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Grantham Journal feature: Intrepid cyclist Nick continues global travels

Nick Thomson resumed his travels by bicycle in China.
Nick Thomson resumed his travels by bicycle in China.

Nick Thomson began an ambitious journey by bicycle in 2015 to cycle his way across the world.

The 27-year-old has cycled half way round the world since leaving the UK and his marketing job in London in early 2015.

Nick Thomson with a new friend on a train as he began his travels in China. EMN-160218-143707001
Nick Thomson with a new friend on a train as he began his travels in China. EMN-160218-143707001

At the end of that year, Nick, from Osbournby, reached China following amazing adventures crossing Europe and Asia on two wheels. He decided to settle down in the Chinese city of Chengdu for a while and it was there he found a job teaching English.

But it was always his intention to carry on his travels and has now set his heart on reaching Vietnam and Cambodia.

Leaving China has not been a wrench for Nick. Fascinating though the city and the vast country are, the pollution and modern ways of life finally proved too much for Nick and his itchy feet and it was time to get back on the bike.

Nick has been keeping us up to date with a blog. His latest writings tell us about his departure from Chengdu and heading west towards Tibet. It has been tough, getting used to the bike again after almost a year on the road.

Camping in a moon-like landscape in China.
Camping in a moon-like landscape in China.

Nick said: “Here in the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Region in the mountainous west of Sichuan, all you had to do was look up to be rewarded by the view; all I had to do was look behind myself and I could see the hotel, just 50 metres down the road, where I had started.

“It was about here where a year’s worth of wishful thinking about the workings of muscle memory finally fell apart. I was seriously unfit, the act of cycling from London to China too distant to be of any use now after a year of eating as a hobby. My bike, which had enjoyed as sedentary life in Chengdu as I had, was the heaviest it had ever been with the extra gear that a disposable income and an internet connection leads you to possess. A palatial, two man tent, a winter sleeping bag and warm weather clothes meant all my bags were bursting at the seams and making the first day of climbing a 4200m pass in 30km brutally exhausting. It would have been a baptism of fire if it wasn’t so cold out of the sunlight. Only my thigh muscles burned.

“It was uncanny how many parallels there actually were between this first day back on the bike after a year living in Chengdu and my very first day on the road. Not being used to cycling up mountains in the winter, I felt like I was starting all over again and I felt just as out of my depth.”

But it is easy to see that Nick has no regrets about getting back on the bike. Returning to the massive landscapes and endless skies of China have given him a renewed vigour and, despite the bitter cold, he is relishing his travels again.

Not quite Tibet. Nick Thomson did not enter Tibet but this view of western China certainly looks like it.
Not quite Tibet. Nick Thomson did not enter Tibet but this view of western China certainly looks like it.

He said: “Cycling across Western Sichuan in November had not been as bad as I had expected. The daytime temperatures had been comfortable in the sun and, thanks to heavy sleeping bag I hauled up those hills, I was never that cold at night. Mornings had their challenges as everything that wasn’t inside my sleeping bag froze, but I was lucky to have had the conditions no way near my own bleak expectations.

“To be sure, it was a difficult way to begin cycling again, compared to the easy Eurovelo routes along flat river valleys of Europe. Yet for all the discomfort and difficulties, it was totally worth it to see the natural beauty of the land and to witness the culture of the hardy people who live there without all the hassle and expense of trying to get into Tibet-proper.

On travels like these, things never go smoothly or to plan. The latest from Nick was that he was back in smog-choked Chengdu waiting for a visa.

He said: “Unfortunately, cycling is currently on hiatus as I have had to fly back to Chengdu for boring visa reasons. Last week it had the worst quality air in the world, topping Beijing and New Deli collectively and daily levels seem much worse than this time last year, when I had just started living here. Just like the changing of the seasons up on the plateau, the smog that has engulfed this city at the time of writing is just another indication that moving on has been a good decision and, as it happens, just in time.”

The winding road. A view in west China. Photo: Nick Thomson
The winding road. A view in west China. Photo: Nick Thomson

So Nick’s journey continues and is seemingly without end as he told the Journal over New Year. He has plans to visit India and then further down the line move on to Australia and New Zealand.

In a message sent to the Journal a few days ago, he said: “I think I am looking forward to leaving China. I have had a love-hate relationship with this place and, as a result I don’t know whether to say ‘thank you’ to this country as I cross the border into Vietnam or say something ruder. There have been good moments and bad but I am definitely ready for something different, and Vietnam, with its food and tropical climate etc, will certainly provide that change.

“So my plan is to go to Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and, if the border is open, India. There’s a lot of instability up near the border and the situation changes a lot, so it’s impossible to make concrete plans. If the border is closed then perhaps I can fly to Nepal and enter India that way. I really want to see the Kashmir area but this will be a decision to be made in the months to come. After India then I’m going to have to hop on a plane and either visit Japan or go straight to Oz/New Zealand...again I haven’t decided on if I want to do Australia as well as New Zealand or just the latter. In the long term, I might then do the Pan American Highway, from Alaska to Patagonia...but this is a decision for next year. All I know is there’s a lot more cycling left to be done after a year saving.

You can read more about Nick’s adventures here


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