Suffering Lungs

 Xian to Beijing was to prove one of the hardest parts of the journey. It’s probably the most densely populated place on the planet and is also home to a large proportion of China’s industrial and manufacturing bases. For our final 10 days in China, we didn’t see the sun at all, the days were hot but the sun was constantly obscured by dull leaden skies due to a combination of the pollution and smog caused by the burning of immense amounts of fossil fuels. Our faces were a greyish hue and our snot was black – obviously not one of the factors that could possibly constitute glamorous in my job description. Having spent our first few weeks in China travelling through the rural areas amongst yaks and nomads in tents, it was now quite a culture shock to find ourselves in major cities, with huge sky scrapers towering above us and all the trappings of the 21st century from luxury shops and posh cars to smartly dressed business people. We were definitely seeing both sides of life in China. Traffic at times seemed to feature both the old and the new with decrepit, ancient scooter-style motorised rickshaws laden down with huge loads being overtaken by massive lorries thundering across the country to distant locations. We passed granite quarries which looked like they hadn’t changed their working methods in a hundred years, contrasting with the power stations (too numerous to count) belching out their clouds of pollution. At times I found myself only able to take shallow breaths as whatever those noxious particles in the air were, they were doing a damn fine job of restricting my lungs (you can tell I’m not too good on technical details when I’m talking about medical or scientific stuff).

As a postscript, to those who were following James Cracknell's progress, they had to abandon the record attempt in the early hours of this morning with just 68 miles to go having covered almost 800 miles in about 48 hours. An incredible feat.