Day 793 – CHINA (ANHUI and ZHEJIANG): From small town at N30.58.37.5 E119.07.41.1 to city at N30.59.11.4 E119.53.33.8

Today’s distance / ???????: 53.1 miles / 85.5km
Average speed / ????: 7.7mph / 12.3km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 6h 56m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 7,050mi plus 386mi (?) / 11,346km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: 275m
Descent / ??: 305m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30°59′11.4″, E119°53′33.8″

I wasn’t feeling the greatest this morning, but decided to try to push on for a bit. By the end of the day I was feeling a little stronger.

Smoggy start to the day near N30.58.37.5 E119.07.41.1 Anhui Province, China

It was a scorching hot day, cooled slightly only by a stiff headwind. I was on the expressway until the Zhejiang border (mid-morning) before I was kicked off by the police at a toll booth. The alternative G318 highway was still very nice, and much quieter.

My body is still weak, but my apetite is returning, although I still cannot seem to fit much food in. Rice in particular seems to fill me up much faster than it used to.

I ended up skating until about an hour after dark today. There were no places to stay until the city at N30.59.11.4 E119.53.33.8. I checked into the first inn I came to, even though the room was dusty and smelly. At times like this I wish I had my tent. On the way to the inn, I had passes countless orchards where I would have happily camped, lulled to sleep by the crickets.

Day 792 – CHINA (ANHUI): In small town at N30.58.37.5 E119.07.41.1

I was intending to push on today, but decided against it. I woke early at 6am, and my stomach was crying out for food. In Japanese there is a phrase called “nido ne”, which means to “sleep a second time”, used to describe the act of eating breakfast and then going back to bed for some more sleep. This was my plan for the morning at least.

I found my way to a toasted dumplings shop and had a parge plateful of tasty toasted duplings washed down with sweet soy milk.

Back to my hotel and I slept until 9am.

I’ve never taken sleeping pills before, but today I decided that they may be the way forward. I only need them to get me some decent sleep until I get to Shanghai, I figured, so I visited the local pharmacy.

“I am not sleeping well,” I told the pharmacist.

He was a mid-twenties looking guy. Skinny, in a long dirty white gown. “How long have you not slept well?” he asked.

“About two weeks,” I replied.

The pharmacist took my hand and indicated for me to sit down. He laid my arm on the shop counter and began counting my heartbeat at my wrist. A minute of silence later, he stood. Went and rummaged on a shelf near the back of the shop.

He came back with a small plastic bottle of Chinese medicine. To be honest, I was hoping for some strong and nasty synthetic pills, but I figured that if the Chinese believed in this stuff, then it’s gotta be good. Looking at the ingredients, they all looked natural, so that would have to be bonus, I thought.

The price was 0.40 Euro for a five day supply. I was to take the medicine two times a day. It was in the form of little black pellets the size of small ball bearings. A capful of them two times a day.

I thanked the pharmacist, and nodded politely at the two old women who had been standing at the counter the entire time, silently observing the scene.

I took one capful of the medicine when I got back to my hotel at 10am, and took another nap. I woke up at 3pm.

I have my doubts as to whether the medicine actually caused me to sleep so long during the day, because when I tried to sleep that night, I had a terrible sleep once again, despite taking the medicince. So many random fleeting thoughts sprinting through my head…classic sign of burnout…

Day 791 – CHINA (ANHUI): From Shicheng to N30.58.37.5 E119.07.41.1

Today’s distance / ???????: 25.1 miles / 40.3km
Average speed / ????: 7.2mph / 11.7km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 3h 27m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6997mi plus 386mi (?) / 11,269km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: 140m
Descent / ??: 110m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30°58′37.5″, E119°07′41.1″

Despite my ‘realaxing’ spa experience last night, I woke late at night and did not sleep well. The room smelled like paint fumes, no doubt due to a recent paint job – the place was very new.

Once I was on the road I finally joined with China National Highway 318, which will take me all the way into central Shanghai, about 200km away.

