Across Continents

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Eye on the clock

Several prolonged bouts of the dreaded traveller’s lurgy, possibly compounded by anti-diarrhoeals of dubious efficacy. Some difficult riding conditions – gale force winds and electrical storms – had also contributed to making progress slower than anticipated. Margin for error, unforeseen problems, now small. Uncomfortably so.

I’d enquired about a visa extension. Knew I was eligible. But, it seemed, I could only apply two days before expiry. Quite a way off, but the notion of being obliged to leave it to the last minute wasn’t in any way appealing. Overstay and there’s a real risk of detention and deportation. And I doubted the authorities would be very accommodating with Emma my trusty steed.

Wasn’t quite sure what to do. No immediacy. Yet. So I’d elected to do something productive whilst I’d considered the situation. Mulling over the options. A haircut. It had helped, bar the slightly worrying moment when a young woman had beckoned me to follow her into the back of the shop. A massage parlour. To wash my hair.

Perhaps I’d been overly confident with my strategy for China. Make full use of my three month visa, immerse myself in the country and its culture. With the benefit of cooler conditions in the western deserts, and less chance of encountering a typhoon or tropical storm further east. It came with risk, a reduced ability to absorb the unexpected into the plan, and less daylight for riding later on. I’d known the winds could be challenging, but their strength and persistence had been far greater than anything I’d expected.

Whatever hindsight might make of my strategy, further self-analysis wasn’t going to get me to Hong Kong. Besides, I found myself feeling fairly comfortable it’d been a good call based on what I knew at the time. Had been sufficiently diligent in my research. This project was always going to be about problem solving, and I’d now a very simple one to address. Put some time back into the programme.

First and foremost I wanted to see China. So far much of it had been desert, as enthralling as it was challenging. But, odd though this may sound, it was getting a bit repetitive. The toughest section – from Hami to Dunhuang – was complete. I’d learnt that the final section, along the Hexi Corridor east to the city of Lanzhou, was similar to much of the ground I’d already covered. But beyond it lay a very different China, greener, more mountainous, much more densely populated.

Decided I’d jump ahead to Lanzhou. That’d be sufficient to give myself a realistic, but still challenging, programme to reach Hong Kong. And wouldn’t diminish my aim of experiencing as much of China as possible. A sensible compromise. There was just the slightly tricky question of how I’d achieve it. And promptly. I’d an idea… and I was sure it’d be an adventure all of its own.

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