Iceland day 2

up early and into the hotsprings, after my coffee, of course.

had to schlepp the bike up one little hill, almost fellinto a ravine with the bike on top of me!!

following the track past more geysers and steam vents…the landscape seems so, new, fresh, yet so old at the same time.

rain started falling, but i dont care. waterproof jacket (kinda) waterproof pants (yes) waterproof gloves (not really) waterproof shoes (surprisingly so) i just kept on.

following a track on the gps, a horsetrail or a sheeptrail…on the map it looked like it skirted around a little lake. when i go to the lake, i found the trail went into the water! it was shallow, but riding in the water, then up into the sand, onto the mud…crazy insane, some of the most intense riding i have done, ever.

also the longest rides i have done in 25 years, yesterday 37 km, today about the same.

state of mind does so much for endurance…this place is beautiful, everywhere, at every turn, just awesome!

and the bike, works as planned, a little adventure home on wheels.

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Iceland day 1

RElatively easy I got out of the ‘city’, though it wasn’t much city, as i didn’t go into Reykjavik. The bike came through the airpot uscathed, i built it at the hotel and took it for a test ride, all good.

Following the gps maps, i found a way out of town on the horse trails, which took me to the main road #1. So much traffic up there! i can’t believe anyone actually wants to ride (or skate) that road. I onluy had to do 6 km, before coming to the gas station and turnoff…always search the back way, on a dirt road!

up past the thermal power works, the landscape looked like i expect Mars will look, after the first 30 years of terraforming. you know we’re gonna do that, as soon as the tech allows…

riding on mars, that’s what it’s like, oh yeah. by the roadside, geysers, and bubbling primordial fluids…

i made my way to the hotsprings, well, it’s a hot river! soaked, camped, ate a lot a lot (the bike is heavy with all the food, i can eat as much as i like)

awesome, welcome sleep, alone on the field…alone, blissfully, finally, alone…

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after the sea, the mountains

from the beach, along a day of flat coastline, camping in a river valley at the foot of the space i would eventually cross, the road i chose ran directly up into the hills…

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and made me sweat, turn red, slather myself with sun creme, and dig it, all that uphill…

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hot coffee in the village, then rain on the ascent. i hid out under my tarp for a bit, then off again. sorry scott, no way to keep the board outta the wet, i’m afraid i abused her/it. but we got the job done…

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sunset over the taiwan straits…

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and then there were bridges, coming down from alishan, by way of jade mountain…

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fog, deep thick fog, and i emerged in the swiss alps. damn google maps!

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evening fell as i pushed up hehuan shan, rainbows, moon shining high, clouds billowing over the mountian tops, approaching 3000m altitude. after sichuan, this was hard, but like child’s play…

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the last seven kilometers, in the morning…hehuan shan on a skateboard!

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camping in the sea of clouds…

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and then there was this, two hours of gopro running, crazy beautiful, follow the road…i made it more than 50km before crashing…

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though this was the end of my ride kinda like planned, it was a stoke-killer (almost) when i hit a wet patch and landed wierd, wrenching my knee. ouch! i went along the coast road a bit, just to see the cliffs, and the next day (today) i hitched to daxi, to hang with Quake, at Daxi. relaxing, recuperating…feeling much better, it should be ok.

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Taiwan 2013 the long flat coastline of the soul

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after a visit to the guan yin statue in hualien, on the road for stage two, along the pacific coast. averagins 70km each day, sunrises and beach camping…that’s where it’s at. well, that’s where some of it’s at, the flat part.

sunscreen, my friend!
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tunnels, surfers, rain!
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beach camping, most amazing sunrises. i set my alarm for 5 am, try to get on the road before six, because when the sun gets higher, quickly it gets hot hot hot!

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the tropic of cancer marker. i am sure it got hotter as i crossed the line. i win!

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mangoes! and a pit stop, to switch the truck mounting. the heat/rain/steambath maybe started melting my board. like the wicked witch of the east…i’m melting! its worked out ok, though, still rideable, still awesome subsonic.

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morning coffee, i like it hot. midmorning, i’ll stop by the wayside and get a mr. brown iced coffee, in a can. not bad, actually…

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then back up into the mountains, for stage three- steamy jungle skating. hard work, it is! wouldnt want it any other way. everyone has a different perspective onthis long distance thing, but mine is simple: i never suffer. sure its hot, it’s hard, i grunt and almost meltdown sometimes, but i never doubt, never retreat, just keep pushing, and rest when the old man in me says. what goes up, must come down, and when it cools down in the evening, that downhill is even more chill.

