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Cyclist tours the world

By Qi Xin and Shi Baoyin in Zhengzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-05 07:41

Cyclist tours the world

Xu Yukun displays a flag to promote a low-carbon lifestyle in front of the Chinese embassy in Moscow.[Provided To China Daily]

Many people fantasize about traveling the world, yet few get to realize their dreams.

Xu Yukun, however, has turned his dreams into reality - riding his bicycle to more than 600 cities in China and 23 foreign countries and regions during the past decade.

The 70-year-old former farmer from Nanyang in Central China's Henan province began his odyssey in April 2007.

Wanting to do something meaningful to celebrate the coming Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, he embarked on a three-month tour of Henan, Hebei and Liaoning provinces, before reaching the country's northernmost county - Mohe, in Heilongjiang province.

Since then, cycling has become part of his life.

"It makes me happy and I have made many friends over the years," he said.

When traveling, Xu carries 30 kilograms of kit in his bike's panniers, including a tent, two replacement tires, food and other necessities.

He often takes breaks during his journeys, to promote a low-carbon lifestyle and environmental protection among the people he meets.

"People should travel when they have the time and energy," he said, adding that his inspiration was Xu Xiake, a geographer and explorer who lived during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

"In the beginning, my family worried about my health and safety and hoped I would give up pursuing my dreams. But I had made my choice."

Xu records his travels in a handwritten notebook. By 2011, after completing his 13th expedition, he had visited more than 33 of China's provincial-level regions and began thinking about traveling abroad.

Despite being unable to speak any foreign languages, he has since visited Thailand, Russia, Netherlands, Germany and Australia.

"The language barrier is not a problem, I can communicate with foreigners using translation applications on my phone and body language. Nice people can always be found," he said.

While away on his trips, Xu cycles during the day - navigating using a GPS app on his phone - before making camp each night.

"At my age, I do not need to sleep long," he said. "Riding all day exhausts me and at night, I am sound asleep. Usually I wake up at 4 am to start riding, when the world is quiet and full of peace."

In addition to taking photographs, Xu also stops off at post offices along the way to collect postmarks. His notebook is filled with nearly 1,000 of the unusual souvenirs.

In his years of adventuring, he has worn out five bicycles and is now adept at carrying out on-the-go repairs.

Cycling long distances has also made him healthier, Xu said, although his trips have not been without incident.

"Once while riding from Luxembourg to Germany, I couldn't find a grocery store for many hours. I was so tired. Fortunately I met a lady in a village, who gave me two bottles of water, sausages and bread, which saved me," he said.

"Traveling helps me broaden my horizons. My next destinations will be North America and then, South America and Africa. With luck, I will be able to realize my dream of cycling on all of the world's continents."

Chen Liang contributed to this story.

 

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