Epic China blogger-bike rides are hotter than the Taklamakan Desert in August it would seem.
The Portrait of an LBX guys may be halfway home already and Edward Genochio's travels are behind him, but Shanghai-based photographer Eleanor Moseman is gearing up for the start of her own ride, one that will see her cycle 17,000 miles around China and Mongolia.
Her 2wheels4girls project is intended to inspire girls to fulfill their real potential and raise money for organizations promoting education for the disadvantaged.
Prior to her departure, currently scheduled for early May, she spoke to ChinaTravel.net about her preparations for the trip, what she's most looking forward to, and what she hopes to achieve. Be sure to bookmark her site to follow her adventures.
Where did the idea for the ride come from? Have you done anything like this before?
I was looking for a way to really see China, besides staring out of car and train windows. Too often what I really want to see is whizzing by and it's almost painful to see things go by that I can't stop and explore. Also, being able to find an affordable way to travel and photograph China. No, I've never done anything like this before. Every day will be a learning experience.
What did your friends and family say when you first brought up the idea?
They think it's pretty cool. My parents are very confident it will be a success. I'm well aware of the dangers and potential things that could happen. This has taken nearly a year of planning, and lots of emails, questions, and research.
How have you been training for the ride?
Here in the city, it's so difficult to get a good ride in. I was running outside every other night from April-November 2009 and I do a bit of rock climbing over at the Stadium. I am not worried about the physical aspect, this trip has a lot to do with my mental and emotional well being.
How do you think your time in China to date has helped prepare you?
It's really helped...I know the key to making it here is to have a healthy sense of humor and enjoy the irony in things. You have to laugh or you'll go crazy. I've also learned that usually people here are very quick to help you, sometimes when you don't want it too. There are some funny things too, like just because a restaurant or a hotel has its lights off...doesn't mean it's closed.
What kind of problems do you foresee?
Language. My listening comprehension is pretty good but my speaking is much less. And then when I'm in areas that have a different dialect, I'm not sure. I've learned to play charades really well. Camping and places to use the bathroom. Of course, anyone who has been to China knows it's really easy for men to take care of their business, but a little more difficult for the ladies. Finding a safe place to sleep as well. I'm going to use Couchsurfing for a couple places, but once I am out of city centers--it shouldn't be too difficult.
How will you cope with the winter months?
Hopefully, I'll be in the Southern part of China by then, past Qinghai and headed home. I'm bringing some winter clothes and will pick up more if I need it. The weather in China seems to be completely unpredictable right now and we have only had a couple signs of spring thus far. I'm hoping and being optimistic that summer, fall will end later this year and have a mild winter. That's having a real positive outlook.
What are you taking with you?
Books to read and a notebook to write--to keep my sanity. Of course bike and camping gear, two of everything when it comes to clothes, biodegradable soap and toothpaste, camera gear, solar charger for all that, maps, and a nicely translated letter of introduction to hand to people and to ask for a safe place to sleep somewhere near their home, i.e. courtyard, floor, land, their home. The letter will offer a trade for their space/time. Maybe a GPS...
Which places are you most looking forward to? And least?
Mongolia of course. I've been drawn to that country for awhile now, it just screams to me to visit. I'm avoiding Ulaanbaatar at all costs, I hear the crime and theft there is horrible. Of course us foreigners here in China are completely obsessed with Xinjiang, and I can't wait to see experience the Taklamakan Desert and the part of the Southern Route of the Silk Road. The least...nothing really, except I really don't have a desire to experience any cities. I've had enough of city life being in Shanghai for 2 years.
How important to you is the charitable element of the trip? Can you explain why you've chosen these causes to support?
Of course this came secondary. It's really important but not as important as my hope to influence young girls I meet on my ride to pursue their dreams no matter how crazy it may seem.
I chose Girls Education International because it's a foundation run by women for young girls all over the world. They are outdoor enthusiasts, rock climbers, etc. and I felt a common interest with them.
It's a great foundation because they do not go to other countries and force a Western way of life on them, but rather train locals to help their own girls. I really hope to start a foundation like this specifically for China some day. All my friends here are local women, 20-somethings, and we talk a lot about education and politics and such. I realize how fortunate I am to have had the free public education I did. And more importantly, parents that really encouraged me to pursue my dreams--hatever they be. I was the first in my family to go to college, although my mom is 59 and going back to receive her first degree. Learning has always been a priority in my life, whether in or out of an Educational Institution.
The second charity is Stepping Stones, based here in Shanghai. I began doing a photo essay on some of the schools and last month taught a lecture on using photography as a means of self expression and creativity. I didn't teach the technical side of photography, but really enforced the idea of being an individual and always questioning and thinking. Out of a class of 25, only 2 were boys...this really says something about the drive and determination of young girls in China. My girlfriends here in China think and tell me I'm really going to inspire some youngsters on the way...I really hope so.
What are your plans for after the trip (or are you not thinking that far ahead)?
Photos of course and at least 1 book, perhaps my journal. I'd love to join up with other cyclists and put together one complete publication on cycling through China--there are no resources for that. When I come home, I've already been recruited to help another charitable organization but want to start planning on building a small boat and traveling the entire route of the Grand Canal. Hopefully I can convince someone to come along.
To keep up with Eleanor's trip, and perhaps donate to her cause, visit 2wheels4girls.