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so i reach my halfway destination, jialeshuei, near to kending, in the far south. relax, some bodysurfing, but the surf hasnt come up yet…will look in town for some fins. chillin with winson, local surf guy, and we’re off to find one longboarding taiwan guy this evening…another pusher. POWER RELAXING…

taiwan 2013 stage 1

On the road again! this time in taiwan, going north to south. been pushin’ it for five days, from taipei first over the north cross-island highway…narrow roads, good pavement, up up up. it’s not such high altitude, the first passes around 800m, but it’s HOT! gotta get up early. no espresso this time, but i found these excellent drip coffee baggies, makes a good cup to get me going.

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The board i am riding is a new subsonic, a hybrid longer racecar, higher gt, set up directionally, mounted tighter in, in the back. Scott made this fresh for the season, its not as low as the gt, so i’m not bottoming out as much and have a lot more control in the corners (i asked for something ‘snappier’ and subsonic Scott delivered the goods! efp i think is 28 inch, which lets me keep a wider stance, i like! honestly the best board for me, my leg length and cycle of my thigh-knee-calf.

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Riptide is sponsoring this trip too, and set me up with a load of fatcones and chubbies, but i settled on the aps barrels in the buzzed v2’s, with amish cupped washers boardside and flat roadside. the carve is awesome, it jumps left and right and back into line, exceptionally stable and mad fun at speed, and i’m stoked on the center line when i’m pushing. and in these mountains i’ve been pushing a lot, a lot!

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the roads up here are sweet, good pavement, often narrowing into what seems like bike paths, one lane tracks through crazy forests. the vegetation changes with the slope, mixed broadleaf subtropical forests downstairs, cedar and pines on the ways up, tree ferns and leather leaved shiny monster plants higher up. some places are even like cloud forest, everything covered with moss and green slime caking the roads, it never really dries out up there.

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most valuable piece of travel kit again is the water filter, it’s hot and humid here and i drink seeveral litres of water per km. haha, no, that’s an exaggeration but still, my clothes are drenched in sweat, some days i wished it would rain, it wouldnt matter. everything in the pack is wrapped in a dry sack, and every day i get clean socks and undies! awesome, clean socks make the man, almost…

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day five, entering taroko national forest, i had no idea of the scope of this place. it took me two and a half days to skate up, i didnt even realize i’d made it to 2670 meters altitude, till i saw a sign fly past…

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then, the road snakes through the ‘sea of clouds’, it’s up there on the list of fantabulous super badassed trekking downhills, 75km from 2600+ meters down to sea level. in some places the clouds are pushing up over the side of the mountain, spilling onto the road, the trees and the mountains like ghosts, catching a glimpse of the man on the skate on the road.

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camping out in the cloud forest, the soundscape includes screeching birds, little chirps here and there, zithering crickets in the evening, and grunting monkeys as i cook my noodles. i pound my chest and bark back at the monkeys, the food is mine! gorilla in the mist, don’t mess with me. they’re just little monkeys, i dont know are they gonna come back in a gang and make trouble? i think the chest beating does the trick, though, mostly they scamper off and watch me sour from the trees.

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finally back down to earth, or, to sea level, and headed along the coast to land in hualien. and here i sit, at the bar in formosa backpacker hostel, sipping tequila. after six days on the road, around 250km skated, i’ll have a little treat. actually, this is my prep for another long ride. ever hear of the tarahumara runners?

David Francis Willis

my father, sculptor and painter David Francis Willis, has a new art site showing his acrylic paintings…

I was working on a print, and my mother wrote me, “oh you know, max, your father is working on a series of prints…” it turns out he is doing color wash plate impression on canvas, and brush painting portraits as an overlay. he calls them Moments In Time, they’re pretty cool, hybrid print-portraits.

check out David Francis Willis art website

skateboarder magazine’s vietnam skate trip

i found this video while researching my next journey, it’s kinda cool, a skate trip in a very different sense, and in it is some valuable information for this long distance skater, some slick skating as well.

of course, i would do it very differently, and in fact, i fly into saigon jan 6. i’ll be with my girl, and we’ll be tote’n two longboards. we’ve got a month to check out vietnam, and to make it across the border in the north back to china. we’re gonna do some power relaxing.

one main piece of information this video offers is that at least one of these guys on a bike was struck by the danger of it all. he was on a creaky two-stroke, which is a different kind of danger, but it seemed he was contrasting vietnam with his own, perhaps safer world. perception of danger is, of course, relative. i often say, when people ask me that my skating or romping around in developing countries is perhaps dangerous, that living a life without adventure is dangerous. all of us who skate fast or long accept a certain element of calculated risk to life and limb in order to navigate that particular space, and travelling rough to remote places is no different, managing risks and returns. on this journey, however, i dont want to drag my girl into some difficult situation when she is hoping for a more leisurely jaunt about vietnam. so the plan is, to take it easy.

