The Last Flight of the Pigeon sees a naive Brit venturing off on a classic Chinese bike to hit the open road – all 5000km of it – from Beijing to Xinjiang. It was, as Simon describes it, “… taken out of a desire to do something interesting, challenging, and fun; with full awareness that some of it would be boring.” Just two hours from the start line his legendary Flying Pigeon hits the ground dead. As though the adventure gods heard his desires loud and clear, they set forth to provide plenty of challenges along the way; vicious dogs, blinding sandstorms and punctures aplenty, just to name a few.
It was by chance that I came across this book, thanks to the wonders of technology and the tweeting of Twitter. Once the intrigue of the title grabs a hold of you, the preface (placed strategically at the end) will have you wondering why you still haven’t made steps towards that crazy adventure plan of yours. If an academic piece of writing is what you’re after then keep walking, for Simon Clode wishes to take you on a two-wheeled trip full of wit, history, disaster and euphoria, tying it all together with personality and red-faced events most people prefer to keep to themselves.
It’s important to mention that this book has gone without editing – a risk that has truly paid off in this case, for it has allowed complete freedom of speech and the (hilarious) overuse of comparative flare. The words read fluidly, evidently typed by a passionate individual eager to share his story, or as Simon puts it;
“It just flowed out of me like the morning after Sichuan hotpot”.
This book isn’t going to change your life. It wasn’t written as a means to show-off, or to compete with big-time adventurers like Neil Armstrong or Edmund Hillary. Instead it offers an insight into the lesser-known regions of China, incorporating historic snippets that won’t send you to sleep. As a current Beijing-based expat, my relation to the many everyday occurrences and absurdities is heart-warming. It’s a very special thing when the power of words can cause you to laugh out loud in a public environment.
The Last Flight of the Pigeon, A Journey Across China by Bicycle can be bought on Amazon for a mere £2.99
Similarly you can check out the blog which was written during the ride.