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Walking Home From Mongolia

The Ili Valley, Xinjiang

An update from my friend Ron Lilwall who is currently walking home from Mongolia to Hong Kong.

Over the years I have done quite a few adventures – in the early days they were usually with Al: cycling the Karakoram Highway, or Ethiopia, or Peru. Then I did my three year Cycling Home From Siberia expedition, which started with Al, but ended up being mostly on my own. And rather unexpectedly, this expedition launched me into the world of writing, speaking and TV, whereby I
somehow made a living from the adventures I’d had and continued to have.

I am now on a new expedition – a sequel to my Cycling Home From Siberia. It’s called Walking Home From Mongolia, and it involves walking from the Gobi desert down to my new home in Hong Kong, via China. It’s about 5,000 km, and will
take just over six months. I am doing the expedition with a young Northern Irish cameraman, Leon McCarron, and we are currently about half way through, having so far crossed the Gobi in winter, walked down the frozen Yellow River valley, and have just recently crossed the Qin Ling Mountains in early Spring. Next week we’ll reach the Three Gorges. It’s turning into a great adventure, but one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

There are a few big ways it has differed from the Cycling Expedition, and I have to admit that I had underestimated how much these differences would change how the expedition feels.

First, this one is on foot, not by bike, and thus not only do I move much slower, but the physical beating our bodies receive from carrying the heavy loads on our backs, and pounding our feet on
the road all day, is much, much harder than the physical toll of cycling. If we get behind schedule, it is much, much harder to make up time. We are also very vulnerable to injury.

Second, more positively, it is mostly in one country – China – and so I have a fighting chance of making progress with language learning (compared to my cycling expedition – which took me through 27 countries, and I was hopeless at trying to learn the languages).

Third, I am not alone – which totally chances my experience of both the internal and the external journey.

Fourth, perhaps most significantly, I am doing this expedition in a much more professional capacity. I already have a TV commission, a book deal, invitations to speak about the journey, and a weekly newspaper column, all of which mean I having to think about a lot more than just “doing the journey” – these things change the experience of the journey itself. All this “professional” side
to the trip has both pros and cons, and, also make the stakes of success or failure much higher -and makes me think that – to use the title of a book I once pulled of Al’s bookshelf – “we cannot

You can follow Rob’s adventures with live updates at

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  1. wayne heaphy Posted

    hello Mr humphreys. can i ask for some advise please regards puting together my expedition and puting together a funding or grants appilcation.
    my question is.. when the expedition i want to put together has all ready been done and i feel i will be treading in the same foot steps with the same goals. How do you find a point of diffrence from their expedition to yours and thus win over the panel who decide weather i get funding or not ? the idea i have is kite buggy in a dessert for 40 to 50 dayes. many thanks

    kind regards
    Wayne heaphy from New Zealand



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