banned in the free world

after about 1200km, my footbrake pad wore out. it seems my original fat radial tyre ausschnitt weathered better than the moped tyre cutout. the moped model was easier to wear, thinner, lighter, and as a result, shorter-lived.

the columbia shasta trekking shoes turned out to be super comfortable, relatively waterproof, lightweight – and therefore quick-drying, good skate shoes. however, the nice-nice grip of the soles also translated to tasty-tasty, and the road ate my sole in due course.

so, i bought a vial of superglue, the really cheap, stinky, likely very poisonous, banned in the free world kind of superglue, and i carved up the remains of my footbrake pad to make a repair.

functional, practical, it was all death-fumes and glue down my pants, on the floor, doing the diy, but in the end, i fixed up my shoe and was on the road, footbraking as usual! not bad.

this trip i experienced my first pain ever from skate trekking. after two days skating without the footbrakepad, and one major downhill, my left shoe sole was ground down to the soft bits. pushing all afternoon without the hard formed support of the original sole, caused a pain in the arch/ball of my left foot. doing this sole repair took care of the problem, but it was another three days on the road before my foot was back to normal and didn’t hurt anymore.

so it’s back to the beginning, trying to find the better shoe for skate trekking.

coffee high – from shangrila thru tiger leaping gorge

shangrila was halfway interesting this time, for some discussions I had with people I met, for some compatriot time with sam, and for the interest in a couple of new tibetan friends for one song which I recorded in amdo. they liked it a lot and the one girl transcribed and blogged the lyrics, from a schoolteacher in the town of ruo er gai. one piece of what i collected turned up in their lives, and they copied it and will likely share it onwards. cool. culture works like a virus, or maybe a mushroom colony.

back on the road, max the aged! the first 15km weren’t so bad, the rest of the day was a breeze. I sketched after about 50km. night was falling and I had been told by several people this was bear country, not cool to sleep in the mountains. so I made it over the pass with a bit of haste and raced down some distance to bigger pastures with a small settlement nearby. I filtered some water from their pipe, which fed from a bamboo trough leading from the forest, and hiked down some to camp on part of the meadow.

frost on the ground in the morning, a coffee warmed me up, until the sun came on stronger

then it was all quick downhill requiring my full attention, another push up and then cruising dangerously fast down and around to bai shui tai. I bought a bag of vegetables at one shop in the town and hiked down to gugu’s village.

gugu is a young naxi dongba shaman apprentice whom I met on a docu research project up here, four years ago. gugu makes mountain plant fibre paper and paints heiroglyphic dongba songbooks to read and recite, practicing to eventually perform the rituals for his community. i freel like gugu is an artist’s ancient counterpart, and we connect over plants and painting and a general love of life and the mountains. happy to see eachother and meet family again and his horse, and the pigs…large enough now for them to be concerned about dinner, our dinner


we tried to get him on the longboard but he didn’t have the balance for it right away

dinner was loaded with goodness, and i was glad it wasn’t just pork, rice and preserved cabbage. without too much protestation they took the bag of vegetables and cooked up some awesome home food.

as gugu and i were talking in the late afternoon, and just as i said something about my wives (my ex and my current), this one chicken did a little dance, jumping up really high several times. it threw itself on its back, and expired. nothing gugu could do managed to revive the chicken, and it died right then and there.

I dodged the suchu cha in the morning, gulping coffee with their wheat bread and aubergine fry for breakfast and relatively forthwith, got outta dodge and up on the tarmac.

I think I was feeling supercharged from coming down ‘so’ low after my pushing farther, higher. or maybe the road was smoothe and the slope not so dreadfully steep or long, or perhaps for my coffee high? whatever the reason, i powered over one range and ran steady ‘fore the wind in an west to east arc around haba snow mountain.

slowly slowly working my way up over the northeast flank, the daze slipped in a moment into super gnarly high velocity downhill on the other side, a wicked 25km race down to the windy tiger leaping gorge.

this run was the fastest most awesome stretch of skating of this whole journey. i could see far enough in front of me, the road is quite wide and the tarmac just gritty, grippy enough, i was able to skate the whole thing, just drifting a bit before the corners, 60+ kilometers per hour…fabulous.

tiger leaping gorge is in fact a pretty extreme place with amazing rocks and a lot if muddy water, but the gorge skate wasn’t much to write about. wind all through the evening and the highway robbery style of mini barricade and admission fee sign (pay or do not pass) of a well planned tourist attack kinda dampened my attitude.

I asked one farmer lady if i can camp up above. she replied sure, just far away from her dog, who was freaking out at the time…

in the end, it was kinda cool in the morning to wake up there, cook a coffee before dawn and get down with skating the gorge. the 20 odd kilometers on the way out were a fun skate, if not particularly fast or ehxhilerating, with some sketchy spots: steep descents through wet spray cascading down from above, skirting freshly fallen boulders and craters in the tarmac.

some places in the canyon, the rock walls are actively shedding and there is really a rain of pebbles, stones and actual boulders cascadiing down in a menacing huff.

not flowing or really fast skating like yesterday, plus the cold wind in the morning…meh. perhaps i had imagined a longer more spectacular skate run through the gorge, but it seemed so small after the real moon- and mars scapes higher up in the mountains. plus the entrance fee was kind of grounding, I felt more distant from the landscape than I think I did up high. here you gotta pay to play

as pennance I slogged it out on the main highway untill 1400 km as per my informal count; then I packed in 5km more just because I felt like skating further. a few nights before i had read the i-ching, and got the symbol for returning, suggesting if there remains something to be done, then making haste is useful; if there is nothing left to be accomplished, then a rapid return to previous conditions would be advantageous. once i got to the main road, with all the trucks and busses, i felt like i had come down, and it made sense.

trek over, had enough, hitched to shaxi. cappuchino with shirly and fresh bread, local cheese, and a spanish red with Maurino. back in civilization, or, returned to the fringes… it was nice nice, drinking lots of espresso, discussing the finer points.

quick! i caught a ride to dali, ran around shopping, and tasted some fresh coffee roasts, to bring back as ‘bean of the month’ for dandan’s cafe in beijing.

i took the night train to kunming. got in at 04:45, slept in a park near the train station, untill it got light and active enough to veture uptown.

i went out to the smaller of the main wholesale tea markets, in search of my dianhong tea, a particular black tea, some qualities of which one can only find in the kunming tea markets. these markets are another story… as i am sure, is the trend towards hot ladies selling traditional teas in the kunming markets.

the obligatory multiple espressos, burger and tequila(s) at french cafe, in kunming, before the flight back to beijing

i stopped skating on the 40th day, and after the 40th night, i started the journey home. i told dandan at the beginning, 40 days and 40 nights…we’ll see how far i get in that time. 1405km, and 120GB digital audio, video and photo materials, plus a dozen pages of writing and 40 journal entries…from that, i should be able to make a movie, or write a book, or something…