Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Heading east… again

"When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle" Eric Idle

Back on the road again, pushing east once more towards the Chinese border. Ten weeks to Hong Kong. Familiar sights, innocuous things like petrol stations, evoking memories of my unexpected return to Almaty a month or so earlier. A maelstrom of emotion. De facto no from the Chinese Consulate, the subsequent return to the UK, to a seemingly perfect world, time with family, then back to the fray. Jet-lagged.

Found myself suddenly feeling very lonely. Reminiscing about time spent with my parents in their small Cambridgeshire village. The gently flowing brook, well-signed, neatly kept Public Footpaths. Nearby churches that offered walkers afternoon tea on Sundays. A few miles away a small town, its Public School at the very heart of the community. I’d taken the bus there one Saturday. Neatly laid out market stalls in the Square. Smart bookshop. A few cafes. Quieter perhaps than during term time, but even what hustle and bustle there was seemed nicely ordered.

Told myself this was just a natural part of the process of re-adjusting to being back on the road, compounded by tiredness, an unavoidable consequence of the five hour time difference with the UK. For, however disciplined I’d been about treating the UK as a "Nation of Convenience", the transition back was probably never going to be that easy. Something I’d suspected when I’d got back to Almaty. A familiar Western influence amongst its wide streets and pleasant parks. China. The unknown. Uncertain.

The wandering mind. Jolted occasionally by the need to check the map, as much for progress as for direction. Then back into deeper thought, the path ahead. Push for Yining, the first substantive town, a leafy outpost a day’s ride from the border. A few nights there, adjusting to the unfamiliar, then on through the mountains towards the city of Urumqi.

A further eight weeks and I’d reach Hong Kong. Imagined it to be, in a sense, similar to Malta I’d visited earlier in the year. Very different to the UK, and yet pleasingly intuitive. The Colonial influence, eroded little, from what I could glean, by the Chinese in the years since the lowering of the flag. Then on to Australia, New Zealand and North America. Two more continents. No language barriers to frustrate things.

Frequent stops for water. Cooler than it had been, but still around thirty degrees with little shade, especially in the afternoon as the sun moved towards its zenith.

Back in thought. South America. I’d yet to resolve how exactly I’d get there, some parts of Mexico south to Colombia fraught with danger, or just plain difficult to traverse. Then the plunge south, the crossing to South Africa. The final Continent. Had to be the most challenging, risky part of the journey, but by then I’d have a great deal of experience to draw on. And I’d be heading home.

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