However what I didn’t know was that the first 100km or so of this stretch of G318 is an expressway. The only alternative was a rough, dusty side road called X018 with frequent traffic. I endured that small road for a while before giving up and sneaking onto the expressway for the smooth wide shoulder. There was less traffic on the expressway, and actually quieter than the sideroad!

Locals taking a shortcut on the expressway east of N30.58.37.5 E119.07.41.1 Anhui Province, China

A headwind was blowing, and I was tired. Very tired. On the expressway there were no serviced for the full 30km that I was on it. I was low on water, and had no snacks. By the time I arrived at the closest exit, I was well and truely done for the day. I got off the expressway, passing through the toll gate fast and without stopping with officials waving and shouting. As always, they did not pursue.

I checked into a small hotel for the night and slept the rest of the day.

Dau 790 – CHINA (ANHUI): From Wuhu to Shicheng – WARNING: Parental Guidance Reccommended

Today’s distance / ???????: 46.7 miles / 75.3km
Average speed / ????: 8.1mph / 13.1km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 44m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6972mi plus 386mi (?) / 11,220km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: 285m
Descent / ??: 265m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30°56′49.2″, E118°45′46.0″

Terrible air pollution (Tributary to the Yellow River in Wuhu City, Anhui Province, China)

What a nightmare of a place this is. This is on the outskirts of Wuhu. And I’m not the only one who was struggling with the air quality here today.

It's not just me that is disliking the air quality near Wuhu, Anhui Province, China

I watched people on their boats for a good 10 minutes, contemplating what it must be like for a person who has only known this kind of environment, to travel to a place like the South Island of New Zealand. If smog, and only being able to see at the most 1km ahead of you (if that) is the only thing you know, then what must it be like? To be able to look down off your boat and see the bottom of the ocean 10m down through crystal clear water. I can’t imagine.

Life on the Yellow River in Wuhu City, Anhui Province, China

The air was so thick and hot and muggy it was like breathing syrup. In the afternoon I stopped in at an internet cafe for three hours to wait out the hottest part of the day. I was wilting!

In the afternoon I pushed on with the sun at my back. For half an hour I was on bright red dirt roads – lucky it was dry and the surface was hardpacked.

Hard-packed dirt road near Shicheng, Anhui Province, China

The terrain then started to get more interesting. From Wuhu, which is on China National Highway 312, I am cutting south east towards China National Highway 318 which is supposed to be less industrial and more enjoyable with less traffic. Provincial Road 102 passed through wonderful tea growing areas. The locals were vibrant and alive.

Happy tea trimmers near Wuhu, Anhui Province, China

I didn’t get into the city of Shicheng until after dark, and I spent some time looking for a decent-looking place to stay. I ended up staying at a spa. This turned out to be a most educational experience…

The massive LED colour screen on the outside of the building displayed what they had to offer. A large communal public bath. Sauna. Massage. “We have it all!” the images screamed in full colour. I was drawn like a fly to the flame.

“Do you have rooms?” I asked the clerk. I had never stayed at a place like this, and indeed I had no idea whether I was actually able to stay there overnight.

“Well, from 6pm till 12 midnight it is 30RMB, from 12 midnight to 3am it is 20 RMB, and from 3am till 8am it is 20RMB, so that would be 70RMB all up,” I was informed.

I must have looked confused, and the girl at the reception explained that this included bath entry, room fee and food. “Food?” I asked.

“Yes, a buffet dinner and breakfast is included.”

Wow, I thought, this is a deal! For 70RMB. Very nice.

I was hearded up to my room to drop my gear. Not before I was instructed to remove my shoes and don the standard plastic slippers. “No, not those ones!” the girl instructed. “They are too small for you. Those ones are bigger, and will fit you.”

They were still too small and caused me to trip over the floppy ends, but the reception girl seemed happy that I was being well cared for with the biggest plastic sandals.

