A Chinese Farmer’s Epic Rickshaw Journey to the London Olympic Games

Chen Guanming, a 57-year-old farmer from China, spent over two years travelling about 60,000 kilometers, through 16 countries, enduring floods, war zones and extreme temperatures,  to reach London in time for the games and “spread Olympic spirit”.

The 2012 London Olympic Games may have ended, but remarkable stories related to the monumental event are still popping up. One such story is that of Chen Guanming, a simple farmer from a village in China’s Jiangsu province, who traveled all the way to London the only way he could afford to, by rickshaw. The daring traveler said he was inspired to go on this epic journey when he watched the English Prime-Minister accept the Olympic flag, in 2008, and the media invited those watching the live broadcast to the next edition of the games. Chen took that invitation quite seriously, and in 2009, he started putting all his papers in order and preparing for an unforgettable adventure. His long rickshaw ride began on May 23, 2010, in the village where he grows rice and other crops, and took him through 16 different countries, including Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan or Italy.

Photo:  BBC

Chen’s three-wheeled rickshaw loaded with his possessions was his biggest support during the two-year journey. In the first countries he visited – Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam – the Chinese farmer encountered constant temperatures of around 38 degrees Celsius and had to wring his clothes seven or eight times a day. In Thailand, he was caught up in devastating floods, and in Turkey he faced low temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius and spent four days snowed in. But perhaps the biggest hurdle on his trip was being refused a visa in Burma. After cycling all this way only to be denied entry, most people would have just given up and went home, but the undeterred Chen Guanming pedaled back to Tibet where he took his gearless rickshaw up 7,000m high mountains and continued his journey. During his travels, the ambitious farmer relied on compensations for couriering things along and on people’s donations. He arrived in England on July 6, by ferry, from France, and in London on July 9.

Photo: Agencies

His story sounds so incredible, few would be inclined to actually believe it, but although no one can confirm everything Chen said about his trip, the photos plastered on his rickshaw showing him in different places around the world, the visas on his passport, the press cuttings and the messages kept neatly in his book are certainly proof worth considering. John Beeston, an English broker who found him wondering aimlessly on the streets of London, certainly believes him and compares his feat to the legendary travels of Marco Polo. Asked by the BBC, what he thinks of London, the 57-year-old globetrotter said “London is especially beautiful. People are very friendly. They always show warmth towards me. When I go back to China I want to tell them how civilized the English are.”

Photo: Agencies

But even though he may be going back home to China, his world-travelling days are certainly not at an end. Chen Guanming said that he wanted to come to London because he “wanted the whole world to support the Olympics and be part of it,” and to make sure people get his message, he’s already decided to pedal his rickshaw all the way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the 2016 Olympic Games.


Believe it or not, Chen is not the first Chinese to pedal his way to China. Just last year, Zheng Sheng, a 23-year-old student, embarked on an epic bicycle journey from Shanghai to London. He traveled 14,000 kilometers in 136 days.

Sources: BBC, AP