a beginner’s guide to 50k

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Okay, two things up front:

  1. I never walked 50k, but I came really close today.
  2. As much as I enjoy the wacky side of life, I’m always trying not to sound funny when I’m talking about serious things.

So anyways, here’s the two versions of my how to walk 50k guide :

Version 1, you’re good – you know what’s ahead of you, because you’ve done your homework and studied the maps. So today you get up at 6 and start walking right away, because you’re aiming at the full fifty. Given an average speed of 5k per hour, you should have at least made 25k before lunch. That’s when you take in a serving of carbohydrates and a good rest. You then easily knock off another 25k before it gets dark. Real smooth.

Version 2, you’re not that good (i.e. you don’t know what you’re doing, i.e. you is I) – you knock out your damn alarm clock at 7:30, then wake up again two hours later, get on the road by ten, and then finally look REALLY surprised when you notice that your destination is…

Binxian 52km

…52k away??

Well, but who are you to let that bother you, after all you have a tent and all – plus supplies will be available at almost any given point:

drink stand

Notice how I like to carry on a light conversational tone, trying to make myself sound smart and funny while avoiding to seem too much like a wise-ass?

Well the thing is though, all this just fades to plain vanity when you’re looking at involuntary suffering and hardship in the process:


A lot of old people around here have legs shaped like this:


Now I don’t know much about it, but my guess is that this might have to do with periods of bad nutrition during the bitter early years of the People’s Republic, when “to eat tree bark 吃树皮” became synonymous with mass poverty.

From this point it’s really hard for me to switch to instant sarcasm, but since time aligned these pictures for me, I’ll have to try anyways:


“Original long white hogs from Denmark 丹麦长白原种猪” – an advertisement I guess.


“Haha – I, the old hog, have become a god of fortune! 哈哈 – 俺老猪成财神爷啦!” – just a reminder for the local peasants to produce more pork.

I don’t know about you though, but here’s what my cynical mind came up with when I first noticed these images:


Okay whatever, remember I was originally going on about my funny walking experience? I’ll try to take you back there with this:


Unfortunately I wasn’t walking in the valley though, instead I was up here…


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…where the trucks will keep honking their horns until one day both my ears fall off!

I saw my first tunnel today:


“Life 生命” is what it says on the wall. Of course there was a whole bunch of other characters in front of these two, but I often like to single out what I find meaningful or intriguing. Sometimes to less or no avail.

The tunnel was weird:


Noisy and scary:


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But it was something new anyways, and I had my share of fun with it.

Right when I came out, I awed at this beautiful lake:

green water

And then a big person, a little person, and a little bike were coming down the way from the mountainside:

way from the mountain

Seventy-eight and four:

Out on the country road, with training wheels and grandpa.

I don’t know…

help from Grandpa

…but I just felt a bit envious.

Back to my 50k-guide though – we still haven’t figured out how to exactly get yourself to do all the walking in one day, especially since you’ve already done more than 30k and it’s about to get dark in a little bit.

Well here’s what you do: you get to a little settlement on the way and look for a hotel. Once you find one, you start arguing over the price:


If they say 30rmb, you say 20 (because other people have told you it would be 10 to 20rmb). If the hotel insists on having you pay 30, you let your pride get in the way of things, raise your voice, stomp your foot and rush out the door, proclaiming to everyone who does or doesn’t want to hear it: “I will walk all the way to Binxian 彬县 now, because these people were trying to rip me off!” – so you know there’s no way back.

This is really the way to do it, my friends!

When I tested this method, it got dark really quickly, and as soon as it did, all traffic came to a halt, and I was finally faster than the trucks that had been bothering me all day:

traffic jam

I found out an hour later why things weren’t moving:

police car

There had been an accident in a second tunnel along the way, so traffic was piling up for at least 8km in both directions:

I was looking into an interesting kind of instant transition from eternal boredom to utter surprise over and over again:

truck drivers

While a select few people were actually using their time more efficiently, like this fellah getting a shave under a pale blue moon:


So the guide, yes: at some point, your feet might hurt like they never hurt before (or so you think), but you know that you have burnt your bridges. So now would be a very good time to you start comforting yourself: Today we walked almost 50km, that’s very respectable, if we could walk 25 everyday, that would already be very good. So actually we’ve overdone it quite a bit today – why don’t we stay in tomorrow and rather take care of our injured body?

You’ll see the city glowing in the distance after a while, and at some miraculous point in time (11 at night), you’ll even make out actual buildings:


That’s when you know that you’ve made it, and it’s also when you start thinking: 47,2 WTF?? Wanna walk 3km around the block just to get to the full 50?

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