Of Medicine and Mud

Five months in and still grinning out loud

Sadly my onboard medical kit doesn’t cover all eventualities and so, with translations written down of both problem and solution, off I trotted to a pharmacy today. Luckily I was passing through Dunhua – a small city, and there were plenty to choose from. A friendly teenager seemed to be running the show for her mother, whom she hailed on the phone, watched by her grandparents. A scruffy cyclist and her quest for drugs makes a much more interesting half an hour apparently and they amused themselves by joining in. Meanwhile, a circle of old men on low stools played a noisy board game in a room out the back.



‘No, we don’t have any of that,’ mimed my pseudo pharmacist when she saw the name of my condition, which made me smile. Of course you don’t have it, child,  it is me who has it. I showed her the name of the drug I wanted and, frowning at the Chinese translation, she rang up her mother for the third time.  Next she surveyed the hundreds of little white boxes stacked behind the counter to produce one which, she assured me, matched the one I wanted. I wasn’t convinced at first, but after half an hour on Google Translate and another round of phone calls with her mother, she had added some blister packets of pills (with an English name on them that I did recognize) and, to my surprise, some turmeric suppositories. Yes, folks, turmeric. After two months in China, nothing surprises me any more, especially not where medicine is concerned, so I dutifully trotted back to Hercules with my haul and a rough understanding of instructions, hopeful and confident that at least one of the boxes would live up to the approval of my Sean and Caroline, my expedition doctors. Two of them do and I am happy to say we’re all agreed I shall leave the turmeric for now.


Foresting with Hercules

In other news, I am now just a couple of days from the China/Russia border, having tracked East out of Beijing to the coast (where I swam in the Yellow Sea and camped with Chinese cyclists), before turning left and heading North. The last few days have been both wonderful and exhausting, a series of slogging up and down different mountains in the rain.

Half way up

Muddy doesn’t even come close to describing Hercules and I, and sodden is an understatement. They were some of the best few days of the journey so far – off the beaten track (the road wasn’t really a road for the most part and I didn’t see tarmac for days), surrounded by green (contrasted with the Gobi, or the steppe or the urban sprawls), away from traffic and taking me through some villages and parts of China I wouldn’t have seen, had I taken the ‘fast road’.


Bovine cart in a little village

Horse and cart triad in the rainSince the end of the Gao Era I have listened to a lot of music and radio chat on my ipod, but my recent mountain jaunts have been beautiful because I haven’t listened to anything. Rather than plugging in, I savoured the silence,  listening to my own breathing and the sound of the rain drops on my hood. I even heard a buzzard – my first in China – and occasionally would even hear frogs land after a staccato hop across the puddled road.

Almost as wet as the ocean. Day three of the rain.

There are days on the road where the challenge is all about maintaining momentum in spite of monotony and a boredom at clocking miles on an uninspiring stretch of road, but these last few days have been challenging in a fun way.  I loved seeing how fast I could reach the summit of each hairpin, my legs and lungs burning or shouting for more, depending on the time of day; and I loved finding out how fast Hercules and I could take the descents, clenching my teeth each time we whizzed through muddy puddles at the bottom or I felt his wheels sliding in the sand. I am happy to say that I only nearly crashed, and both rider and bike emerged safely and happily, if not a little wearily, at the other end of it all.


Bring on Russia,


S and Herc x


PS Please keep your fingers crossed for my human powered run into Russia. I am preparing myself for another sit-in as I know both sides will want me to take a bus. Begging letters, smiles and dictionaries at the ready.



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19 Responses to Of Medicine and Mud

  1. Great stuff once again Sarah.

    Hope ur medication does the trick!

  2. Robert Nixon says:

    Truly sounds like an adventure, the pharmacy bit I mean. Glad to hear that you got yourself sorted out and are making progress.

    Good luck at the border, just remember you still have plenty of time so a sit in is definitely an option.

  3. Frank says:

    Another great post. One of the reasons I enjoy reading of your travels is the level of honesty and chipperness that comes across in your writing. You don’t jazz things up yet you remain an inspiration.

