I just came back to Hamburg from the christmas celebrations with my family in thuringia some days before New Years Eve, as i received a last-minute CouchRequest from Charlie. It was kind of “hey man i’m on my way to portugal and i’m in search of a couch to surf and a party from 31 to 1st of January, maybe you could host me?”. I took a look at his profile, his website and started to realize that CouchSurfing with Charlie might be a lot of fun and full of storys. I was also wondering about the car, i’ve never seen something like this before…
In Hong Kong Charlie works as a marine environment specialist, his specific expertise focuses on marine technology and the impacts of coastal development upon the marine environment. Due to his work he has always been deeply connected to the nature and became aware of topics like climate change, green living and the question how global warming connects everybody in this world.
Now he is on a trip from Hong Kong to Portugal with his 4×4 “Hilux” through China, Mongolia, Russia, Scandinavia and Western Europe. His Tour is a Trans Eurasian Charity and interactive global warming expedition which started in May 2010 and will last at least 1 year.
But how was the idea born?
“… Planning and executing this incredible off-road expedition across the most inhostible terrains in the world is the best way for myself to learn, leading to my own climate perspectives. …”
Everything started in Hong Kong when Charlie’s air conditioning system needs to be repaired. Help was needed and so Mr. Harris came along, but Charlie was no longer interested in his air conditioning system – it was the car in front of his house which took his attention. It looked nearly perfect, it seemed to be the car he was searching for so long. He did not hesitate to ask Mr. Harris and after some weeks of proceedings he finally bought a 1992 Toyota, 4×4, fully spec’d out with a fake snorkel, bug deflector and way too many Chinese parts.
He went to the garage of Sifu (Master) Hung for preparing the so called “Hilux” for his project. Mr Hung saw the car and said something like “with this car it is not possible to do a trip like you have on your mind, there is a lot of fake stuff on it and we have to modify a lot of things”. Charlie agreed and left the car in the hands of Mr.Hung. Later on Charlie got an mechanics training from the whole team to be prepared and also attended an intensive 4×4 training with 4×4 pro’s.
After weeks of preparing Charlie started his tour on May 19th 2010 at Hong Kong Cape D’Aguilar Lighthouse. During his trip to my place he has been to Mongolia, where he climbed the Khuiten Uul (4374m):
“… after 9000 kms, 90 nights camping, 1 puncture, 1 cracked radiator, 2 broken leaf springs, 2 shattered roof racks, an exhausted turbo, 50 river crossings, a chair thief, a couple of eaten sheep, hundreds of milk teas and a climb up the highest mountain, my time in Mongolia has come to an end.
To me Mongolia has been a lesson of living as a nomad, sharing food, having access to very basic supplies, doing without internet and mobile phones, conserving water and exploring an incredibly wild country as I recorded some fascinating interviews on global warming. …”
“…after 10,000 km, temperatures ranging from +27C in Siberia to -21C in the Arctic, x bottles of Vodka, 25 police stops, 0 bears and 1 car theft, it’s been a remarkable insight into one massive friendly country. From the stunning scenery of the Altai to the tundra of the Arctic, from ruinous villages to industrial cities, it’s been a drive of contrasts.
Before I arrived and like most foreign people I had my initial impressions of Russia stored in some part of my memory (mafia, corrupt traffic police, unfriendly locals and savage bears)… but I saw none of this.
But why everyone wears black is beyond me to comprehend, colours are rare here! Is there a reason for this?
From what I have seen, I think that China has more environmental initiatives in place than Russia. Global warming is a subject talked about, but that is as far as it goes. Most people have other concerns (whether it be family, holding down 3-4 jobs, or the bottle).
Russia for its size and potential influence on the world stage needs to start tackling its own problems of environmental destruction and what comes out of all those factory smoke stacks. Some government help in domestic recycling would help and make people think that they they are contributing in some small way.
But I will never forget the incredible Russian hospitality; its a lesson for all of us to learn. …”
…and Scandinavia (Finland included):
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“… The arctic journey all started up in Norway towards the end of November 2010 and ended on the border of Denmark and Germany on the last day of the year.
I survived temperatures down to -35C.
I saw the Northern Lights, Reindeer, Santa and a Wolverine;
I became Balut Champion of Jyderup!
I saw ‘working’ wind-turbines and cities not scared in promoting sustainable living and transportation;
I went mushing and visited the most northerly point on mainland Europe..and all this as I drove 3500 km across snow and ice……on good old worn summer tyres. …”
The 3 charities Charlie is raising money for:
- Shark Trust – “because I owe sharks some of the best memories of my life, and yet we are intent on making them become marine exctinctions.”
- Christina Noble Children's Foundation – Mongolia (orphanage)
- SOS Children's Village International – Kandalaksha (most northerly orphanage in world)
Charlie arrived in Hamburg in the afternoon of the 31st of December and was quite lucky to found a place to sleep at. Just a few minutes went by and we were drinking tea and talking about his journey and his adventures before we grabbed a beer and went out to see Hamburg and have a original german bratwurst.
Later on we went to a very nice NYE-Party at a friends place and continued to the Reeperbahn with a lot of barcrawling. Charlie’s plan was to leave the next day but he decided for option 2: staying one more night, enjoy some home made food (by me!) and see hamburg @daytime. With this Charlie showed me some outstanding pictures from his tour and took me to all the places and adventures he has been to.
Later that year he completed this tour with his final destination: Cape Saint Vincent, Portugal.