Upstairs, I was shown around. The public bath was very Japanese style, so I would have no issues there I thought. The food in the comfortable carpeted cafeteria was passable.

In my room I changed into the  baggy cotton shorts and quickly made my way to the baths. In the changing area I was instructed to take everything off. Handed a towel.

I headed straight to the stools in the shower area to have a shower before getting into the large bath in the corner of the tiled room. I scrubbed the day’s road grime and sweat off my body. An attendant quietly approached, grabbed a bottle of body soap, and before I knew it was washing my back with it. I certainly did not complain.

Wash over, I headed to the large bath. There were already four men in there soaking and sweating, eyes glued to the TV screen in the corner. I eased myself into the bath, noting that it was just a little too cool for my liking. A few moments later, three more men entered the bath room, and without washing, walked straight into the bath! At seeing this, the soaking became a less pleasant experience. It seems that it is not the custom to wash before entering the bath here…ugh…yuck. I cut my soak short.

WARNING: The description below gets graphic. I make no apologies. This is China.

As I was about to leave, I noticed a small separate section to the bath room with raised platforms. I had a thought that these might be for massages, so I entered. The large male attendant with a massive belly, clad only in the standard baggy cotton shorts stood up as I entered and motioned me to the platform. “Lie down on your stomach,” he said.

On my stomach, and I realised what this was. This was the scrubbing platform. The attendant donned a rough nylon mitten, made from material only second to an industrial pot scrub in abrasive strength, and started the onslaught

I buried my face in the pillow at the end of the platform, and endured the scrubbing. He scrubbed my back, shoulders, backside, legs, feet, and last by not least, a couple of hard scrubs right in between my ‘cheeks’!

Whoa! Go easy fella! I thought…

“Turn over,” he said.

Um…what? Turn over? My perplexed look must have annoyed the attendant, and he waved his hand angrily, indicating that I should lie on my back. Acutely aware of how exposed I would be there on the platform lying completely starkers on my back, I pushed my rediculous western shyness to the back of my mind and flipped over.

More scrubbing ensued. Neck, arms, chest, stomach…at this point I was getting nervous for some reason…*whew*…from my stomach onto my legs and then feet, inbetween my toes.

My previous relief however was too soon…finished with my feet, he stepped around, grabbed my knees, spreading my legs. He then scooped the crown and the jewels out his way in his hand, and finished with a few scrubs in the nether regions!

I wasn’t quite sure what to do…run and hide perhaps?

Before I could decide, he indicated to me to turn over again. Gladly, I thought. He reached over to a bench and took two palm-sized packets from a box as I was sitting up. Showing them to me, the packets read Bath Salts. “Oh, thank you,” I said, and went to take the packets, thinking they were a gift for me to use at home.

Before I could take them however, he had the opened up. “Lie on your stomach” he ordered.

I did as he said, and I suddenly realised what might just be about to happen…and I was right. He emptied the salt packets onto my red freshly scrubbed flesh, and proceeded to rub the salt in with his hands.

The pain was strangely enjoyable however, the stinging seeming to draw the fatigue out of my muscles.

The process was repeated again on my front before I was finally released and allowed to return to the main bath room to rinse the salt off.

The whole process left me drained, and upon returning to my room, I dropped to my bed and promptly fell into dreamland.

Day 789 – CHINA (ANHUI): Feeling A Bit Wonky

Um so I am losing weight. Yesterday I weighed in at 71kg with all my clothes on. I am usually 73kg or thereabouts nekkid. I can hardly face solid food. Grapes and bananas are my friends at the moment. I have my suspicions as to why, but right now I have the following crazy stuff happening:

  • Chronic indegestion
  • No apetite (well, for Chinese food, anyway)
  • Really tired all the time
  • Big knot in my stomach (anxiety)
  • Not sleeping well at night

Possible causes:

  • Stress from knowing life-changing times are ahead after 2.5 years on the road.
  • Stress from all the visa issues….how wonderful it will be to arrive in New Zealand and know that I am allowed to stay there as long as I want!
  • Lack of decent human contact. In an area of China where there are millions of people surrounding me, I feel the lonliest I have ever on this trip.
  • Accumulated fatigue due to the heat and of course skating.
  • Truely depressing and uninspiring surroundings that I know I still have at least a weeks worth of skating through.

