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From Sandstorms to Somalia

July 20th, 2009 leave a comment


Lee when we met him in TurkmenistanI can still see him emerging from the sandstorm. Between the clouds of dust being whipped up in the Turkmenistan desert came a Chinese man on a bicycle so frail and with so little luggage, it seemed obvious that he couldn’t have come far. I should have known better. After all, few people get to Turkmenistan without embarking on an epic trip and Lee Yue Zhong was no exception. As he joined us in a roadside cafe for a Pepsi, the photo albums poured out of his meager bags (there must have been 20 albums in all, entirely filling his front panniers) and he told us tales of an 11-year journey through some 90 countries. “I’m quitting soon,” he said in earnest. He was worn down after being robbed in Afghanistan. It was time to go back to China or maybe to Bulgaria, where he’d started and then sold a Chinese restaurant to fund his travels. That travel bug is hard to shake though and it seems Lee is still on the move. Today we were surprised to see his picture on the BBC website, his 15 minutes of fame after being denied passage through Somalia. In the past year, his country-count has reached 114. It’s hard to imagine that this little setback will stop his quest for long. Destination South Africa?

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