Drinks 6.30 pm lecture 7.30pm. HK$100 members HK$150 non members. No booking required
In this lecture, Humphrey Wilson speaks, accompanied by many photographs on his recent bicycle ride from Buckingham Palace to Government House. On 4 March 2009, Mr Wilson left the Palace’s Royal Standard fluttering behind him as he pedalled the wrong way down The Mall on a flat tyre. On 13 December 2009, he arrived at Sir Donald Tsang’s residence, 11,000 miles and 22 countries later, somewhat dishevelled and unshaven, but having experienced one of the most exciting adventures possible.
In his route across the Eurasian landmass, via the Caucasus and Central Asia, Mr Wilson crossed three great cultures, European, Turkic and Chinese, stopping wherever the sun set and engaging with local people all the way. In the spirit of adventure and spontaneity, his route regularly changed on the spur of the moment, a great advantage to travelling alone and an absolute necessity in regions where political stability and regulations were constantly changing.
Some of the places he visited, such as the former Yugoslavia, Georgia and Tajikistan, had been through wars in recent years and he encountered remnants from these conflicts, shelled ruins, overturned tanks, minefields, broken families and painful memories. Each night, as the sunlight started to wane, he relied on his own resourcefulness in order to find a place to stay, resulting in some very unusual refuges. This often meant camping, hiding away in woods, behind sand dunes in deserts, on frozen mountain passes or in a tunnel under a Chinese motorway.
Just as regularly, however, upon enquiring where he might camp, Mr Wilson was invited in by local people, offering humbling kindness and hospitality. This gave him a privileged insight into the local cultures between Hong Kong and London. In Georgia, he arrived outside a mountaintop nunnery and was treated to a luxurious dinner and hauntingly beautiful Georgian plainsong. Amongst many other examples, an Uzbek family nursed him when he was sick, an Azeri family saved him from ferocious winds pouring off the Caspian and Tajik and Pamiri farmers treated him as their own.
One dark evening he found a road gang constructing a motorway in the middle of the desert in western Gansu province, where his map (in Chinese characters) had led him to believe there would be a city. Mr Wilson was invited into the 15man dormitory, given a bed and a massive plate of hot food, and steamed buns in his panniers for lunch the following day. He had been warned to be wary of Asian policemen, however he found himself being given ice creams at checkpoints in Uzbekistan and refuge and sustenance in Tajikistan.
Mr Wilson dealt with many different terrains, from the hills of northern Turkey to the scorpioninfested heat of the summer steppe of western Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan where there were often no amenities for hundreds of kilometres. This meant no showers for weeks at a time despite sweating through 10 litres of water each day. He also crossed the passes of the Pamir Highway, which reached 15,270 ft, through the mountainous desert in eastern Tajikistan and ran out of water in the middle of the Taklimakan.
Humphrey Wilson hails from the UK, where he read theology at the University of Durham. He then qualified as a chartered accountant before deciding to set out on his epic bicycle ride. He is now resident in Hong Kong employed in investment banking.