Without adue, footage of the final 1,200km or so of the longest journey by skateboard. You can watch it on the Vimeo video below, or see the Youtube version here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O36qc1ufk9o. What’s the difference? On some computers, the Vimeo version can be a little jerky and slow loading. But, it is much better quality than the Youtube version, which loads quicker…nothing like more choices to make life more complicated, aye?
I have really been enjoying spending time with Michele and other English speakers here in Shanghai the last couple of days. I have loved skating without a heavy trailer attached to my board. I have relished in spending some time cycling around central Shanghai while Michele skates on my board. I have devoured delicious western food. I feel revived with some cooler weather for a change.
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.
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.
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.
At the very sensible suggestion of Felix, I am taking it easy here in Luxu. There is no huge hurry to get into Shanghai, so I’m spending some quality time here chilling out with natives. Native English speakers that is.
Yesterday I visited the Sino-Canadian school and spoke to four classes of high school students about my journey. They were short sessions of about 15 minutes, but the students seemed to enjoy it.
In the evening Steve, Felix and I rocked the town with some street-side karaoke…well…Steve did grandly. He was the only one who could sing any Chinese songs.
The current plan is to skate into Shanghai to the central People’s Square tomorrow. The weather has cooled off, so I am looking forward to the last day’s skate.
Today’s distance / ???????: 32.8 miles / 52.8km
Average speed / ????: 9.5mph / 15.2km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 3h 28m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 7,120mi plus 386mi (?) / 11,459km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: n/a
Descent / ??: n/a
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N31°03′01.7″, E120°50′56.9″
Great pavement and finally a tailwind! A good one at that. I am still tired however, and after an hour of pushing I need a break. A tailwind, by the way, is both a blessing and a curse. The wind helps you along, but in a hot place like the oven that is this part of eastern China right now, it also deprives you of any cooling from the wind as you skate. You are cocoonned in your own little bubble of muggy hotness.
Watermelons were my friend today. Although being twice the price of those I was eating in Gansu Province (Gansu: 0.06 Euro a kg, Jiangsu: 0.16 Euro a kg), I was not going to pass them up.
I was following a river for most of the day. Very therapeutic.
I was very happy to finally catch up with Steve Ruelle, a Canadian teaching physics at the Sino-Canadian High School in Luxu. Luxu is a strange little satellite town to Shanghai, and Steve lives in a massive hotel/holiday apartment complex. The place is deserted however, and it is a mystery how the place makes any money.
I was also thrilled to meet the one and only Felix from Felix and Mr. Pumpy fame. As coincidence has it, Felix is working at the high school, and only started a few weeks ago.
In the evening I caught up with other Canadian expats working at the school. Steve and I visited Lauren’s place, where a group were gathered for none other than…Fantasy Hokey!
Today’s distance / ???????: 37.8 miles / 60.8km
Average speed / ????: 7.8mph / 12.6km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 50m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 7,088mi plus 386mi (?) / 11.407km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: 130m
Descent / ??: 140m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30°52′25.1″, E120°24′18.5″
Righto…I’m feeling a darn sight better than I was a week or so ago. Things are looking up, and I am on the homeward stretch to Shanghai. Only 120km to go till I wrap this thing up.
Blog updates will be sporadic over the next week or so, as I catch up on missed entries. This is just as much for my records as it is for your enjoyment, so I apologise if things get a little confusing with present updates getting mixed in with previous ones and visa-versa and sometimes around the other way…confused? Good.
So today (being the 24th of September 2008) was a great day. Once again a headwind, but a great day nonetheless.
On a tangent, I think there is a greater power working against me. You may recall my week of horrid headwinds in Holland at the end of my first leg of this skateboard journey. You may also recall the horrid headwinds I encountered at the end of the second leg of this journey in the USA approaching Los Angeles. Why is it that I always get headwinds at the end of a particular leg?! Honestly, it has been blowing steadily out of the east for the last two weeks non-stop. It is laughable. Which is good. Laughing is good.
Anyway, the thing that made today so great were the frequent warm downpours. I was skating with no shirt on…just ploughing straight through these heavy downpours. It was the first time I had ever experienced warm rain, and I loved it.
My brother Chris worte to me in an email that water has healing properties. Well this rain was all that. Fantastic.
The only thing marring an otherwise perfect scenario was the incessant traffic, the ever-present noise of the roadway, and of course factories pumping great plumes of junk into the clouds, making me more than a little weary not to open my mouth and drink the liquid sunshine in.
The rain showers stopped after lunch however, and I was left with the stinking damp oven that is eastern China. It is so hot. So so hot.
Despite feeling better than I was a while back, I am still now at all interested in speaking to Chinese people. Sunglasses on, I pushed on. A small river to my right showed the never ending progress of this nation.
Arriving in Nanxun, I was spent. I have left my shirt off for just a tad too long, and was getting rather pink. I checked into a small hotel and was done for the day.
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.
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 N22.214.171.124 E126.96.36.199. 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.
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…
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!
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.
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″
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.