Crazy crazy times. I was thinking that I would coast through this last wee bit…nothing of the sort. I find myself quite nicely depressed and not at all my usual self. I am taking 5mg Mosapride Citrate Capsules (a Japanese stomach regulator) for the indegestion, along with some crazy Chinese herbal stuff, and that is helping.

Shade (Hebei City outskirts, Anhui Province, China)

I do have my fourth and final visa extension in hand however. I bussed back to Hefei city yesterday to get it. They graciously gave me until the 8th of October (my flight out is on the 7th). Things to look forward to between now and then are meeting up with fellow traveller Steve Ruelle who now lives about 70km out of Shanghai, and staying with Michele and his girlfiend in Shanghai until my flight leaves. It will be truely theraputic to hang out with people that I can communicate with!

So for Steve, if you’re reading this, I am in Wuhu and heading your way. I have no idea when I’ll arrive. Could be within the working week, could be up to 10 days away or more. It all depends on how my body holds up and how many kilometers a day my legs will carry me. If I have to crawl at 20km a day, I will.

Readers, prayers and/or general good health vibes requested.

Day 787 – CHINA (ANHUI): Counting the days in Wuhu

In 20 days I will leave this country. 380km to skate. I have the remaining kilometers written on my shoe. Counting down daily…

Alone in a hotel room in a city of millions (Wuhu, Anhui Province, China)

The days are passing too slowly right now. Accumulated stress from fighting bureaucrazies and fatigue from skating and dealing with the constant public attention has taken it’s toll, and I was only able to manage about 40km a day over the last three days. Tomorrow I have to get on a bus back 100km from where I came to pick up my passport with my new visa. The physical act of skating has been the easiest part of this skate across China.

As I approach Shanghai, the population density is mushrooming. Signs of environmental abuse is ever-present. Cement factories and foundries send out plumes of dark fumes, roadsides are dusty and dirty, raw garbage discarded in heaps on the roadside, still, stagnant water. This is the most depressing area I have ever experienced in my travels around the world.
Access to my photo hosting page is restricted here in Wuhu also, so no updates today as I had hoped.

The only thing that keeps me going at the moment is my anticipation for arriving in New Zealand and cycling the last 700km of my journey home from Auckland to Christchurch in New Zealand. I was considering to skate this part, but I refuse to skate on the rough chipseal roads in New Zealand. I had my baptism of fire on the rough roads in Texas, and I’m not going through that again.

So in about a month’s time, I will be back on my trusty recumbent bicycle, rolling home.

Day 786 – CHINA (ANHUI): From Chaohu to Wuhu

Today’s distance / ???????: 40.6 miles / 65.3km
Average speed / ????: 7.5mph / 12.1km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 25m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6925mi plus 386mi (?) / 11,145km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: 345m
Descent / ??: 375m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N31°21′40.9″, E118°22′08.0″

An epic day. My body is totally done. Heartburn, sore legs, tired…

Along these small rural road today, there are many small private businesses, mostly metal casting factories pumping out all sorts of products from pulleys to gearbox housings.

The factories are all more or less open-air or shacks. Working conditions seem to be not very good, and safety is obviously not on the cards at all, with workers wandering around in soft foam rubber slippers.

The highlight of the mess was a large cement factory literally blocking out the sun at times with it’s dust and fumes.

Cement factory near Chaohu fuming up the skies in Anhui Province, China

I was happy to see some hill action today despite feeling weak and tired. A short sharp 200m climb out of the quagmire of pollution and noise into a quiet forested hill was a welcome change. Brutally hot, but welcome all the same.

