Traveller tells tales of Mongolia and China trek

25th Sep 2013

Mongolian trekking holidays, though sometimes challenging, usually come easier than this.

But a 27-year-old Irish adventurer returned home from the Gobi desert in Mongolia through central China's snowcapped mountains, to the towers of Hong Kong to tell his story.

All the while, Leon McCarron dragged all his possessions on a trailer through some of the world's most unwelcoming terrain.

McCarron, 27, from Castlerock, Co Londonderry, covered 3,000 miles (4,828km) in 2011.

He actually enjoyed the windswept wastelands of Outer Mongolia, with empty stretches the size of Germany.

The country seems tailor-made for walkers on specialists tours looking to test themselves just that little bit extra.

He said: "I found vast empty spaces for days on end with nothing, not even the litter that you find everywhere else."

McCarron said it was these desolate places that really attracted him.

He gave a talk to the Royal Geographical Society's Northern Ireland branch at Queen's University, Belfast, on Monday.

McCarron told guests: "How often in life do we ever get to be somewhere where you can turn around in a complete circle and not see anything at all - just total emptiness?

That's so rare and there's a real sense of liberation … in places like that."

McCarron was unemployed after finishing studying so decided to fill some time by cycling from New York to Hong Kong.

He met a fellow wanderer and they agreed to travel to a Mongolian settlement on the far tip of the Gobi desert and walk back to Hong Kong along China's southern tip.

The pair traced the Great Wall down to the tempestuous waters of the Yellow River and walked along it downstream to the fabled city of Xi An.

They then left the water for the mountains before reaching Hong Kong in May 2012.

A National Geographic commission for a programme supplied much-needed finance, but left little time for learning the Mandarin language or studying maps.

McCarron said the more relaxed pace of walking was a culture shock from cycling, when he could cover 100 miles (160km) and travel from one kind of terrain to another quite quickly.

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