BIG NEWS – Unofficial World Record for the Longest Journey by Skateboard

It is my pleasure to announce that by all appearances, Marcelo Gervasio Silva of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has unofficially broken my world record for the longest journey by skateboard. Apparently he started his journey in French Guiana on the 26th of January 2011, and has to this date skated over 23,000km around Brazil and Southern South America (Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile). Read on to find out how you could help Marcelo get the recognition he deserves.

Details about the journey are a little scant (mainly because I don’t understand Portuguese), but from what I’ve seen on his Facebook page, the journey has been epic, especially this past southern-hemisphere winter, as he skated through Uruguai, Argentina, and Chile.

 (Photos via Marcelo on Facebook)

His documentation of the journey has been, however, by all appearances, immaculate. Photos of all kilometer markers he passes (, 200 hours plus of video footage, and plenty of diary entries. Some of his videos, including television interviews, are here:

I’ve had a few emails back and forth between Marcelo and I, and he tells me that the journey has a couple of motivations. He says the journey is, first and foremost, in memory of his father, who passed away in 2004. While this is the biggest motivation, he also wants to see skateboarding be promoted as a healthy past-time for kids in Brazil.  He is a passionate activist for getting kids off the streets and into life-affirming physical activity. And skateparks are a big part of this (he’s been a skateboarder since 1967). Along the way on his journey, he’s been meeting with politicians, and trying to raise the profile of skateboarding as a sport in Brazil. I really hope that the exposure he could get from his epic world-record-breaking journey will help with this.

When I said to Marcelo that he should apply to Guinness for the world record, he said that it is not so much for the record, but to honor his father that he is doing the journey. I have contacted Guinness myself anyway, and hopefully they will get onto “officializing” this journey. The process for applying for and validating a record is pretty daunting (, but it looks like Marcelo should have enough evidence to make a claim. If you want to help Marcelo along in this respect, you could contact Guinness World Records yourself, and encourage them to follow up on this amazing journey. Email me at, and I will forward you on the contact details of a few people in Guinness in London who you can contact.

Apparently he is currently working on a book and a film about his journey. I look forward to seeing them!

The Allure of Long Distance Skateboarding

In the words of another distance skateboarder, Adam Colton, traveling by skateboard “is a pretty stupid idea.” It really is. It is less efficient than cycling, you are at the mercy of the road surface and traffic is infinitely less forgiving towards you than other forms of human powered transport. And yet there is an inexplicable allure to it. The following is a snapshot of that allure, from the China leg of my 12,159km skate across Europe, the US, and China; China being the highlight for many different reasons.

Life is really simple

Sleep spot near Shiheizi City, Xinjiang Province, China

Pushing through endless desert near Turpan, Xinjiang Province, China

The rig on a plateau near Santai, Xinjiang Province, China

Cooling off on the way to Hami on National Highway G312 in Xinjiang, China

Joy that transcends borders

Enthusiastic Kazakh family in Gotsugu, Xinjiang Province, China

Enthusiastic local on the board near Santai, Xinjiang Province, China

Kazakh kids play with Rig near Jinghe, Xinjiang, China

Tibetan family near Erbou, Qinghai Province, China

Drying rice on roadside near Huangchuang, Henan Province, China

Breaks the ice – leads to real encounters

Butchering a sheep Tibetan style near Erbou, Qinghai Province, China

The monks of the Arou Buddhist Temple in Arou, Qinghai Province, China

Freedom from timetables – the road is yours

Skating the GZ45 expressway east of Guazhou, Gansu Province, China

Smooth fast skating in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, China

Hilly scenery east of Xian, Shaanxi Province, China

5km long tunnel on G70 expressway east of Xian, Shaanxi Province, China

Brand new expressway not open to traffic near Changwu, Gansu Province, China

Endless (National Highway 312 between Lotojue and Xinxinxia, Xinjiang Province, China)

Strong legs, super-human lungs, glorious appetite

A mountain of noodles for lunch in Huangchuang, Henan Province, China

Pushing on towards Tongbai, Henan Province, China


Prayer wheels in Arou Buddhist Temple in Arou, Qinghai Province, China

Progress in Hong Kong

Tunnels on new expressway not open to traffic (but open to skateboards) approaching Yongshou, Shaanxi Province, China

And static solitude

Hiking in the sand dunes near Shanshan, Xinjiang Province, China

Hiking in the sand dunes near Shanshan, Xinjiang Province, China

Early morning in Luoshan, Henan Province, China

This piece originally appeared on Alastair Humphreys’ awesome blog as a guest post.

World Record

Done and dusted - Guinness World Record

Despite receiving this certificate over a month ago, this post has been long overdue. Simply because doing justice to a post like this is hard work. It starts and ends with thanks:
Community is the most essential factor in any successful endeavour. Without the community, I wouldn’t have made it across China and to my goal at Shanghai. Period.
Dave Cornthwaite built upon Jack Smith’s success and launched a worldwide phenomenon; long distance travel by skateboard. Thank you for the inspiration, Dave.

