That’s the considered view of Rob Lilwall, and he should know. For he’s undertaken some pretty epic trips. I’d hugely enjoyed Rob’s first book, Cycling Home From Siberia, a few years back. When I saw that he had another tale of his travels in print, Walking Home From Mongolia, it had to go on my list. Santa duly obliged.
Home from Siberia by bike involved three years and no less than 28 countries. The tale was rich in people and places, and a hugely emotional sense of achievement. Back then home was London, and Rob was young and single.
But Home from Mongolia was different. On his cycle trip he’d met Christine, and subsequently they’d married and settled in Hong Kong. So the journey was much shorter, if no less arduous, across the Gobi and through China, north to south; six months rather than three years.
The cycle was largely a solitary affair, aside from all those he met and who helped him along the way. But the walk couldn’t be. To make it viable he’d undertaken some filming for television. He needed a cameraman, and found Leon. So two relative strangers set out together, toting all their equipment.
We are treated not only to the nomads of the Mongolian desert, always a fascination for me, but also to the intrigues of rural China, closed zones, police scrutiny and areas where the Caucasian had rarely been seen. And through it all we have the inter-play between the two walkers as they got to know each other, and their foibles. In the background is Christine, who managed to fly in a for a few days here and there, which might have helped Rob but didn’t add to the adventure for the reader.
At one stage the two wanderers decided it would be best to walk alone, taking care to ensure they did not accidentally meet up in lodgings or cafes when their paths took them to the same town. They reunited for the final stage, renewed and appreciated after time for reflection.
In the end I was a bit disappointed, expectancy perhaps on the high side after the cycle trip. I was left with the feeling that I’d like to read Leon’s account as well. You can indeed find out more about Leon, and catch some footage from the trip here. Rob and Christine are heavily involved in a children’s charity, Viva, and again there’s coverage of the expedition on the Viva website.
A good tale, but not quite the epic of the cycle trip, which I’d certainly recommend.