Once we finally began to do a little research things got a lot more difficult. Renting a motorbike in China is a nightmare, getting vehicles through a border is a shitfight, you can’t go in here if you have a visa from there etc. But there were a few ‘must haves’ like pins stuck to a corkboard that anchor red string, the routes between them changed but they did not. The ‘must haves’ were:
- The East Coast of China: The second largest growing industry in China is tourism and the vast majority of tourism is internal. It’s only when I think about it for more than a fraction of a second I realise that I have the most superficial understanding of China. That knowledge is quite indirect. I’m actually looking forward to seeing a country without many expectations, a clean slate. Plus they have stuff like this, The Deadly Train to Mt Huashan: http://35mm.instantfundas.com/2008/12/deadly-trail-to-mt-huashan.html
- The Caucasus: I was heavily into reading Kapuściński at the time I was initially planning the trip. He wrote a book called Imperium http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperium_(Polish_book) which paints the Caucasus as a complex and passionate region full of ancient alliances and grudges. How can you go past passages like this:
What caught my eye? That despite the stiff rigorous corset of Soviet power, the local, small, yet very ancient, nations, had succeeded in preserving something of their trandition, or their history, of their, albeit, concealed pride and dignity. I discovered there, spread out in the sun, an Oriental carpet, which in many places still retained its age-old colors and the eyecatching variety of its original designs.
This was written while these nations were under Soviet rule. They have since thawed and allowed to reemerged. Plus I’ve never met anyone that has been there.
- Prypiyat (Chernobyl): I spoke to a Danish man at a youth hostel in Berlin over a few beers. He was telling me about a trip he had taken to the site of Chernobyl. He told me about a visit to the hotel, situated very close to the power station that reached critical mass and began to melt down in 26 April 1986. He and a friend were walking through the hotel which had been evacuated so hastily that everything had been frozen in that moment - like an unintentional museum. He asked the guide, a Ukrainian soldier, if he could kick down one of the locked doors in the hotel. I remember the Danish man, impersonating the guide, shrugged his soldiers. So they kicked down the door. Inside was a hotel room with a pair of pants still folded over the end of the bed.