We slipped into the New Territories in northern Hong Kong the day before our planned arrival at the Peak, via the subway. This was apparently the only legal way of getting into the country with a bicycle, as we were told in no uncertain terms that we’d be turned back if we attempted the motorway option. To sneak onto the Shenzhen-HK subway pretending our 50kg beasts were commuter bicycles took some convincing, but luckily by this stage we were well-practised at assuring mainland Chinese police of our good intentions. We’d been stopped by police in every province of mainland China along our way, mistaken for terrorists and tailed as spies in the Wild West, expelled from guesthouses and forced off highways in the busy East – I’d like to think that provincial police departments across China had our details logged (under various names and guises) next to our bearded mugshots on office walls.
We were told we’d have to remove our front wheels to make the trip in the subway, logical perhaps for a commuter bike to take up less room, but less straightforward for us. So we duly strapped the wheel to our already wide derrières and dragged our mounts forward, which teetered unpleasantly on front panniers alone. This was deemed okay by the customs officials. In fact, no one seemed to bat an eyelid as between us we took up a whole carriage on a rush hour tube into Hong Kong, passports safely stamped and bags searched. I thought of what might happen if a bloke carried a 50kg bike on one wheel onto the Northern Line in London. Into a New Territories hotel, we were now only dozens of kilometres from the finish line.
Neither of us slept much on the last night of the expedition. We were both too excited, and nervous. Friends and family had flown in from across the world to see us over the line, from the UK, Canada, South Korea, Beijing, Shanghai… After spending thousands of kilometres with just each other for company, the prospect of other people was frankly quite daunting. I knew Lobby, and Lobby knew me, and that worked well. Getting on with more than one person for an extended period of time was something we hadn’t tried in months!
We were very fortunate to have gained the support of CIB Productions along the way, a Beijing-based production company with a large focus on the UK, who flew down from Beijing to film our last push up the Peak. We met them at 7am to set up an extra 2 GoPros on our handlebars, arrange a tail van to capture the climb and even wire us up with earpieces and microphones to record every last detail. Endless, nervous equipment testing. We were off.
Mentally, we had prepared for the Peak to be at the tough end of the expedition’s many climbs, but the reality was a blur of adrenaline. Warm HK tarmac was far easier than the cracked roads of Central Asia or the icy climbs of the Tibetan Plateau, even if this particular climb’s gradient approached the ridiculous. We thundered through Kowloon, boarded the Star Ferry – the tunnels to Hong Kong Island were strictly no bicycles too – and span our way up the Peak in single file as the day got progressively hotter. I’d love to say I had some deep thoughts running through my head as we climbed, but as with many big occasions I think the brain shuts off to focus on the immediate task at hand: doing the thing. Getting there. Focusing on anything more made us feel giddy.
Our arrival – carefully coordinated with the media van – was to a small crowd of close friends and family, along with some photographers and curious tourists, right at the top of the Peak. Lobby and I managed to link arms at the top of the final ascent before crossing the finish line, a thick ribbon stretched across the road. Then we were overwhelmed. Cheers, hugs, photos, tears, champagne, interviews, more hugs … whisked up to the Sky Terrace of The Peak Tower (the owner had been a fan), looking out back over the skyline, skyscrapers glinting, to where we’d come from, a banner, more photos. More champagne. It was a blur. We gave an interview to a South China Morning Post reporter as Lobby grew paler with heat stroke. He eventually threw up into the donations bucket midway through a question, to the reporter’s alarm – but it was a fitting end to an expedition which had pushed us right to the limit in so many ways. I do remember looking back over that skyline to Victoria Harbour, towards densely populated Kowloon, and thinking back to how alone we’d been in the desert, and the mountains, and how we’d managed to connect it all. We were both very emotional.
We had timed our arrival for party season in Hong Kong, as the annual Hong Kong Rugby Sevens tournament started the day after we crossed the finish line. This suited us perfectly. We were given the opportunity to meet the England team for training, which I have to say was very cool. Free tickets to the finals day, which also happened to be the day our interview was featured on the front page of SCMP Hong Kong, given out free to all spectators. It was a hot day, so quite a few of these papers ended up being used as sun hats, with our faces on the front. The tannoy gave us both a shout-out, and as people began to recognise us from the papers we were bought many drinks throughout the day. I could get definitely get used to this!
In total we were in Hong Kong for just over a week, our time split a bit frantically between catching up with family and friends and running around for media interviews, a selection of which are below. We featured in TimeOut and were live on Radio HK. We gave a talk to the Royal Geographic Society of Hong Kong, which was a huge honour, and did some outreach work for a local HK school too. After spending so much time on our own, the bright lights and attention we received were totally surreal.
Hong Kong was an incredible end to an incredible journey, and one which neither of us will ever forget. We would both like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has followed this blog, encouraged and helped us along the way, and a special thanks to those who donated to Prostate Cancer UK. Knowing we had such amazing support made a huge difference when things got tough. We ended up smashing our target of £15,000, and instead raised £1 per kilometre for a total of £17,500– thanks to you guys. I had the privilege of going round their offices once back in London and experienced first-hand the amazing work they do. My journey with Prostate Cancer UK has since continued, and I ran the London Marathon for them in April 2016, bringing our combined total donations to £21,000. Unfortunately I’m a terrible swimmer, so the triathlon is not on the cards…
Most importantly, we hope that during the expedition we’ve managed to entertain you with stories about a life outside the office routine. There is plenty of adventure to find if you look for it, and you don’t even have to look very hard. The toughest decision by far – harder than climbing mountains, crossing deserts, dealing with gunmen or facing wolves – was to start looking.