since i have been skate trekking in china and tibet, it’s difficult to imagine going somewhere and not taking the longboard. for me riding the skateboard is simply the most awesome way to visit a place…

as long as the road surface is ok,
the traffic’s not too crazy,
the sun isn’t too blazing hot,
nor the wind blowing up a gale,
and the dogs aren’t snarling from all directions,
and the police not making hassles…

to be honest, none of these things make skating a place less awesome, but they are things to think about if one is looking for leisure and not a slalom through the seven hells. i watched some of the longtreks morocco videos and now i think skating is not the most awesome way to visit morocco. my girl likes to skate, but she shakes her head, and worries a bit, while i do my hundreds of km. plus, it’s gonna be hot, really hot, 35 degrees hot. i dont even know if i am going to want to skate…haha…not want to skate…ha…

we definately wouldn’t want to do the motorbike thing. in the video i saw them on their bikes in the mountains, and imagined how way much more awesome it would be to skate through there, up and down through there. they remarked that they went barrelling from place to place, not connecting and missing a lot, and they found [not many places to skate]. i saw some nice roads in the video, hey! they spoke several times of mountain passes. not mountain passes like my beloved himalayas, but the terrain goes up to 2000m, i’ll bet there’s some nicenice slow uphills, meandering jungle mountain roads, and crazy water-buffalo strewn downhill runs along the way. in places the road surface looks broken, in other places, not bad at all – but just because it’s black on video (or in a satellite image) doesn’t mean it’s smooth blacktop, i know that. i also know that with 85mm speedvents, if the road is even halfway decent we can make some grand skating days.

it looks like from this video, the a1 coastal highway might have heavy traffic, in the north at least, and around the end of our stay in vietnam is the tet festival, when there might be more drunken drivers on the road. yes, i saw the weather they were biking through, it didn’t look so great untill they hit the south. i did watch another video of some kids scootering about on the coast road in the south, and that actually looked like super skating: flat, direct by the sea, not much traffic, beaches, palm trees.

so, we decide to stick to the south, and have come up with a plan of action: after we spend most of our limited funds on diving and tequila sunrises, lounging on a tropical island for a week or so, we will head back to the mainland and slowly skate north, in no haste, from beach to beach. if we are enjoying the skating, and can camp and save some of the money we would spend in hotels and on busses or trains, then we can maybe afford some more diving and tropical island time as we travel north along the coast. just before our visas run out, we’ll pop back into china, into yunnan, where we are home free with sweet roads, easy camping, and good friends to go and visit. once back in china, i expect we’ll need to relax and recuperate for a couple of weeks

right now it’s -12 C in beijing. i haven’t skated for a number of days. i am stoked, nonetheless, dreaming about the beach, about long distance skating, imagining the best way to make a hybrid push-push-adventure x relax-n-chill vacation. In doing my research, i learn something from watching online videos.

now skate video is a lot to do with narcissism, so is blogging and posting reams of text to a forum. at least, in this video, the cool skaters aren’t me, they are not riding longboards, and the text is about something i haven’t even done yet. i just think it’s cool to share how a video of some skaters on an adventure can inspire, educate, entertain, even an old rat in another world, like me.

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…

coffee high stage 4 – on to ‘shangrila’

overnighting in xiangcheng was good. I love the wilds and camping up there, but the previous four days pushing it above 4500m took a lot out of me, and in xiangcheng I was able to eat. and eat and eat! out there skating I don’t actually consume much, and in the high reaches, I eat even less, which is wierd because it would seem I need moe energy to do the skate thang so high up. but no, and I don’t sleep well above 4000 meters either, I have mad dreams and wake five times a night to drink water and toss and turn. so sleep was good, and food…

off again in the morning, the road was superb, a river skate which switched three rivers, winding around through villages where locals called out encouragement and suprise. “teshi deleg!”


those imposing monolithic tibetan houses stood sentry on high corners, watching the river waters, the commons, the skater pass at their feet.

and then there was dirt road…which I hitched, 80km of piste across gorgeous terrain, I rode with some guangzhou guys. nice people, litterbugs, most, smokers the lot, whose burning embers fell into the forest with abandon…but really nice folk. out here in china, we have to accept a lot of distasteful things, or it’s just no fun at all meeting people. fortunately the forest was misty and wet, and my temporary companions did not burn the whole place down.

80km. I didn’t skate, it might seem so easy just to go on a hitchhiking journey, but no…banging around in the back of a truck, that’s only for the really unskateable part. I jumped ship at the first village, the first stretch of pavement on the yunnan side. haggled hard for dinner and a cheap sleep…

the morning was glorious, up and at ’em before sunrise, skating down into the clouds.

into the forest…up past these stoneware fangs, not knowing I was destined to look down upon them in the afternoon. funny how such high peaks seem so small, seen from above…

the pass again at 4000m+, the road sweet yunnan pavement. powering up, getting high, flying down…that’s what alpine skating is all about!

it’s a dream to be riding solo in a good road, with snacks and a water source, through beautiful autumn forest sparkling sunshine, enconterig minimal traffic

with all the time in the world to tool into zhongdian in the afternoon…

and grab an espresso…