To know that there were still yet many others pushing themselves to their limits on boards, or bucking the trend and choosing human power over oil-power to get themselves from A to B on a daily basis was a huge motivating factor. Thank you. Blog Readers
An especially big thank you to all those readers who made the effort and choice to type encouraging messages and comments during the journey. Some were faithful readers right from the start in 2006, some latched on towards the end. Whenever you did get on line with the trip, you were a huge boost to morale. This blog was for you.

All those who invited me in to stay
Many of those who invited me in to stay will never see this blog post. But to those with access to internet, thank you. Your trust is a beautiful testament to the goodness in this world.

All those who assisted financially
You know who you are. Thank you.

Day 879 – NEW ZEALAND: Mincing Faith

Before I unload some brain-baggage here, I’ll post some fun pictures.

At the farmer's market with Cousin Rach in Dunedin, New Zealand

Driving to the farrmer's market with Cousin Rach in Dunedin, New Zealand Feeding ducky with Cousin Rach in Dunedin, New Zealand

Feeling like an uncle with Evie in Dunedin, New Zealand Rowan skating in Dunedin, New Zealand

It was a fun weekend just been. I got to visit my Cousin Rach and Sam and flatting atmosphere in Dunedin on the way down to Invercargill for the Thomson Christmas Party. It was a long two days with a total of about 14 hours driving. But I did enjoy it. Having yarns with Mum in the car, skateboarding up Baldwin Street, and catching up with relatives in Invercargill that I hadn’t seen in over 7 years.

It was tiring weekend too. That’s where the next bit of this post comes in. At the least I hope this serves to assure people that even world record breakers still have issues that they are working through…
So this is excerpts of an email I sent to a friend lately…it gives a general idea of where I am at with the identity of myself in relation to my spirituality.

All part of my re-entry into my home culture. It aint no walk in the park.

….I cannot see a better way of living than that that Jesus represented. Casting off the old self…all that carry on. By nature there is a dysfunction in the human condition. We miss the point of living…we live blindly and unhelpfully and unlovingly (Page 9 – A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle)…and that causes suffering. The way of Jesus is such a clear-cut way to transcend so much suffering while we are on this earth. It is a way to bring heaven to earth, rather than hell to earth. Jesus, at the core of his message, is love.

So this is an awesome message for the here and now. It is freeing, and allows people to realise their God-given potential and empowers them to grow into who they were created to be; powerful and effective beings. The love ethic of Jesus is ultimately transferable to all areas of human existence; stewardship of the earth, social justice, interpersonal relationships, inter-cultural understanding…

So….this is an awesome has-no-borders message for people of all cultures. And it certainly does not require forcefully imposing a certain form of social ‘ways’ upon a culture such as Christmas trees, baseball caps, synthetic medicines, blah blah blah…

Purely from this perspective, I would love to be involved with missions, spreading the love ethic of Jesus.

And here it comes…


There is that little niggling issue of the after-life. Some humans require some assurance that this is not all there is. Something that has been growing in my mind is “why even bother about the concept of the afterlife. Why even bother about concerning ourselves about what we need to do or not do in order to be saved from death after death. Let’s just concentrate on the here and now, and what we can do to avoid ‘death’ (relationally, environmentally etc) now”.


Then this of course doesn’t account for the fact that us humans are incapable of true, pure, truly unconditional love. We will always do things that hurt ourselves or others or the environment. When the power of love overcomes the love of power, only then will the earth know peace is a bit of a favourite saying of mine. But rationally, us humans could never get to the point of total pure self-sacrificial love for each other. Even if every person on earth managed to discover within themselves their potential for love and was able to live it out the best they could, there would always be some un-lovingness. So even in this utopian ideal, there would be some un-love. Some selfishness. Some missing the mark of the ideal.

So that’s where Jesus comes in, I guess? Dies on the cross, rises from the dead (as a physical risen-from-the-dead human body made from matter and atoms and cells and can eat fish and people can poke their fingers in his nail-hioles and floats into the sky and goes………up………into outerspace……..a human body….floats…..into space…where does the matter go…the human body of Jesus….into outer space? What the hang was that all about?!) and covers the bits that we humans could never achieve on our own…

As you can tell, I am thinking out loud.

And far too much thought, and far too little actually reading the b i b l e.

But that still doesn’t answer my issue with not everyone on this earth having the opportunity to hear the un-biased, un-tainted-with-church-doctrine-and-tradition message of Jesus. I mean, forget about ‘the four corners of the earth’…how many people have walked away from the church discouraged and hurt and confused because the image of God that they were given was not an accurate balanced one? Due to the mistake of the church they are doomed?

This journey I am on, by the way, is something that I am very thankful for. I saw sooooo many cultural/religious/nationalist/faithist/patriotists on my travels where all that stuff was merged into one. I am therefore I am . I am determined not to be that way. I am determined to know what the ramifications of what I claim to be are.

