My last visit to Inner Mongolia was in 2006 for the Business Law Conference of the Law Association For Asia And The Pacific (LAWASIA) hosted by China Law Society when I was awestruck by the beautiful grasslands of Hulunbeir and her wild horses and songs of the steppes.
So when the invitation from China’s 9000 lawyers strong Elite Global Legal Alliance (EGLA) came to join their annual meeting as an observer, I had no hesitation to accept a return to Ordos and Inner Mongolia. The freedom of the northern steppes beckon and the seduction of the desert made me think long and hard about joining the 3 days 66km Kubuqi Desert Hike.
Being older, overweight and suffering from high blood pressure and diabetic ailments, I feared difficulty walking in the desert sands.
After meeting a Mongolian lawyer from local hosts San Heng Law Offices who was taller and bigger than me, and hearing his assurances, I made the final decision to join the hike.
And what a great decision it was, meeting 13 other hikers and making new Chinese friends.
When the hike into the desert dunes began, I was busy taking photos of the beautiful scenery and desolate sand dunes, lagging far behind the rest.
To my dismay, trying to catch up with the rest of the group almost broke my spirit.
It was like chasing after the wind. The experience inspired a poem:
Chasing After Wind
The wind races through the trees
on Kubuqi Desert.
The sands of time run through
our fingers like an hourglass.
How do you catch the wind,
running on fine sand?
I managed to catch up with the group by lunch break but unfortunately suffered cramps. I tried to shake off the cramps and when a fellow hiker found out, the kindness of the group was most touching. They tried to persuade me to take a ride in the four wheel drive vehicles following us but I decided to carry on to complete the hike on foot.
The second day of the hike took us into even more beautiful territory, and joining the Chinese hikers in taking photos celebrating the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China was unforgettable. My fellow Chinese hikers deeply love China and are rightly proud of her achievements and success.
Soon, my feet were covered with blisters. I have endured them before, and thought nothing of them as they will recover after a few days of rest. But when our trainer and guide found out, I was persuaded to take a ride in the vehicles instead. The group was deeply concerned and although I was tired and in pain, I wanted to finish the hike on foot rather than give up.
I did not want to give up the challenge, and bury my dreams of trekking wild desolate deserts in the sands of Kubuqi Desert:
The Sands of Kubuqi Desert
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
the sands of Kubuqi Desert
is the graveyard of dreams.
Hold fast to dreams,
we will run and not be weary,
we will walk and not faint.
No force can stop us from forging
forward, other than ourselves.
The third day was yet another spectacular hike of crossing rivers and climbing sand dunes to see the sunrise. The rest of the group were eager to celebrate China’s National Day and watch the celebrations on live telecast and so we all made it out of the desert on foot in time to hear President Xi Jinping give his speech.
3 days and 66km have built a lifetime of friendships with 13 other hikers from China. Their spirit, leadership skills and team work will bring EGLA to greater heights. And as a foreigner, I’m glad to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China with a great group of Chinese lawyers among the windswept sand dunes of Kubuqi Desert in Inner Mongolia.