.
> I stopped at a roundabout to check my bearings. I was leaving route 210 which I had been on for over a month. I was looking for route 205. I noticed a white mini bus parked on the opposite side of the road. He made a u-turn and stopped to show me a message he had prepared on his translate app. It read: " If you betray us I will find you wherever you are."
> A strange person in deed. I was so taken aback that I didn't make a note of his registration number.
> I was to spend a long time mulling over that unusual comment. Who and what was he, I wondered.
> Does he do this to every foreigner he meets, well there are not many here. To be honest I was a bit hurt at the suggestion, for I love the Chinese people. There are many autonomous regions in this part of China. One reader emailed me to say it is populated by the Han people. Further on up the road a rat ran out in front of me as I approached a rubbish bunker. Village people burn their waste in them.
> Soon I was following a new road which was not on my google or on my It was definitely more direct than the 205. Foolishly I followed it for over an hour but then it ran out. I was now walking alongside the expressway which I can't walk on.  I could see on my GPs that if I could walk another four kilometres then I would be back on the 205. But there was no more road. To cut a long story short I ended up on a trail. However, the map was not complete. I have noticed this a lot in China. My mobile data was also not working but I was able to open an email which my friend Benjamin had sent me with directions and thankfully Chinese characters. I copied and pasted a nearby town called Shenxi which was near the  route 205. From that I was able to get a ' pin drop ' location and find my way towards a house. Beside the house my gps directed under the expressway. However, as there was a little used underpass the homeowner used it as a garage. He was obviously a carpenter for there were stacks of planks and posts beside his truck. All the while a fierce dog who was just out of my reach was straining on his chain. The owner came out and was too lazy to move his truck. With fading light I was pretty stressed at that stage for I had no food and little water.
> Still he continued talking to me in Chinese. I was sure he was asking me what I was doing I was asking him what he was doing blocking a public pathway. I moved some of his planks and poles and managed to push my way through to the other side. With much effort, and trying to stay out of reach of the barking dogs teeth, I found my way through the underpass and onto 205 again. I made my way to a Shenxi and found a hotel. After paying for my room the police came along and after much mishandling of my passport I was told I couldn't stay in that hotel. I walked through town following the patrol car, for they offered to help me. Two more police vehicles joined in and a total of eight officers looked on. I walked to three more hotels before I was allowed to stay. My terrible day was not complete for I then had to go to the police station with them for a passport check. I had to explain why I was walking  towards Vietnam as I had an entry stamp from there from my visa run a couple of weeks ago. It was suggested that I was already there and didn't need to return to China. Spare me!! I felt I did well to manage 32 km that manic day.
> Next day I was feeling a bit lazy and when a man gave me two bags of fruit I accepted his invitation to dinner in a restaurant in Tuanxizhen. I had intended to walk on but I didn't instead I camped under a tented area outside the restaurant. 28 kilometres.
> Then a tough day in the mountains up and down steep inclines followed. I didn't stop much walked 38 kilometres before dark. On the way a group of six men and women stopped me on the road and informed me they are government workers.
> That's great I said, and walked on.
> Once again I planned to walk on but when I saw that the restaurant where I had dinner had a nice cheap hotel attached, I stopped. Once again after going through the usual passport being mauled routine the police were called. Luckily after a lengthy examination of my visa and information I was only asked for my name in Chinese; that's all!
> The officers accepted my answer when I ran my name through google translate. I have been told that hotel owners are afraid of misbehaving. That possibly includes accommodating foreigners. So they call the police for reassurance. The police, trying to regulate the order of things, want foreigners only in assigned (unmarked, but collaborative) hotels. Therefore the hassle.
Private people are not allowed to host tourists. If they asked the police for permission they would get hassled. So they don't ask, because they are still kind and hospitable. Camping outside is neither forbidden nor allowed. Officials don't know what to do. Ignore or hassle are the two possibilities.

Monday, March 6, 2017

World walk blog China 18

Late at night having walked 44 kilometres I arrived at a small grocery store. Inside the owner and some customers were playing Chinese dominoes. 
I ate pot noodles for dinner. As I was still six kilometres from the next town I asked if I could camp outside the store.
In the morning as I sat on a chair having my breakfast the thoughtful owner played Danny Boy on his laptop. He followed it with a Chinese version of the Irish song! 
A tough 41 kilometres with a lot of climbing followed in the mountains. 
Men and and women of all ages worked their small cabbage patches. They used makeshift tools, shovels and picks. I waved, sometimes they smiled but more often than not I was greeted by stone wall silence as their eyes followed me down the road, for they had rarely if ever witnessed such an unlikely arrival in their villages. Sometimes I stopped to shake their hand and more often than not this raised a smile, always a special moment for me. 

That night I was between towns.
I came up a steep hill in the dark and came to a family restaurant. It was closed but they were cleaning up. I asked if I could eat there and they cooked me a huge meal. I ate it with the family sitting around me. The eight year old girl as sharp as a tack asked me where I was going to pitch my tent. Can I pitch it outside? I asked. They allowed me to sleep on the floor on my air mattress. 