Right now nothing resonates with me. The last two opportunities I have had to take communion, I have decided not to, because I am just not feeling anything. I don’t want to do it just because ‘that’s what Christians do’ or because it is a meaningless ritual. Yes Jesus’ love ethic is incredible. But the concept that Jesus died for our sins…all have fallen short of the glory of God….why are these concepts not resonating in my heart any more? In the past, was I just fuelled by emotion? Fuelled by a ‘religious’ fervor?

Songs that I once sung with passion are feeling uncomfortable and hollow. Lyrics are just words, rather than meaning.

How do I get a heart-head connection going here?

When all the nice feelings of singing and community of like-minded people are absent for a period of time, I have found that I start to see the inconsistencies and irrationalities that I never had the drive to question. Because hey…if I’m in a nice Christian church bubble, I only get grazed here and there by people who point out the bits that don’t make sense. And then I can climb back in the bubble and feel safe and comfortable and not have to think that perhaps, just perhaps, this church entity is actually trapping people, not setting them free.

But then I see that I do not ‘go to church’…I am the church. Me with my questions and confusion and my rational conviction that Jesus’ way is an awesome way to live and does actually allow people to become the best version of themselves that they can be on this earth.

But I don’t fully believe right now. To fully believe is to accept that all that Jesus said is true. That it is in fact the absolute truth, and all other truths (religions, ways to ‘God’) are but relative to Jesus’s truth. That they may contain bits of the truth, but only Jesus’s truth is the complete truth. Essentially that is what it is to be a Christ follower. Yes?


I’ll let the video tell the story. Once again I apologise for the lack of the Youtube version of this video. Uploading to Vimeo has proved to be more reliable than Youtube, and as I type the video is still uploading to Youtube. So without further adue…(direct link:

I awoke this morning feeling jaded after far too much excitement over the last week or so. Not that I was complaining. The week spent with the girl I met in Blenheim was fantastic, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

I was on the road early today. About 7am. I woke at 5:30am in my tent and I was instantly aware that this is the last day on the road. There would be no sleeping in this morning. The first 30km towards Christchurch was spent in a daze of euphoria. I had to remind myself to stop and eat. Excitement doesn’t last long when the body is demanding sustenance. Landmarks sped by one after the other, my mind reminiscing of adventures I had had in the past in each location. The turn off to Hanmer Springs (I once did 160km/h along that road in my Aunty Les’s car) . The small town of Amberly (always went through this town on the way to Hanmer Springs). Leithfield Beach (had bonfires there during a Christian camp at university). Woodend (good old Woodend!).

Before I knew it, I was entering the outskirts of Christchurch. Suddenly the rush wore off as the reality hit that it was almost over. My mind was awash with thoughts and fears…

Wow, Christchurch has changed, I thought as I cycled past gated communities of all things on the outskirts near Kaiapoi. Gated communities?! I thought. What is this, the paranoid USA fear of the boogie-man? I had seen plenty of gated communities in the US, guarged by 24 hour security. That would never happen in New Zealand, I thought way back then. So what has happened here in Christchurch? Is there such a culture of fear developing that we all of a sudden need gated communities?

Speaking of fear, anxiety is at an all time high right now. What is causing that? I probed deeper into my psyche and realised that I had an almost paralytic fear of normality. Does this end to my journey mean that I will slowly just ease back in to existing rather than living?

But this is reality! I suddenly realised as I watched people going about their business. Shopping, driving, walking…our real life tangible existance, this is our reality. For the last 2.5 years I have witnessed humans of every culture in wonderful vibrant existance. The passionate Chinese couples making love noisily in the next room over in the small inns in China. Old men dragging me out of the cold into a tea house full of laughing, cursing people in Turkey. Achmed in Tajikistan, struggling to support his family on the meagre income from his electrical repair business, but still smiling and exuding life and showing generosity and hospitality. North Florida ‘rednecks’ enjoying Christmas with family…I could go on and on. This, this is it. Family, friends, community, our planet. This is it. I spend so much time looking to the future, when here is what really matters. Now is what really matters. We are reality.

I also realise that I have been globally stimulated. I can no longer consider New Zealand as the only potential concept of home. While I am ‘coming home’, I am not coming home to a family home. Of my parents, my brothers and my closest extended family, only two individuals still live in the same house as when I last lived in New Zealand five years ago.

As I cycled through downtown Christchurch, I felt a detachment from everything and everyone else around me. No one knew that I was completing such a huge adventure. Even my Mum did not know that I was arriving. My cell phone was out of battery power, so I couldn’t tell her that I had arrived a day earlier than anticipated. I arrived in Cathedral Square in the middle of Christchurch, and I felt nothing. I had arrived at my physical ‘destination’, and essentially the journey by bike and skateboard was over.

I sat there for a few minutes, saying nothing. And then, in a profoundly Forest Gumpish sort of way, I muttered under my breath “Well I suppose I should go home then.”

