Sarah has been cycling with her camera chief, Justine Curgenven, for the past 10 days, but that is not the company I’m talking about. A spontaneous Chinese youth has opted to cycle with her to Beijing…. 4,000 kms and he didn’t even have a bike! Now how’s that for spontaneity! “When you’re going through hell, keep going” said Winston Churchill and it might well be something young Gao should be aware of!
Gao had encountered Sarah at a Service Station and was enthusiastic about her mission. “‘Wow!’ he said, ‘I so proud of you. It is brilliant what you are doing. I wish I could do something like that, but it looks so difficult.’
10 minutes later whilst pedalling away, there was much hooting and fanfair and Gao ya guang – “you can call me Gao” bounded across the central reservation of the Highway and declared, ‘You need a companion! I join you to Beijing!’
Nothing Sarah said seemed to deter him, and her anxiety mounted when she learned he did not even own a bike yet! “Keen to dissuade him and maintain my independence, I bigged up the challenges ahead, drawing particular attention to the Gobi desert, the distance and the hours on the bike and so on and so on, hoping he might retreat. But ‘twas not to be,” she blogged.
His family delivered him the following morning to Urumqi with all his new equipment, minus his hair (shaved off for the expedition) and sporting a very flash black and red lycra cycling outfit. He also had an impressive flag. ‘My brother said you had a British flag and so I needed a Chinese flag. But he say that mine should be bigger than yours,” he declared as they peddalled off. As the pair cycled out of town, Sarah noticed “a long string of red on the floor and I was confused. As Gao appeared at my side, grinning and yelling and the first bang exploded over the noise of passing cars, it all made sense: his family were sending us off to Beijing with firecrackers – right in the middle of the road. It was madder than mad and very brilliant.”
“Gao has been with me three days now and I think he’ll be here for a while yet. Having clocked just two kilometres on the new bike before we set off together, he’s pushed out some pretty big days through desert heat and mountains and is still smiling – so I’m impressed,” blogged Sarah.
It’s all very well having a companion, but Sarah also has a pretty tight schedule and Gao is going to have to help her stick to it. But she’s impressed with his gumption. “I need to crank up the miles in a day or two so that I can hit Beijing in a month. Although a bit surprised by my need for marathon days, he hasn’t been put off and I don’t want him to be either. In fact I would love to see him make it to Beijing and really hope that his kit and body hold out and adapt to allow him to do that – this is more than a bike ride for him, it is life changing. He has fizz and energy and enthusiasm and it’s great to see him growing in confidence as the miles tick by and he learns the way of life on the road, his bright red flag billowing out behind him.”
It’s a long way to Beijing, so we’ll keep you posted… and you can check on Sarah yourself on her site: http://www.sarahouten.com
Feature photo courtesy of AdventureCORPS