Walking through China there were days when old men proudly wore their uniforms from their days under the rule of Chairman Maos Cultural Revolution. They carried heavy loads on their backs. Young fashionably dressed people drove nice cars, SUV's and ride motorcycles. I don't find them as interesting as their parents and grandparents.
Perhaps some of these older people are the survivors of Maos Great Leap Forward, his Great March, a sustained drive to modernise China in a time when he considered neighbouring Stalins regime to be too soft.
Maos targets were unrealistic for those manual workers to achieve. More food was required to feed hungry workers and the country didn't have it for so little of the land even today is arable. This resulted in a famine which killed some 70 million people. Every time one mentions a number in China, it's always a staggering drastic.

Today, China has 20% of the world population and only 3% of its land is suitable for farming.
I find it remarkable that a man responsible for such pain and suffering is still held in such high regard by many, his picture is on Chinese banknotes. A couple of people I spoke to have mentioned to me that he cleared the path for others to eventually modernise the country.
Today China has the worlds second biggest economy and is vying with the western world for respect and to be viewed as a true superpower. The country has led the way ( as I mentioned in a previous post) with programs to deliver food to its huge population. They are driving forward with their One Belt One Road revival of the Silk Road by rail and sea. Big business has bought up whole farms in France and ship the resulting produce back to China by rail, one of just 15 freight rail connections to Europe. They have bought meat processing plants in the USA and want to not only own but run and export back to feed the Chinese people. Like wise as in France the Chinese are buying up farms in America. There is no shortage of Chinese investment either. When the local government in Vancouver imposed a tax hike on foreign investments. Chinese investors responded by moving their business a short drive across the border to Seattle. That created an unexpected boom for the American city.
While all this is happening I wonder what the other overpopulated county India is doing to feed its people for India population is expected to overtake China's within the next 10 or 20 years. 

My world walk blog China 17
 It has taken one year (307 road days) to walk 12,062 kilometres across Europe and Asia as far as Qijiang in southern China. It all began in Ash Senyks Run Logic store in Dublin. It's been a blast, thanks to all those that helped, housed or fed me along the way.
As much as possible and without coming on too heavy I showed my translated messages in the form of a screenshot to people I met along the way. I shared my world walk message: Life is precious. Early cancer screening saves lives.
Here is the wrap up of the visa run to Vietnam and my return to the road. As always it was written late at night between yawns and eye closures!

While waiting on my train connection from Kunming I noticed a crowded smoking room where fathers even took their children inside to wait for them. On the train I was sitting beside a bunch of friendly senior citizens. When I ate a mushy black banana they thought it was the funniest thing they ever saw and laughed their heads off! The more they laughed the more I laughed and then two children joined in and we all had a great laugh all the way to Hekou.
After a five minute silent examination of my passport I was stamped into Vietnam. My first impressions of the country were of more considerate motorists. I noted that motorcyclists wore helmets. I have heard Vietnam been described as a clever communist state. Usually before I cross into a  new country I check out the exchange rate. I take a screen shot and can show it to the money changers.
After a recommendation from my friend Greg I ordered a bowl of pho in a restaurant. It was as he promise delicious. As far as I could tell it consisted of cabbage, strips of beef, noodles and various herbs. Checking into a nice hotel I was impressed by a display of ornaments and statues on display in the foyer.
Normally I keep my passport well wrapped up in zip lock bags, by for some reason I didn't in that hotel. There was so much moisture in the air that when I awoke this morning the cover of my passport was curled up beyond straightening. Passing back into China it didn't seem to be an issue. However, the immigration officer took a long time checking his computer and then to test my identity he asked me my name. Then he pulled me up for not including my middle name. I was asked which cities I had visited and why I have been in China so much. I was even asked how much I had paid for my visa. Too many questions for my liking. When I told him I was walking around the world his eyes lit up! After a few more questions about the walk his tone changed to one of incredulity. Then I received a "God bless you" greeting. A few minutes later I was back into the madness on the road and another sixty day stamp in my passport. Hundreds of Vietnamese vendors with huge carts of products were also crossing. As you can see from the photos they were running as they pushed their carts under supervision of the Chinese border guards. They went through a separate gate without any document checks. I was not sure why they were going to Chinese border town to work, and not the Chinese.