I cycled from the city center out to Aidanfield, a super new suburb on the outskirts of Christchurch city. So new in fact, that maps at service stations for the area did not show my parent’s street on them. After a short search, I got some directions, and made my way to my parents house. Sound planning, wise decisions, and hard work seems to have paid off for them, I thought, as I surveyed their typically modest, but well laid out new home. Set on the edge of a reserve, there are pukeko, phesants, ducks, hares, magpies and wrens that wander across their back yard.

Mum and Dad's pad in Aidanfield, Christchurch

After calling Mum to get the combination to the key holder (and her spouting her surprise at me getting home sooner than expected), I settled down into a comfy couch over looking the reserve.

To clearly convey how I felt at that moment, it is important that I relay an event that happened a few days ago. I didn’t get around to blogging about this, but on that day a cousin of mine forwarded me a link to The Zeitgeist Movie. “I’m afraid that much of what is in the movie might be true,” my cousin, a regular church goer, told me. “It has shaken my faith, and I am in a major Christianity crisis,” she continued. She said she was concerned that her faith that she had been brought up on was not true. We were chatting on Gmail chat at this time, and I told her to wait for two hours. I was going to watch the movie there and then. Watching The Zeitgeist was perhaps one of the most important things that happened to me while on this journey of mine, and it had everything to do with my faith as a Christian.

The Zeitgeist is a movie about “What does Christianity, 9/11, and the Federal reserve have in common”. In the first part of the movie, it more or less deconstructs the Christian religion as a myth. Much of it I agreed with whole-heartedly. The scare tactics and false teaching and un-loving nature of the church. Terrible stuff. I have always disliked fundamental Christianity for that very reason. What came as a surprise was the movie’s arguements for how the historical Jesus may never even have existed!

In any case, I was left shaken, and unsure of my belief in the bible any more. I started to think about all that I had been taught in church.

  • Some good people won’t get to heaven! one tract I read in my university days expounded. It’s only through an acceptance and knowledge of Jesus that will get you there. You and your friends and your family who don’t accept this are doomed if they reject this message!

This I think sums up what I couldn’t figure out about Christianity. Yes, Jesus taught love. Yes I believe that love (love for other human beings, love of your body, love for the earth…) is the healthiest and most pure principle that us humans can live by.

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

But what about that niggling wee issue of salvation and heaven and hell and damnation and non-acceptance of certain ways of life (read homosexuality)?

So, back to me sitting there on my parent’s couch. I was feeling anxious, because I was fairly certain that I was going to have to tell Mum that I could no longer accept the Christian faith. Son gets back from life-altering experience and has rejected all that he has grown up to accept and know. How tragic for a parent could that be?

In reality, I neededn’t have worried. After discussing the issues through with my Mum and Nana, I was feeling better not only for having the courage to air my doubts and confusion, but also feeling better in that my Mum and Nana’s sanity was intact. They had thought about these same issues, and I gathered this as the general response:

“The older I get, the less I realise I know about God,” said Nana. “He is far too magnificent and his ways are far too mysterious for me to know fully. He knows the heart of every person, and he is the perfect judge. Neither I nor anyone else can see the true intent in a person’s heart, so who is anyone to judge but God.”

So I wouldn’t say that my existential spiritual crisis is entirely over, but things are better in my head. I cannot accept that there is no God (I have seen way to much of His creation to doubt that existance), so “there is a God” it is. And if I can learn more about the heart of God through biblical scripture and honest truthful teaching, then so be it.

No one said it was going to be easy coming home. And I can testify that it ain’t no walk in the park so far.

Day 833 – NEW ZEALAND: From The Bridge To Nowhere Lodge to Ranana

I was up early this morning, making porrige in the Lodge’s self-catering kitchen. Mandy and I were chatting, when…

“Would you like to borrow a canoe?” Mandy asked with a tone of motherly concern.

There was not much arm-twisting required to get me to accept. When Joe heard of the plan however, “What? You can’t pull out now!” he said with a grin. “You have to finish the mission as you planned!” he jested. Or perhaps he was serious. Perhaps I was just wimping out. Perhaps I should just stick to the mighty rubber KonTiki.

“What will the foreign tourists think that saw you yesterday? They’ll think you couldn’t handle it,” he continued in his mocking tone.

“Either that or they will think I am smart,” I replied.

That seemed to please him enough to relent. “Meet me down at the water in a few minutes,” he said.

Mandy, upon hearing of my lack of food, piled me up with enough to last a week, and sent me on my way.

At the river, there was a two person Canadian canoe waiting for me. I donated the rubber KonTiki to the Lodge, and transfered the bike and gear to the canoe.

I gave up on the raft and switched to a canoe (kindly lent to me by Ramanui Lodge, Whanganui National Park, New Zealand)

I couldn’t help but think that I was going from rags to riches. Low on food and on a crappy slow rubber tube raft to loads of food and a decent water craft (complete with lifejacket). Joe and Mandy, you guys are legends. Thank you so much.

