On 24 June, 26 September 2014 and 12 December 2014, we reported on the progress of Daniel Schwerzmann who is cycling from Switzerland to Hong Kong on an amazing adventure to raise funds for Positive Steps!* Daniel is making great progress on this incredible personal challenge, which is a journey of around 10,000 km, in which he will be travelling through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Thailand, Vietnam and China!
Daniel’s Blog 15th February 2015.
With only 16 days to go this will be my last update before I finally arrive in Hong Kong after 7 months of cycling!
After the blissful and relaxing vacation with Daniela in Thailand, I wistfully let her leave and took on the next stage of my journey … cycling southeast through Thailand towards the Cambodian border and leaving behind the nice tourist spots and beautiful places in terms of white sandy beaches, clear blue water with colourful fish, charming hotels and good restaurants.
Thailand is known as the ‘land of smiles’, but far off the beaten track didn’t see many smiles and, if I did, the people were very reserved and distant. This was the exact opposite to the experience I had in my trips favourite country Iran, but I had to get used to it. No more friendly wavers, no more private invitations for food or a chat, no-one interested in my story or background … but, I guess this was, and is part of my trip as well. I don’t know why, but I sort of anticipated this scenario before flying to Asia and therefore dreaded it too, but from now on I was always happy to meet other tourists and to have a conversation in English now and then. The cycling itself was hot, arduous and dusty, but I easily found neat hotels and ate well.
Cambodia is becoming much more developed for tourism, but is still a very poor country. I spent roughly 2 weeks and 5 days there and these were really rough! Having already spent over 4 months on the road, I got negligent with my hygiene precautions and picked up ‘amebae’ (bowel parasites), probably from the tap water and this caused me to have high fevers, stomach aches, cramps and diarrhoea that put me completely out of action. For a short time I even thought I had to abandon the rest of the trip. But, with some luck, a competent international clinic and antibiotics, I was soon back in the saddle. The rural population in Cambodia was much more friendly again compared to Thailand. This was a nice change. But, with the background of Red Khmer and Cambodia’s known history of land mining, I cycled sometimes with a queasy feeling, although obviously the main roads are now clear of mines. In Siam Reap I visited the famous (for Swiss people) children’s hospital and charity organisation of Beat Richner, a Swiss physician who has built up his foundation over the last thirty years and has brought a lot of donations to this country with connections and a gifted talent of playing the cello. He holds regular concerts in Cambodia and Switzerland to collect charitable donations.
After my illness experience in Phnom Penh, I was glad to continue to more civilised and, health wise, less harmful terrain … HoChi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. Now, ahead of me there was over 1800km to be cycled from South to North Vietnam within 5 weeks … this was 5 weeks in which a lot happened. I met friends from Switzerland twice. Firstly, Urs with whom I spent a few days on a tourist trip to the Mekong Delta and, after a few sombre and lonely festive days over Christmas as the ONLY guest in a hotel at an empty beach, I was very happy to see and celebrate new year with familiar faces from home, Jeanny and Heidi, in Hoi An. A lucky coincidence then bought my girlfriend Daniela to Vietnam through a business trip a few weeks ago and we had an unexpected 24-hour date! This was a bit stressful for me at first as I was still over 350km remote of the city and I had to reach a town where I could board the train to Hanoi. To be fair, the last two months I had no schedule at all and was kind of swamped with changing plans at an instant … but it was worth it as you can imagine!
Generally spoken, I enjoyed Vietnam’s countryside very much. It was most diverse, from sandy beaches over green highlands with deep red earth (like you see in Australia), which I wasn’t expecting at all. Weather conditions ranged from 32ºC to cool and rainy days of 17ºC. The people were mainly friendly, in rural areas and despite their lack of English skills they would make an effort for conversation and were always anxious to help me with the bike, especially to repair broken parts, although I found they were often making matters worse but I didn’t want to put their noses out of joint. I do not want to go into too much detail here, but I visited the Chinese Embassy 7 times to receive 2 visas for the entry of their country. One I needed for a 10 day trip by plane (without the bike) from Hanoi to Bejing and Shanghai, where I visited friends and the Great Wall of China as well as enjoying the urban asian jungle. And the second visa I got hold of only 5 days ago to continue my tremendous journey from Vietnam, eastbound across China towards Hong Kong.
Today on 10th February, I crossed the Chinese border, which I was a bit uneasy about as I still expected that the customs officers would deny me entry to the country by bike. But, with some sweat and luck it was no problem at all. Now I find myself in the real China, different from the westernised cities like Shanghai and Bejing … and I find myself like a lost child who cannot read or understand the adult’s world ….
Stay tuned … it’ll go down to the wire! The countdown has started.
See below some of the incredible photographs Daniel has sent us … recording his adventures …
You can follow Daniel on his blog www.stan-goes-to-hong-kong.ch, where you can read much more about Daniel’s idea and his dream. Even though the website is in German, you can follow him on his way to Hong Kong – visualised by a map (select the ‘Karte’ tab) and also many pictures in the gallery.
And … it’s not too late to support him … with comments, a personal email to firstname.lastname@example.org or a donation of pp/km (pence per kilometre).
*Half of the total raised by Daniel will be donated to Positive Steps … Thank you Daniel for continuing to support Positive Steps in this way!