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The New World: Part I, The Itinerary

December 14, 2012

[Readers Note: This post is part of  The New World—a thematic series of writings and reflections on exploration. Travel light….]

南.nán. south.

In the past month I’ve broken many adhered to conventions on this blog site.  Then again, this is precisely what it is all about.

I wish to share with you a story that has changed my life to this very day.  It occurred several years ago, during the Summer of 2009.  I was finishing my job as an English teacher at a local public school in the Autonomous Region of Ningxia, a small province of China situated just below inner-Mongolia. Pretty soon I would be leaving China altogether and departing to the United States. Fortunately, I had the leisure of one final adventure.

Total Distance: ~ 1,228 km                               Duration: ~ 1 month

Map + Journey (2xZoom)

The title of this post is a misnomer. Itinerary, as defined, is a planned route or journey and/or a travel document recording these. I had neither.  It began with a simple plan. To head south towards a bustling city called Chengdu. From there I would fly back north to gather my stuff and catch a train to Beijing. I had neither commitments, nor reservations. In the weeks leading up to my departure I had, however, cultivated several interests:

I would be travelling on a shoestring budget so all my commuting would be low to the ground.  I had interest in travelling into Tibet, however, there were outstanding elements keeping me away. It was 2009 and the not-so-distant uprisings in Lhasa were discouraging foreigners from entering the region without proper authorization and permits. It was even required to hire a local driver to take you around in a 4wd. Far outside of my budget. Even surrounding areas, known as Prefectures and Tibetan Autonomous Regions, were not accessible to foreigners via public transportation. Several days before leaving Ningxia, I managed to have a brief email exchange with a well-established horse trekking guide from Langmusi:

“In Lanzhou, now the south bus station won’t sell the bus ticket to foreigners. You just can get on the bus out of the station and pay to the driver. Take the bus from Lanzhou to Diebu and get off the bus at Langmusi Bridge. There are two drivers’ number of the buses from Lanzhou to Diebu : 13884063558 and 13893413283. The driver can’t speak English, you need ask some chinese people to help you to call him.  If you fail on calling the driver. Just go to the south bus station in Lanzhou and buy a ticket to Linxia. They will sell you this ticket, but will ask you for two photo copies of your passport. And the bus from Lanzhou to Linxia will have a stop in Linxia at 12:00a.m for around half an hour at the front of the restaurant named “清雅斋(Qing Ya Zhai)”. Call me at any time when you get troubles.”
End of June, 2009.  Yinchuan, Ningxia Autonomous Region (PRC)
It was hot & sweaty when I left. I had packed my belongings in a green army bag that my Uncle had used during his service as a para-trooper in Vietnam. Just a few days before departing, what seemed to be necessities, were no longer. My iPod had mysteriously swallowed all of my music into oblivion, and my camera lens was broken. I had clothes, money, travel documents, a notebook, harmonica, swiss army knife, and some other oddities. I had no travel guide, but had printed out some material, such as that email above.
The sensation of anticipation before travelling varies. It depends on the elements. For this trip, it would be an adventure. Minimal Commitments + Minimal Direction + Willingness + Time. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I am no explorer, I am to much of a mama’s boy. I’ve met countless travelers that have taken trips exponentially longer than I have. Many have gone on journeys of no end. The heart of the story that I wish to share with you now, lasted a total of 5-days. And there is so much more to tell….
First Letter of Contact

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