  4. Geraldine Cosgrove says:

    Keep up the inspiring work Sarah, I look out for for tweets and blogs and think of you journeying along whilst we are all plodding away at our work. Really well done.

  5. Sarah Benson says:

    Sarah you were inspiring when you spoke to Faringdon Rotary Club – but this trip and your fabulous experiences take it to another level. I love reading your blogs and seeing your photos. You are one amazing lady – wishing you continued luck and enjoyment. 🙂

  6. christina watts says:

    Another amazing few weeks Sarah – again I love the photographs, all very important to get the picture and now Russia ??!!!
    Good luck with the medicines etc …

    I have been quiet on here recently as we went cycling too?:-) only on a slightly smaller scale than you – Center Parcs Longleat near to Bath – with the two Grandchildren Amelia and Louis … wonderful outdoor activities with all of us on bikes where ever we went and Tom pulling the children in a bike buggy… loved it.

    You take care and fingers and toes crossed for the crossing over …
    big hugs

  7. Sarah, I don’t think I can find the words (because I don’t know them, in fact they probably don’t exist!), to let you know how much you touch my heart, and how much I enjoy reading about your latest experiences. Keep peddling girl, we are all rooting for you, wishing you well and eagerly waiting for the next instalment of your adventures. Lots of love and hugs,Gillian xx

  8. Alexandra Makhnina says:

    Hi Sarah,

    Many thanks, very interesting! Hope you are feeling much better.

    Good luck at the border! Удачи! (good luck in Russian) Fingers crossed!

    Sasha x

  9. Nightjar says:

    Really inpirational stuff Sarah. Enjoying the posts immensely.

  10. Matt says:

    I’m a new poster, thanks for the great read. I hope you get better soon and good luck for the border crossing. I hope you don’t have webbed feet by then!

  11. Barry Gumbert says:

    I’ll take my tumeric the old fashioned way, thank you very much. Think the Russians will let you in if you are carrying suppositories??

    I was going to say I hoped your bottom feels better, then I realized I should not be thinking about how your bottom feels… :))

  12. Peter Booth says:

    Well done Sarah. Almost in Russia now and a different kind of life. Keep taking the medicine,as my mother used to say. I suppose you have to put up with the rain,as we do in Britain. Look forward to reading your reports. Glad to hear you are still safe. No more near accidents with Hercules. Until the next time, God bless Peter Nottingham.

  13. Christine & Kathleen says:

    Hi Sarah
    Your last mesage was mind blowing, never fail to be amazed at what next we are going to read in your blogs. Hope you got the medication sorted and they did the trick.

    Happy Pedalling and all good wishes with fingers and toes crossed that you will be able to fulfil the next hurdle.

    Take care


    C & K

  14. Amy Bryant says:

    Really glad to hear from you Sarah. I hope the medication is kicking in! Keeping my fingers crossed for a trouble-free border crossing.

  15. Robert Douglas says:

    Health is one of those things explorers and adventurers alike take great pains to preserve during their travels. Of course, with the language barrier, it can be tricky getting the right medication. Different countries use different ingredients – an important note for those who suffer allergies. Glad Sean and Caroline are on hand with their expertise!

    It’s also fascinating the varied terrain through which you’ve travelled; tarmac roads straddling Europe, desert highways, mountain trails – now muddy tracks!

    Here’s to your continued journey into Russia…

  16. Alan Hind says:

    Another great blog – always entertaining to read! Just finishing “A Dip in the Ocean” and reckon you will have enough material from this latest trip to fill at least 2 new books!

  17. Sarah says:

    Thanks for all the lovely messages folks. I do read them, even if I cannot always respond to them.

    Happy to report that I avoided both webbed feet and the turmeric last week and also made it safely into Russia. Full story on its way.

    Happy Monday,


  18. Elena & Alex says:

    Greetings from Sakhalin island!

    We are tracking your route and looking forward to seeing you in Sakhalin.
    Good luck and Take care of yourself!

  19. Tari says:

    Do you know that in Japan it is what we drink to prevent hangover? Talking about the turmeric here. Hehehe.

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