THIRTY-five thousand kilometres after Du Fengyan climbed on to his bicycle in China he arrived in Cape Town. It took him two years, pedalling through 22 countries across South-East Asia, the Middle East and Africa, to arrive in the Mother City last week. He has wanted to travel the world on a bicycle since he was a child.
“Riding a bicycle is free and you can stop anywhere,” said Du.
Du saved for two years and quit his job as a network engineer in Beijing in 2011. He built his own travel bike and left with 70kg of luggage – a GPS, clothes, cooking and camping equipment, medical supplies, $3 000 (about R30 000) and two good luck charms from friends.
He crossed over the 5 600m high Mila mountain pass in Tibet, cycled though Vietnam during the rainy season, the low, flat plains of Cambodia, slept in temples in Thailand, and in India he spent six months volunteering as a kung fu teacher in an orphanage. Since he could not obtain a Pakistani visa, he flew from Mumbai to Shiraz, Iran, and then continued cycling over the steep hills of Armenia, through Georgia and Turkey and arrived during Ramadaan last year in Jordan. “When you have trouble, you go to the mosque,” said Du.
He slept in mosques and the locals shared their food and Arabic tea with him in the evenings. Du and his bicycle were ferried across the Red Sea to Egypt a year ago, where a police car followed him for protection and he slept at soldiers’ checkpoints from town to town. In Egypt a teenager pulled out a knife and demanded money. Du stared at him and the boy dropped the knife and ran.
He met a cyclist in Addis who was also from China and told him of 22year-oldHuaiyu Yang, who left China in 2012, and was also making his way through Africa by bike. Du and Yang crossed paths in Kenya. As they speak the same language and enjoyed the same food, they decided to cycle together. “Two guys cycling together through Africa is better,” said Yang, who arrived in Cape Town with Du. It was also safer sleeping in the bush as a pair.
They saw lions and zebra while crossing the Serengeti National Park and encountered hyenas while camping in the wild in Tanzania.
They cycled through Malawi into Zambia and eventually entered South Africa through Namibia. They spent 10 days travelling down the West Coast.
“It was beautiful, green, with colourful flowers,” said Du. “(Cape Town) is like heaven,” he added.
Both cyclists said their journey had changed them. “The difficulties in life are not so difficult compared to the difficulties on the road,” said Du.
He said he had a broader perspective of the world and has learnt that one must always have hope.
“When you are in trouble there will always be good people to help you. We always have hope.”