An uneventful five hour train journey took me to Kunming where I was told there was no train to Chongqing that day. So, I had to overnight in a hotel.
Eventually, after 19 hours in a train with no sleeper I arrived back in Chongqing at 8am. I was shattered for it was most uncomfortable sitting so long in a seat. In all my visa run took up six days. I had always wanted to take a trip in a Chinese train though on this occasion I regretted not flying. The nightmare was not quite finished as I had to wait all day in McDonald's for Harry to finish his his teaching job as he was minding Karma.
While using the WC there some disgusting person crapped into the  solitary urinal. I wondered as I had been hanging out there all day if the staff were pointing their fingers at me. I though it wise not to shave there.
Back at Harry's apartment I had to replace a suspension bracket which snapped on the way to his place a few days before. I was not sure if it was caused by a delivery man for a fast food restaurant. He clipped the side of Karma with his motorbike when cutting in front of me on a pedestrian crossing. Almost a year on the road and that was the first one to snap. On my world run I broke about four in the 14,000 kilometres I pushed that cart. I reckon there is more pressure on the suspension while running. Two of those breaks were suffered in a short distance on a washboard road in the Chilean segment of Patagonia. Not a good idea to run while pushing a cart on beat up roads, better to walk. The bracket itself is about the same dimensions as a 15cm/ 6 inch ruler and weighs about 80 grams. I have five more spares.
Replacing it is a bitch of a job that can take a couple of hours, especially at the side of the road. When it snaps the laden cart moves only with difficulty.
Unfortunately, it was late when I finished and too late to go out on the town with Harry for he had a busy day in work the next day. That night I slept like a bear in hibernation.
I was also eager to get back walking. Before I departed I left my winter and other gear with him for he kindly offered to mail it on to America for me, about ten kilos.
Two enjoyable days followed. I clocked up my 12,000th kilometre just outside of Chongqing. The city is China's largest and surprisingly the second largest in the world. To be honest Mexico City was more problematic for me. That night, just after midnight I camped at a petrol station just past Yipin Town. I had walked 50 kilometres. When I arrived it was closed. When I awoke it was open for another day. That day, February 27th I celebrated one year on the road. I powered along route 210 and started my second year on the road with 38 kilometres in my account, all before the sun set. I figured I earned my delicious stir fry dinner and a nice hotel which my friend Tom Denniss kindly sponsored. Tom has also run around the world, see his Facebook page: Toms Next Step.
I promised Tom I will also get a steak dinner, but I may have to wait until I get out of China, for steaks are difficult to eat with chop sticks!

Walk Map to 3/2017 Over 12,000Km so far...
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From: Tony <>
Date: 22 February 2017 at 10:51:17 GMT+8
Subject: Re: World walk blog China 16 
China/Vietnam/China visa run. Some good news and thoughts on my route ahead.
Thanks to Harry James, originally from England for helping me sort my train ticket to Kunming for my ' visa run.' Harry speaks fluent Chinese as he has been living in China for two years working as a teacher. It was a relaxing 19 hour journey of over 800 kilometres/ 500 plus miles. I now have a wait of a few hours for my final connection to Hekou, the border with Vietnam. That takes about five hours. I will then return to Harrys house with my fresh Chinese visa and finish my walk across China.
I have not mentioned it before but I had a lot of hassle getting my six month Australian visa!
Because I spent more than three months in Russia which is surprisingly a health risk I had to do medical tests. I thought this might be a nightmare to organize in China. I was almost considering skipping Australia and New Zealand 😂
I considered walking South America as a plan B instead. To be honest I have never heard of any full four-continent circumnavigation that didn't include Australia. Even though South America would have been technically acceptable, I just didn't feel good about it.
In the end I found an international medical clinic in Chongqing and on Monday I passed my medical examinations and tests. I was sub sequentially granted my six month Australian visa. I was particularly worried about the X-Ray exam as I am just getting over a bad cold, not to mention the smog which I have been walking in here since November! Once again thanks to Harry and Benjamin Kniebe for their great help in helping me locate the clinic.
Message from Australian Immigration:
" Dear Tony ,
We are delighted to inform you that your Australian Subclass 600 Tourist visa has been granted and you are free to travel to Australia! Please find attached your Visa Grant Notification letter as issued by the Australian Immigration Authorities."

My Australian route will be:
Perth to Melbourne. Possibly Tasmania but I haven't decided. Melbourne to Canberra, Dubbo to Sydney. This is across the Nullarbor desert. Michael Gillan
who did such a wonderful job crewing for me on my world run (from Melbourne to Alice Springs to Darwin) has kindly offered to come on the road and crew again 😀👣👣
New Zealand, South Island from Bluff to Cape Regina in the north island.

As mentioned I was considering walking South America instead and looking at the route in the final photo posted here. From Lima, Peru to Machu Picchu to Brazil (Amazon region) to Guayana, Surinam to French Guayana and back to Georgetown. After considering it as an alternative  I am pretty sure that I will include it before I take on the USA. Thanks Benjamin Kniebe again as he is one of my route consultants. I appreciate this so much as he is so busy. Benjamin is also fantastic at checking stuff for me (including long tunnels in China and finding better ways) on Google Earth satellite image maps. He goes over it with his magnifying glass and even checks googles pictures.

From South America I will be island hopping through the Caribbean to Florida. Cuba is my main interest. I am not sure about Jamaica as it has a dangerous reputation. I am now almost certainly going to walk the perimeter of the USA. Florida to San Diego, to Seattle to New England to Florida. I really want to walk Japan, so I might do it as an extra by walking from Seattle to British Columbia, Canada and then to Japan and possibly South Korea. Then returning to USA west coast.
From Florida to south Europe; Gibraltar or Spain.
No ' when will you? ' questions please 😂😂😂 Its not really fair to me as I am walking  around the world. Many times when I estimate I feel locked in to a schedule. Schedules require one to know in advance how many days and how much distance one will walk in in advance! I have been doing really well with my New Years resolution: avoiding this terrible wing-clipping question. So far, I only have been giving vague estimates, and that's only to those I have committed to previously!

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