I gave up on the raft and switched to a canoe (kindly lent to me by Ramanui Lodge, Whanganui National Park, New Zealand)

On the canoe, I was free to enjoy the spectacular gorge scenery on the Whanganui River. Gliding smoothly and effortlessly along with the current, with pulse-raising rapids every now and then, the ride was awesome. What would have taken at least two days on the raft took 4 hours in the canoe.

Canoeing down the Whanganui River, Whanganui National Park, New Zealand

Joe was scheduled to be at Pipiriki at 2pm that afternoon to pick up some guests for the lodge in the jet boat. I met him there, where the canoe was transfered to the jetboat, and I was on my own with the bike again. Stoked. On firm ground again. Thanks again to Joe and Mandy at The Bridge To Nowhere for all their awesome help!

The road from Pipiriki to Wanganui is mostly gravel, and winds along beside the Whanganui River all the way. For the rest of the afternoon I cycled, enjoying moving faster than only just faster than walking pace.

Jerusalem was a fascinating stop. An historical convent with nuns still living there, with a rich Maori heritage. The photo below is of a carving at the front of the church. A ‘Maori Jesus’. A refreshing depiction indeed.

A Maori Jesus at the convent at Jerusalem, Whanganui National Park, New Zealand

The church itself is pretty, with Maori motifs all around.

Maori Catholic Church at the convent in Jerusalem, Whanganui River, New Zealand

I pushed on past the convent and ended up sleeping under the veranda of a closed campground near the river.

Day 832 – NEW ZEALAND: From The Bridge To Nowhere to Ramanui Lodge (The Bridge To Nowhere Lodge)

The Bridge To Nowhere in the Whanganui National Park is indeed an anomoly of crazy land development planning. It does indeed go nowhere. Such a beautiful bridge. To nowhere.

The Bridge to Nowhere on the Mangapurua Track, Whanganui National Park, New Zealand

I camped last night on the bridge.

BeaNZ on the Bridge To Nowhere, Whanganui National Park, New Zealand Camping on the Bridge to Nowhere, Whanganui National Park, New Zealand

Birdsong in the morning was awesome. Just awesome. Sounds that I have never heard before in the South Island of New Zealand.

Morning on the Bridge To Nowhere, Whanganui National Park, New Zealand

An increasingly concerning issue for me during this wee detour into the Whanganui National Park, was my food supply. I was already a day later than I had expected, and I knew that I would not be able to strech my food for more than another two days. I just hoped that it would only take two days at the absolute most to float down the river.

From The Bridge To Nowhere, it was a short ride along nice smooth tracks to the Mangapurua Landing. People who canoe the Whanganui Journey along the Whanganui River will stop at the Landing and visit the Bridge, or tourists will get a jet boat ride up the river from Pipiriki to visit the Bridge (see for details). This means that the track to and from the Bridge to the River is well worn. In stark contrast to the rest of the track.

When I got to the landing, I started work on the raft. First thing, pumping up the tubes. Using a foot pump given to me by Bruce from a few days ago each tube took 15 minutes to inflate. I had to repair a few small punctures (due to falls on the bike during the last few days on the track).

Building the raft on the Mangapurua Landing near the Bridge to Nowhere, Whanganui National Park, New Zealand

Punctures fixed, tubes tied, and I was ready to depart.

It floats! (Floating 30km down the Whanganui River in Whanganui National Park, New Zealand on a home made raft with bicyle attached)

Building the raft on the Mangapurua Landing near the Bridge to Nowhere, Whanganui National Park, New Zealand Building the raft on the Mangapurua Landing near the Bridge to Nowhere, Whanganui National Park, New Zealand

On the mighty raft on the mighty Whanganui River, Whanganui National Park, New Zealand

I was feeling pretty cool on my raft and felt pretty smug as mere mortal tourists cruised by in canoes and oooohed and ahhhed at my ingenuity and hardcoreness.

After four hours on the river however, I was not feeling quite as cool. Those canoeists had already arrived at their campsites, and I was still trying to paddle with a growingly painful headache. My legs were surprisingly warm, despite hanging in the water for the entire time. It wasn’t until I pulled to the bank for a break after four hours that I realised that they were just numb. I could hardly walk for 5 minutes as I regained feeling.

The river is not always as tranquil as in the photos above. There are regular rapids (1 to 1.5 grade) that require some paddling skills. Certainly fast enough to get my pulse pumping.

At one stage, I spent 30 minutes floating around and around in circles, caught in a massive eddy. If not for the help from Joe from the Ramanui Lodge (Bridge To Nowhere Lodge), who was upstream in his jet-powered barge checking on his horses, I may have still been circling a week later. He came to the rescue and gave me a tow out using his jet boat.

After the ‘rescue’ the headwind started. It was an agonsing two hours to cover the remaining few kilometers to the Lodge. At this rate, I was definitely going to run out of food before getting to Pipiriki; the next road that I planned to cycle out of the park on.

