Making Tracks / by Joshua Cunningham

After a couple of years of living in London, devoting my personal life (and a lot of my professional one) to a bicycle race across Europe, and working on a book that came as a result of my last long-distance travel experience, I’m embarking on another trip.

My girlfriend, Emily, and I are at the very start of a journey heading east, across Europe, Russia, Mongolia, and eventually China. We’ve hatched enough of a plan to ensure that we’ve left our home and jobs with the necessary visas safely stamped in our passports, and as a result we have an itinerary (on bureaucratic paper, at least) that lasts up until 1st August, when we are due to enter the Middle Kingdom.

Exactly what happens once we get there is a little more uncertain, but it’s this leg of the journey around which everything else has been planned, so we’ll hopefully get far enough to find out if we can make it happen. ‘It’ at this point involves a more autonomous means of two-wheeled (motorised) transport, and the Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan and Qinghai - or the historical Tibetan regions of Kham and Amdo. But more on that later.

In order to keep the spirit of overlanding alive, we’re aiming to make it from London to China by rail, with some added assistance from buses and boats where necessary. A proper rail journey is an experience we’ve both hankered after, and we found ourselves in the fortunate position of needing to get from one side of Eurasia to the other: The mythical Trans Siberian Express was calling loud and clear.

Emily’s going to have to teach me the dark arts of ‘backpacking’ (as the pannier I’m currently sporting has both shoulder straps and waist straps - odd), but soon enough we’ll grow wise, impatient, curious, and thankful for the experience of slow travel on public transport together. Failing that, we’re carrying everything we need for absolute self-sufficiency (cookware, tent, sleeping gear, and 3-in-1 coffee sachets included), so we can always walk.

Exactly what ends up on this blog is as much of an unknown to me as it is for you at this point. Without being too cliche, one is never quite sure what form the story will end up taking on a journey such as this. But there is no greater way of drawing inspiration, exploring new ways of thinking, and exposing yourself to life’s elements, than to start one - so we’ll see what happens.

Pic: Gare de l’Est, Paris, 10th May 2019.

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