Yesterday, I reached North-Korea 600 days after I took the first steps in the Gobi Desert.
The last couple of kilometres I was followed by a TV crew and two photographers. It was, at times, a little hard taking in what was going on as they were taking pictures, asking me to stand here or there and so forth. The truth is that even if I had been there completely alone, it would have been hard to take in the moment.
The Great Wall at Hushan goes over a small mountain. Then it dives steeply down to the Yalu River. This river marks the border between China and North-Korea. The Great Wall was covered in snow and I was happy once again to be walking with the walking sticks. All the time, I was being photographed and filmed from various angles, high and low. A very strange experience after having walked alone in solitude for so long.
At the bottom of the small mountain, there was a large watchtower. We walked up it, and as I walked the last steps, I made a little video, and also took pictures of my feet where they rested on the watchtower. (Thanks for the tip Roxanne – I’ll post the picture later) At that point, I was about 100 metres from the North-Korean border. In the distance I could hear manly voices shouting something that seemed well coordinated and military. There were two North-Korean border guards walking on the other side of the river.
Luckily, I remembered to pick up a stone close to the watchtower. This is a tradition I have had on all my longer trips. I pick up a (small) stone at the beginning, and then another one right at the end of my journey. A good memory to have in years to come.
What did I feel at that moment? I was happy, relieved and grateful to have reached my goal. At the same time sad that this life of walking is over for now. These are however feelings I have had the last week or two, and there was no big difference at the end point. Sorry – I was not struck by any unique awe-inspiring thoughts… Hopefully they will come when I return to Norway!
I walked back along the river which was an interesting experience. The path could best be described as an obstacle course. A hanging bridge, several very steep steps, winding steps, 180 degree turns etc. At one point the steps were bolted fast to the mountain and the river was right beneath. At the closest, I reckon the North-Korean border on the other side of the river was only 10 metres away. I made a point of hiding my walking sticks. Didn’t want any rifle-like objects to get the attention from the other side.
I go to Beijing tomorrow, and get to spend one whole day there before heading back home to Norway. That might be when the emotions start hitting me.
Once again – many thanks for all your comments – they are much appreciated! I promise to keep on writing this blog for some time yet. Many of you have said you will miss reading the blog entries, and if so, you can imagine how much I will miss the exciting life I have lived here in China. At the same time, NOT living an exciting life seems alluring now.