Due to the ‘rescue’ my fame went ahead of me to the lodge. Across the river from the lodge is the DOC campsite, but I didn’t realise this, and ended up on the Bridge To Nowhere Lodge side of the river. THe river was swift at this point, and there was not much chance of me getting across to the DOC site for some free camping. I sucked it up and made the trek up to the lodge, ready to try to talk my way into being able to camp on their property for free.

Joe and Mandy, the owners of the Lodge were having nothing of it. “You’re a madman!” Joe spouted as he shook my hand with a vice-like grip. “But good on you!”

Ramanui Lodge (Bridge To Nowhere Lodge), Whanganui National Park, New Zealand

They took pity on me, and I was shown to the bathrooms for a warm shower, they fed me, and I was mercifully spared from having to camp in the back yard with ‘the zoo’ (ponies, llamas, peacocks, chickens, dogs), and I was able to set my tent up on the front lawn with an amazing view of the river below.

Ramanui Lodge (Bridge To Nowhere Lodge), Whanganui National Park, New Zealand

The Bridge To Nowhere Lodge is amazing luxury accommodation in the middle of Whanganui National Park, accessable only by jet boat or canoe. Just incredible.

Day 815 – NEW ZEALAND: Grueling physical test

A big thank you to the New Zealand Academy of Sport in Auckland today. Joe McQuillan, a sports physiologist at the institute put me through my paces to see how fit I really am. TV3 National News was there to record the pain! Click on the text link below to view the video.

Skateboarder back from 12,000 km journey puts fitness to test

From the TV3 News website:

In the great tradition of Kiwi adventurers, skateboarder Rob Thomson is back in the country after having completed the longest skateboard journey ever recorded – 12,000 km across Europe, the USA and China.

What does it take to travel under your own power for so long? Does it make Rob Thomson an elite endurance athlete?

Rob took himself and his board to be tested by the New Zealand Academy of Sport.

The epic solo journey took Rob more than 12 months. When he got back to New Zealand, he was curious about what it had done to his body.

New Zealand Academy of Sport physiologist Joe McQuillan agreed to test Rob to see if he had become super fit.

It is the first time anybody has skateboarded for more than six months in a row, so physical endurance data does not exist for that kind of discipline.

The tests included a skin fold test and a strength test, but the key test involved something the Academy of Sport has not done before – pushing Rob to his aerobic limit – using his skateboard on a treadmill.

The results showed he was probably at the same fitness level as someone who competed in iron mans in their spare time, but did not focus on it completely.

Rob was not surprised he would not be considered an elite athlete, as he could take breaks whenever he felt like it on the journey.

“My focus was to travel by skateboard in a human powered way an environmentally friendly way but still have enough energy to communicate with the local people,” she said.

Now he is back in New Zealand, Rob intends to find a job at home in Christchurch.

Day 810 – NEW ZEALAND: Arrival in Auckland; not home yet

As I sat in the taxi, being driven through Shanghai to the train that would take me to Pudong Airport, I felt a tinge of sadness. As much as I had become frustrated at trying to understand the ways of the Chinese, I was going to miss this place, I thought.

As I watched through the glass, I noticed small things. The tangled mess of telephone wires and powerlines. The small stinking, mysterious alleyways. The mayhem of millions of discontented building bricks that made up the overbearing mass of skyscrapers. Small shacks cowering under the shadows of the ever reproducing highrise apartments.

Chaos has it’s appeal, I decided. And leaving it left a tension in my gut. Finally I had what I wanted. I was going home. But really, I mean, really…is this really what I want?

I felt the same way as I sat on the Maglev uber-super express train from Shanghai to the Pudong International Airport. The super high-tech German train has a top speed of 431km/h. No part of the train touches the platform above which it floats. At this speed, small things raced away into oblivion. I watched from the super expensive double glazed strengthened windows as development and progress spun by in a blur. Massive wide streets, some newly completed, some older ones under a half-hearted attack from weeds. The streets waited patiently for their coming glory. For now, they are alone in wastelands on the outskirts of Shanghai. Come back in less than 5 years, and those roads will be bustling. Highrise apartments will line the streets, and will stand at attention, crammed into the confines of the grid of those wide roads.

While I am finished with China for now, China will not stop. Progress there is not a grinding wheel. It is a floating super express train, equipped with bullbars and battering rams, charging towards the future at 431km/h.

I was early for my flight. NZ88 from Shanghai (China) to Auckland (New Zealand), departing at 2:15pm from Gate 87. I bought a mexican beef wrap at a waiting lounge cafe. It cost me a ridiculous 5 Euro, and I was dismayed at how light the takeaway package felt. Welcome to the ‘real world’ I thought as I glanced inside the paper bag at the pathetic flop of tortilla and beef. I sat down on the floor next to Gate 87 and chewed on my Mexican Beef Wrap that cost me the equivalent of five days travelling budget in China.