Reflections near Chaowu, Anhui Province, China

The roads after the small hill deteriorated considerably. They are all in the process of being re-made. That is, not repaved, but entirely re-made from the foundations up. Half of the road at a time is being worked on, so traffic was an issue, as was sections of hard-packed gravel that made skating dusty and bumpy.

A rail crossing near Wuhu:

Ah the joys of cheap copious labour - two people per crossing to push the barriers across by hand (near Wuhu, Anhui Province, China)

To get into the city of Wuhu from the west, you need to cross the imposing Yellow River. Skating along the massive stop banks of the river, I felt a momentary repsite from my pent up stress…the flow of the river seeming to wash away some of the stress inside of me, calming me.

The Yellow river, Wuhu City, Anhui Province, China, and a depressed traveller

I did not venture very far into the city, choosing instead to stop at the first inn I could find. Tomorrow will be a day off.

Day 785 – CHINA (ANHUI): From small town (N31.49.55.6 E117.34.26.5) to Chaohu

Today’s distance / ???????: 28.5 miles / 45.9km
Average speed / ????: 8.1mph / 13km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 3h 32m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6884mi plus 386mi (?) / 11,079km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: 110m
Descent / ??: 130m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N31°36′22.4″, E117°53′30.6″

I am updating my blog about 10 days after this actual day, and I cannot for the life of me remember a single thing about it. I haven’t got any notes written in my log apart from the mileage info, and the following info:

Start ride: 0720
Finish ride: 1620
Weather: Dry, hot, overcast
Physical condition: BAD

Also, I have a section where I write what I ate during the day. In the section for lunch, I have written NONE.

Another painful day.

It goes without saying…I have no photos from this day’s skating.

EDIT: So I have finally recalled something about this day. I remember sneaking onto the expressway for a bit because the small provincial roads were getting too rough.

Sneaking onto the expressway near Chaowu, Anhui Province, China

I also remember counting up the remaining kilometers to go till Shanghai, and writing them on my shoe. 421km.

Day 784 – CHINA (ANHUI): From Hefei to small town (N31.49.55.6 E117.34.26.5)

Today’s distance / ???????: 22.2 miles / 35.7km
Average speed / ????: 8.0mph / 12.9km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 2h 46m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6856mi plus 386mi (?) / 11,033km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N31°49′55.6″, E117°34′26.5″

The total lack of photos taken today should attest to the agony I experienced today. Hot, dusty, no appetite, weak, grooved concrete skating surface, headwind, stress…mad, mad times.

I pushed out from Hefei late at about 9am. It was already hot. I followed my nose out of the city, and picked up a stragler on the way. Liu Hang, a student at the local university was out for a bike ride, and struck up a conversation at one of the intersections I was stopped at. His manner was unobtrusive and polite (a rarity in eastern China, I have found), and I enjoyed chatting to him as I skated and he cycled.

“One day I would like to cycle across China,” he said. I could see that he was keen for an adventure, and thorougly reccommened that he do it.

We travelled together for about 10km out of Hefei, and were planning on having lunch together before he headed back to Hefei. I was looking forward to it, however at around 11:30am I knew that I was not going to be in any shape to stomach any solid food. I apologised to Liu and after seeing him cycle off, headed to a nearby bridge to lie down in the shade and sip at a bottle of Sprite.

Despite the five days resting in Hefei, I am still feeling very strange. It has just been such an incredible bureaucratic mission to skate across China. I am sure that had I had a decent six month visa at the start of the trip, I would have finished the trip by now, and I would be in much better shape. The continual pressure of visa renewals (which are never guaranteed), getting a new visa in Hong Kong, and just the feeling of oppression being a solo traveller here has really put a damper on the whole experience. It is terrible having to lie to police about what I am doing, due to fear of them telling me to get on a bus. Not that I am doing anything illegal!

And here I am skating east, knowing that in a few days I will have to go back to Hefei by bus to pick my visa up. So much back and forth.

