Talisker's Travels around China

Updated: Aug 4, 2021

One Scotsman and His Dog Take the High Road around China - A pandemic sabbatical

China Odyssey Keeps Scots Tradition of Exploration Alive

After spending 20 years cooped up in an office, it was only natural that data analyst Adam Hyslop yearned to set himself free from the corporate life and get out on the open road to adventure.

So, when the opportunity of a year’s sabbatical came along because of COVID-19, Adam took the opportunity to make his dream of carefree exploration into the unknown become a reality.

What was remarkable was how he did it.

Taking his cue from the historic pioneering exploits of his Scottish forebears, Adam set out on a 1,200 kilometre cycle ride deep into the unspoiled rural hinterlands of China – with only his trusty Border Collie Talisker for company.

The unlikely duo completed their trailblazing ride from Adam’s home in Shanghai, south-west through picturesque mountain regions to their destination of the famous Mount Wuyi, in a memorable six-week odyssey.

Not bad for someone previously with limited experience of travels on a bicycle.

And even more impressive for three-year-old Talisker, who ran alongside Adam on downhill stretches, but was able to give his paws a break by resting in his trailer behind the bike on the uphill sections.

Their journey was enlivened along the way by occasional visits from Adam’s wife Valeria, who met them in some locations by travelling on the country’s high-speed rail network.

Map of Adam Hyslop and Talisker's bicycle 1200km Trip in China
Map of Adam Hyslop and Talisker's 1200km bicycle trip across 5 provinces in China

Canine Lucky Charm

Adam, who worked at one of the Big Four consultancy firms in applied big data analytics, has lived in Asia since 2005, the last nine years in China.

When the chance of a sabbatical came up, he realised it was a chance both for much-needed adventure and to explore some of the massive rural interiors of the fascinating country he lived in.

Although Valeria had to stay in Shanghai for her job, there was no question about Talisker’s companionship on the trip.

Named after the renowned single malt Scotch whisky distilled on the Isle of Skye, he was an apt good luck charm symbolising the legendary Scottish trait of intrepid exploration.

Pandemic Caution

The Covid-19 pandemic was an unforeseen element when Adam began planning the trip, but when it came time to start in September 2020, restrictions had been in place and become a routine part of life. The restrictions caused some impact on his booking of accommodation, but thankfully no real effect on the overall experience and he was able to take a Covid-19 test before setting off.

And it was for reassuring for Adam to reflect on the fact that Scottish adventurers of centuries gone by had faced much worse risks of disease and illness on their travels.

The Right Stuff

As with every journey into the unknown, preparation was vital.

Adam carefully researched the right equipment required for the journey and eventually settled on an e-bike, to help take the strain of pulling Talisker’s trailer and to cope with the weight of himself and extra panniers on road climbs.

A bike direction app was also essential for the remote mountainous terrain they’d be travelling through. His main objective was to go through as many mountain areas and UNESCO sites, as possible via Mount Huangshan, with the ultimate goal of reaching Mount Wuyi.

So, he picked out locations based on a daily average of 50 kilometre rides, based on scenic qualities and recommendations from friends, and came up with a route that looked ambitious – but achievable.

After a few test runs with the bike, equipment and Talisker around Shanghai, they were ready to rock.

Roads Less Travelled

This adventure of a lifetime made a profound impression on Adam:

“We must adventure into the unknown from time to time to know we are alive! he says.