On the plane, I was instantly transported to a comfortable cabin environment where familiar sounds and sights began to ease their way into my psyche. A flight attendant speaking with a New Zealand accent. Burt Monroe and his Flying Indian was on the inflight movie selection. I had a glass of Marlborough white wine with my smoked salmon and potato salad at the inflight meal. Ready or not, I had begun my transition home.

The flight was direct to Aukland. 11 hours of tolerable airtime, made easier by plenty of films to choose from. I naturally gravitated to the New Zealand selection; Scarfies and The World’s Fastest Indian.

The flight was an overnighter, and we approached Auckland just after dawn. Looking out the plane window, my feeling was neutral. What I saw below me was not home. It was another big city. It was as unfamiliar as any of the multitude of cities that I have seen during my travels. I was about to arrive in New Zealand, but I was not yet arriving home.

Plane on the ground, I walked towards immigration. “Welcome to New Zealand…” the PA system spouted. Wow. I’m actually in New Zealand. I really am, I thought. I felt a surge of euphoria funnel up inside me. I was walking on air. Almost two and a half years, I had never been back. And here I am.

I proudly presented my worn and tattered passport to the immigration officer. “How long have you been away?” she asked.

“Two and a half years,” I said with satisfaction. “I’ve been traveling for that whole time.”

“You’ve worked a little here and there? How have you supported yourself?” she asked, to my great joy.

With suppressed pride I explained my self-chosen path of poverty for the best part of those two and a half years. She was not particularly impressed or un-impressed. “Welcome home,” se said blandly, and I was allowed through.

“Well would you believe it?” I muttered under my breath. “In New Zealand at last.”

I collected my luggage from the rack. My longboard and trailer were safely cocooned in layers of cardboard and cling wrap. I declared my tent and wooden longboard to customs, and they checked them carefully for any trace of biological threat to the New Zealand environment. I did not resent the 20 minutes it took to unpack and repack the longboards and tent. Stringent biosecurity measures are what keeps New Zealand the way it is; green, clean, and beautiful.

My parents and my cousin Rachel were there a the arrivals gate when I finally got through biosecurity. The emotion that I felt as I embraced my Mum and Dad took me by surprise. I sobbed into my parents’ shoulders, tears flowing. There were times during the journey when, in the back of my mind, I thought that there was a slight possibility that I would not make it to New Zealand alive. I was never fearful of my personal safety in regards to people or environment. The open roads however were a life-threatening hazard that I did not underestimate. Especially on the longboard, there was an inherent risk in what I had been doing. To finally feel the embrace of my parents meant that I was finally safe.

Tearful reuniuon with parents at Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Tearful reuniuon with parents at Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Thanks to my cousin Rach for being there and capturing the moment.

A national TV crew was also there to capture the moment, and you can see the story here:

TV3 National News – Kiwi Skateboarder Arrives Home

My first meal after arriving home was lunch at a local canteen. Quite obviously catering for the labour working crowd, the food was quintessential New Zealand. Chips, bacon, eggs, roast chicken. Sweet custard squares and cream filled buns. Bread rolls with more salad and meat filling than bread. And of course MEAT PIES.

I naturally gravitated to the meat pies. Mince and cheese was my choice. “You’re just like Chris (my brother),” my Mum said. “When ever he comes back from Australia, he always has a pie and a custard square!”

Chris, you’re a legend. I would have forgotten about the custard square had it not been for you. So I got myself a custard square too. Such great New Zealand fast food wonder. It was bliss.

The afternoon was spent chatting about family. Went into central Auckland and all agreed how horrible it must be to have to commute into the city every day. Had takeaway curry for tea (dinner) and Rach and I shared a beer as we waited for the curry to arrive. It was good to ponder life together.

Day 800 – CHINA (JIANGSU): From Luxu to the end of an era

Today’s distance / ???????: 48.1 miles / 77.4km
Average speed / ????: 7.8mph / 12.5km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 6h 10m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 7,168mi plus 386mi (?) / 11,537km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N31°13′58.8″, E121°27′52.1″

I arrived in Shanghai today. People’s Square was my goal. Right in the guts of the sprawling city.

I almost couldn’t have been a better day to finish this ‘era’ of my journey. The sun was shining, it was clear and crisp, blue skies, no pollution, cool…and a headwind. But hey, what’s new.

I left Felix’s place at around 7:45am. It was great to get on the road. I knew I only had around 60km to skate today, so I took it easy, drinking in the surroundings. I felt alive. It was as if everything was sharper than usual. The air was lighter. Sounds were vibrant. Colours were crisp. I felt a deep sense of satisfaction. Nothing like any sort of rush of adrenaline or joy. Just a stillness in my heart.