Add to this a lack of contact with English speakers, and it is all just a little stressful. And I say stressful as stress on a sub-concious level. It’s not like it is in the forefront of my mind, this deprivation from like minded people. It is an isidious gnawing that pulls me down.

Now the really interesting thing is that there have been other times when I have gone very long periods without speaking English. In Central Asia, in Turkey, it was the same. But there is something about China that grates. There is some kind of aggregation of marginal ikes (to borrow a sporting term) that adds up to something yuck.

I am not alone in this; at least two other long distance travellers ( and have admitted to feeling down when approaching Shanghai. They too experienced a mysterious change in vitality and life in the people and surroundings here.

I only got just out of Hefei before calling it a day. I stopped in at a small inn off the main road. It was a nice place with a couple of pigs oinking in their stalls, a wee puppy to play with, and best of all, it was about 100m down a long driveway off the road; nice and quiet.

The Waiting Game

Thank you for your visa application Mr. Thomson. Your passport photos are not large enough, so please go and get bigger ones. Also, you need to have this blue police registration form to apply for a visa extension. No, this is not a rule only in Hefei, it applies everywhere in China. Also, the hotel you are staying at is not allowed. You must be staying at a five-star hotel.”

What?! This rule applies only to this miniscule insignificant segment of the space-time continuuum, and is obviously a construct of your own inconceivable imagination!

Well, that’s what I wanted to say, but I was too astounded at the preposterousness of the situation.
This was not a good start to my day.  The absolute absurdity of this…it is really difficult to understate.

I raised my voice at the poor police officer. Spoke the magic words “Welcome to China, huh?”. This seemed to have the desired effect, and I was directed to her supervisor’s office.

Rob Luxton ( once gave me some advice that to survive in China, sometimes you have to act like a Chinese and get pushy. I will have to finally reluctantly agree with him.

The matter was sorted in the end, with me coming extremely close to saying “I don’t give a damn about China! Just give me enough time to fly out of this god-forsaken place.” I held my tounge on that comment however, thinking it probably wouldn’t have gone down very well with the patriotic officers.

While chatting about my travels:

The officer: “You went to Xinjiang? How was it?”
Me: “It was hot.”
The Offcier: “Just hot?!”
Me: “Well, the people were very nice. Especially the Uyghur people. Many of them don’t speak Chinese, you know.”
The Officer: “Yes, you are right. But they are still Chinese.”

In the end I was begrudgingly given until the 8th of October to remain in the country. My flight out is on the 7th of October. Stiff bickies if the flight gets cancelled or delayed for any reason.

Of course the standard five working days processing time applies, so including the weekend, that’s seven days I have to wait for my visa extension. What a pallava.

In happier news, a selection of my photos are now for purchase here. Wahoo! They are available in greeting card format, laminated prints, mounted prints, even framed prints! The prices are really reasonable, and the delivery time is great. Delivery worldwide even. I have to give Alastair Humphreys credit for this idea. Check out his website for more great travel photos.

In other news, some of you may have seen a recent addition to my route information page. That’s right! Skating in South America in February next year! However I have decided to postpone this trip indefinitely. Adam Colton of fame and fame was going to be my skating partner for the trip, and I was really looking forward to it.

The postponement comes after some thorough route planning (emailing cyclists on the ground right now), and after securing a sponsorship deal from Orangatang Wheels. However despite the great opportunity that the route offers and the extra support from Orangatang Wheels, I don’t feel that early next year is a good time for me to get back on a board.

I feel that it is time for me to spend some time in one place for a while. I am keen to wrap this 14degrees journey up (speaking tour, book etc) and bring closure to this chapter of my life before moving on to the next thing.

My most recent contact with Adam indicated that he is keen to push ahead with the route, possibly starting in January. I wish him all the best…it’d be an amazing trip. And, he’ll be able to scout the route out for me, making it easier when I do it later! :) I’ll make sure to let people know of any blog or info about the trip as it unfolds. You can be sure that I’ll be following the trip!