“Remember what Bilbo used to say: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkein
When I stepped onto the road on this adventure, all I knew were the cities on the path I was to follow. As a child living in Hong Kong, I used to see people going on the Kowloon-Canton Railway on their way to China and across Eurasia on the Trans-Siberian Railway. I told my father that one day I would go across to London by train. The idea is a stunning one: Cross two continents and travel through some of the world’s greatest ancient empires. Empires which conquered worlds and peoples, built great wonders, invented bewildering machines, orchestrated priceless artworks and set the world ablaze by their very existence. On a train you can watch the world go by and imagine a time far away on a timeless landscape. This was my summer.
This was not an “easy” journey by any stretch of the imagination. There were no five-star hotels to break my journey, and the weather and circumstances could – and often did – get in the way of keeping everything to plan. In the end, I failed in only one of my goals. As you will read in my journal I did not take the train from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing, and yet I completed over 7000 km of iron and steel. In addition I had added another of my favourite pastimes to the adventure: mountain climbing. In describing this journey to friends I would say it was a trip from sea to sea, touching the sky along the way. I had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with 7 of my close friends from Newfoundland in 2003. In planning this trip I realized that I had the opportunity to summit Europe’s highest point and complete the second of the world’s Seven Summits: Mt. Elbrus in the Caucasus mountain range deep within southern Russia.
Just before I left, my close friends Corey Tomsons and Donna Wong handed me a rather large, very pretty hard-cover journal. They knew that I liked to journal on my adventure trips and had thoughtfully gifted me this book and upon which was inscribed: “Dups, seek tall skies and interesting times, then bring them home in pics and stories”. Well, I kept my word. Every chance I had, I wrote in the journal, chronicling my adventures, and more often than not my misadventures as well. About half-way through I realized I had miscalculated. This one book simply did not have enough space to complete the story of this journey. I was forced to buy another. This is a story about places but mostly it’s a story about people.
For those who are loathe to read through this site, you probably won’t miss that much, but for those who do, I hope you enjoy. I urge you all to don your hiking and walking shoes, and head out that door and seek an adventure. The world abounds with strange coincidences, weird mix-ups and fantastic people; find them, experience them and I assure you, you will begin to understand yourself and the world around you.
I had an epiphany as I was coming home. After two months of travelling, I didn’t want it to end. I just wanted to continue. I was in danger of being swept off my feet by adventure for adventure’s sake. To truly understand yourself and your adventure you need to come back to where you started. Only as you circumnavigate your experiences do you really understand the things you learned, the people you met and what they taught you. So here then I raise a toast to all of you, the people who I met.
This journal is dedicated to the following people that I can name from London to Shanghai: Tushar, Gayathri, Chandima, Gihantha, Seamus, Rhian, Karen, Jason, Michelle, Leigh, Pen, Adam, Keli, Sergei, Mike K., Ahsan, Anders, Ilya, Yvgeny (Johnny), Vera, Tatiana, Andrei, Tom and the American ski group, Mila, Natasha, Dasha, Rosa and her Mum, Nana, Nils, Anne-Marie, Lena (from Perm), Elena (from Perm), Sergei (from Perm), Albert, Elena, Roman, Alexander, Luba, Arkady, Nikita, Anton, Mike M., Kirill, Alexander (Sasha), Dasha (Irkutsk), Yura, Yannis, Verity, Marina, Rose, James, Debbie, Estel, Ya-el, James, Tamsin, Hannah, Derek, Robin, Lori, Scott, Steve, Barbro, Sarah, Mieko, Jenny, Zack, Danielle, Jarathalan, Chimgee, Naidam, Tudev, Nirgwe, Jodie, Kat, Brett, Jenny, Nessa, Chris, Lisa, Lane, Lucille.
It is also dedicated to all the people that I cannot name, the families I met, those who smiled and told me a story, those who ran up to take my photo and those who shook their head at the madness I must be possessed by. Certainly I must thank Corey, Donna and Sue for taking care of things (and Pixel) in Edmonton. Thanks also to BioWare Corp. for letting me go and allowing me to wander the world. Last, but certainly not least, thanks to Kim for coming upwith the title “In the Wake of Empires”.
Duleepa “Dups” Wijayawardhana
Edmonton, Alberta, September 2006