A different fortune
Source: China Daily
Author: Deng Zhangyu
Du Fengyan resigned from a stable job to ride his bicycle across Africa and parts of Asia. He tells Deng Zhangyu that during the two years, he gained a spiritual fortune.
At a time when many urbanites around the world are choosing to ride bicycles amidst rising awareness of the environment and physical fitness, Du Fengyan has embraced a life on two wheels more than most.
He has spent nearly two years riding through 22 countries across most of Africa and parts of Asia, enjoying an experience he will never forget.
When Du cycled on country roads in Ethiopia, he was bombarded with passionate greetings from local people who called him Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan or Jet Li, the three most popular and recognizable Chinese martial art masters in the remote African countryside.
|Du Fengyan rides in Rwanda followed by a group of children. Du has ridden through 22 countries, across most of Africa and parts of Asia, over the past two years. Provided to China Daily|
"They asked questions like whether Bruce Lee was still alive because they watched him on TV the day before," laughs the 27-year-old Du, whose skin glows with a healthy tan from the hundreds of days he has spent biking in the open air.
Such encounters were so common that after awhile Du got used to them, and sometimes he even performed martial arts for the locals.
Du is perhaps the first person who knows kung fu to ride a bike across two continents.
Three years before embarking on his African journey in August 2011, the young rider learned one of the three main Chinese martial arts of the Wudang school, baguazhang, which literally means "eight trigram palm". He also learned some Shaolin kung fu, a popular martial art form in his hometown in Shandong province.
Some men in Ethiopia had wanted to challenge Du to kung fu, but the minute he struck a pose they changed their minds and just edged close enough to touch his arm before running off.
Du often won "fights" that way. He says it was the same when people tried to steal his belongings while he was on the road.
"I only needed to put on a good pose and stare into their eyes and they'd be scared and run away, whether they were just being friendly or were real thieves."
Du started his journey in 2011 from Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. He rode from Thailand to India, then to the Middle East, and through Egypt into Africa in September last year. According to his stopwatch, Du rode about 3,500 kilometers.
The biggest impression Africa made on Du was that China was everywhere, from road construction sites to daily necessities. Most Africans, he says, knew more about China than other countries and they always welcomed him warmly.
"I was invited to people's houses as an honored guest, sometimes to attend weddings or festival parties," he says.
In Sudan and Ethiopia, people called him "China". To his surprise, they called all foreigners "China" because the Chinese workers helping them build roads and infrastructure projects were the only foreigners they had ever met.
Du's two-month stay in Ethiopia was the longest of his journey. He says in Ethiopia he went anywhere there was a proper road. He even learned a little Amharic, the local language. People there told him that China had helped them a great deal to build infrastructure, whereas some countries just wanted to take the country's resources without giving anything back.
If Du had a problem or needed somewhere to sleep in an African city, he could easily turn for help to Chinese people working there. "I loved meeting different people and seeing their various lifestyles," he says. "And I loved seeing beautiful scenes that some people may never have the chance to see."
Once when he was camping in the wild, he woke up one morning to find many deep footprints and elephant droppings in front of his tent. On another occasion he was confronted while in bed by two wolf dogs staring at him.
He even rode across a wild national park in Namibia, which the natives dare not go near because of the many beasts of prey there. "When I recall all these experiences, I feel afraid. But I felt no fear at the time," he says.
Watching movies on his laptop, collecting music from the places he visited and posting pictures online were his only entertainment on the road.
The two-year journey cost Du about 40,000 yuan ($6,560). The amount included four flights and buying a camera. About 10,000 yuan came from donations from people he met on his journey.
One man he met in Djibouti gave him $400 and bought him several meals because, he said, people had done similar things for him when he was riding a bike across Europe.
Du was born into a farming family in Heze in Shangdong province. He is the second of five children. His family and friends strongly opposed his decision to resign from a Beijing-based company where he worked as an IT engineer.
"I just wanted to realize my childhood dream while I am still young," Du says. "I didn't think too much about anything else."
He chose to spend so much of that time in Africa for the simple reason that visas to most countries there are cheap and easy to obtain.
When he came back to China from his final African destination, Cape Town, what happened in those two years felt like a dream. He realizes that he made a spiritual fortune in Africa. "No matter how desperate I might feel in the future, as long as I think of the joys of riding on all those roads, I feel recharged," he says.