I was pleasantly surprised to meet Steve Ruelle on his bike about 30km from Luxu. He had started much later than me on his bicycle, and apparently was hoping to catch me before he had to stop to get a bus the rest of the way into Shanghai. He met me just as I was about to pass the intersection that he was intending to turn at. The chance meeting resulted in us finding a great pizza restaurant nearby. My first taste of real western food for almost five months. My feeling of satisfaction continued to glow inside me.

Crossing the border from Jiangsu Province into Shanghai district was like going through a time warp. I felt like a neanderthal being transported through the ages into a modern society. The roads were immaculate, there was much less garbage dumped on the roadside.

Arriving at the Shanghai District border at last, China

I’ll be honest and say that the above photo was well and truely posed. I did tear up a little when the large ‘Welcome To Shanghai’ sign appeared, but I can’t put a finger on any particular feeling that I felt the moment I crossed the border. Just that same sense of satisfaction. My muscles and mind felt relaxed.

It was by no means an easy day however. The headwind kept my speed down, and I had to take frequent breaks.

From the Shanghai border to People’s Square in the center of Shanghai it was another 67km. Most of it was in semi-urban outlying areas. I was thrilled to see the French sports/outdoor store Decathalon about 20km out of the center of Shanghai as I was skating past. My trousers (that I am wearing in the photo above) were bought at a Decathalon store in Italy more than a year ago, and were now only held together by some sort of miracle. I was able to buy another pair similar to them at the Shanghai store for 15 Euro. I paid for the new trousers, went to the store toilets, changed trousers, chucked the old ones in the rubbish bin, and carried on skating.

About 16km out from the People’s Square, I met a German guy out for a Sunday bike ride. We chatted as we were waiting for the lights to change.

“You’re out for a biek ride?” I asked.

“Yes, just biking home now. Where are you from?” he asked.

“New Zealand. And yourself? Do you live in Shanghai?” I replied.

“Yes. It is a nice place to live. Good roads, and nice enough people. Are you travelling around here?” he said.

“Uh…yeah, you could say that. Actually, I’ve just skateboarded across China,” I told him.

He nodded and smiled. A moment passed. A frown appeared on the man’s face. “What?” he asked hesitantly. “You only travelled by skateboard? Nothing else? With all that gear? But the roads must have been terrible. All the roads are terrible outside the cities in China,” he informed me.

I explained that the roads were actually the most consistently smooth of any country I have been to. “Wow, that is amazing,” he said.

The lights turned green, and we said our farewells. He charged ahead of me on his road bike to beat the hoards of noisy squealing-braked shopping bikes.

Before long I was well and truely in Shanghai proper. Massive skyscrapers dominated the skies around me. Three story traffic interchanges sucked vehicles in one side and spat them out in all directions on the other. I pushed on past the no-cycling signs and stayed on my direct route to People’s Square. I wasn’t keen to take any detours. One wrong move and you’d be lost forever in the cluastrophobic maze of steel and concrete and asphalt.

At around 5:30pm I had made it to within three or four kilometers of the square. I kept on pushing on along the main street. Traffic police and traffic wardens on street corners blew their whistles and waved for me to stop. If only they knew where I was coming from. I blew past them. I had come 12,150km, and only had a few kilometers to go till I was finished. I was not stopping for a whistle. The whistles and half-hearted calls for me to stop faded behind me. 1km out from the square, I began to recognise where I was. I recalled walking the area with Marija five months prior. I homed into the direction of the square, traffic and pedestrians funnelling into my wake. I was now oblivious to the stares that I had come to despise.

462 days ago on the 25th of June 2007, I left Leysin, Switzerland, alone. Today I arrived at People’s Square in Shanghai, alone. I had emailed newspapers in Shanghai to let them know I would be arriving. I got no response. Other contacts I had in Shanghai were on holiday, since this was the beginning of a 10 day national holiday. Hence there was no one to applaud my arrival. I asked a passerby, a stranger, to take my photo in front of the People’s Square sign. He was Chinese, and spoke no English. After taking a photo of me on my camera, he asked if he could take my photo on his camera. I agreed. He took my photo. And then he left. Just some guy on a skateboard at people’s square.

A 12,000km skateboard journey ends at People's Square, Shanghai, China

There was one person that came to meet me at People’s Square however. Michele Travierso, an Italian guy I met when I was here in Shanghai five months ago. We had arranged for me to stay at his place until my flight out on the 7th of October. I called him from a payphone, and we met outside the Starbucks at the square.

Did the final moments of this journey meet my expectations? Should there have been a large group of people there to greet the world’s farthest travelled longboarder at the end of the longest journey by skateboard ever? The longest in history?

I achieved what I set out to achieve. I question whether ambition, one of the largest motivating factors in me skateboarding across China, was a valid reason for sacrificing so much of myself for this mission. But I am done. Whatever the motivations were, I am done.

From comments and emails that I get, I am encouraged that my efforts have not been in vain. Readers and viewers of my journey online have been inspired. People that I have met have been moved. To me, that means so much more than the single moment of arriving in Shanghai.

As for me, time to take a break, me thinks.