Expedition finished...writing like a beaver





Travelling 7,000 kilometres by bike, the StoryTransect expedition collected local people's stories from the island of Tasmania to the very southern edge of Tibet.

Expeditioner Nick McIntosh countered the unpredictable and reported the incredible. Here, he presents the account of the trip and the stories he collected from some of the most varied countries on the globe.


Read the stories »

More about the expedition »

Read the full trip logs »


A little epilogue...


Victoria Range, New ZealandIt's great to be back in New Zealand. Something was different in the air coming out of the plane in Dunedin after crossing the Tasman and I let out a great good sigh.


People ask me what the bike trip was 'like' and in a sentence it was like a great big long meditation. So much happened and so much was seen and so many kilometres covered that now I take ridiculous pleasure in staying in one place for even a couple of weeks. It's also really nice to know what I want to do after the trip - I enjoyed chasing the stories and presenting them so much I want to chase a job doing just that.


I spent a week in Dunedin catching up with friends from my film course and am now tucked away in a lesser known corner of New Zealand called Golden Bay, where I'm wwoofing on a farm for a while before heading to Wellington to wriggle my way into its film, media and/or journalism world.


Of course, The Book of the trip is on the way. Wish me luck! Thanks to everyone who supported my project; part of the pleasure was to see how inspired others got from the stories I collected and the weird, quirky (and sometimes crummy) things that happened.


The stories from the trip are my favourite part. You can look through them by clicking here. There are four more coming, which I need to write up.






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Copyright © 2007 Nick McIntosh. All rights reserved.

All web design, web construction, interviews and photography by Nick McIntosh


First a mountain, then the return


DaliWhen I walk into town each morning, I pass everything from small crumbly buildings with classic Chinese roofs curved up at the ends, short, stooped wrinkly old men and women, people resting by their carts or slurping up noodles, villagers coming into market with baskets on their backs. But over everything is the Can Shan mountain range, parallel with the Lake Er Hai which Dali is built beside.


Tonight I'm going to climb up to a small guesthouse at 3000m, perched above the town. I'm going up with a French friend I've made in town - he's here setting up a trekking company and putting together a guidebook for the remoter regions of Tibet. We'll spend a few days up there, and use it as a base to climb to the peak of the Can Shan mountains.


After two weeks in Dali, enjoying a rest, time to write and potter about and best of all make some local friends, I've decided to finish the journey. The mountain peak will be the point of return.


Of course, it's been a big decision.


I'm a happy man. I've always gone on big bike rides when there's been something on my mind. In a way this one wasn't much different - just a little bigger than before.


After 7000 kilometres, shortly before arriving in Dali, something went click. To work out quite what the click meant to me took a week, some good long phone calls back home (for which I'm very grateful) and I don't want to know how many pages of my diary (I've got an almost-blister from writing)...and now I'm a happy man.


The decision is that I don't need to be alone any more after several years always looking for so much space to myself. I'll head back to Tasmania to see my family and drop off the bike before a month or so in New Zealand to wind down and start writing something out of the journey and interviews.


I'd like to say a huge thanks for the huge amount of support in the last week and for my expedition as it formed and progressed. I think I've managed to reply to all your emails. It meant a lot to me that so many people went to the trouble of writing to me, and I wanted to thank you individually.


It's been a fantastic experience. The highs were superb, the lows were the pits. Some places were beautiful, others apocalyptic. I think the most valuable experience was to be able to meet the people along the way who let me into their life for a minute, an hour, a day, a week. These people who had the time to smile at a passing stranger helped me learn so much about themselves and their cultures, and about myself.


For those in town, I'll be in Hobart for roughly a week from the 13th of January.


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Copyright © 2007 Nick McIntosh. All rights reserved.

All web design, web construction, interviews and photography by Nick McIntosh


Yanzi: my past life has been in Dali.



I think my past life has been in Dali. I came to Dali for the first time several years ago when I went to Lijiang on business. There was no expressway then. I loved the trees, they’re called Anshui, they’re famous in Taiwan. A lot of them are gone now, but they’re still on the mountains. In the autumn they change to a beautiful red colour. I didn’t have the same feeling for Lijiang as I do for Dali.

This place is different to where I come from. On the left, you’ve got the mountains, green, and on the right you’ve got the lake. Another thing is the buildings: the Bai people here paint their buildings white, it makes things look so clean. The Bai girls traditionally wear white, too, with a pink or blue colour as well. So everything’s clean and beautiful.

Later, after that first trip, I tried to take a chance. I finished university, and I was the only one who wanted to work in Yunnan. Every time I came here I got more experience, and several years later I thought I should move here to live.

YanziI studied English at university. My father was a language professor. I always wanted to be a lawyer, and then changed my idea while at middle school. My father wanted me to take Chinese language classes, but I didn’t want to do the same work as my father! I knew I didn’t want to earn lots of money, and I didn’t want to work with machines. My father thought English would be used very widely in China later, so I choose that.

I always concentrated on talking and listening, I was always bad at grammar. To me, language is about speaking and listening. Later I’ll learn Spanish, and next either German or French. Now most people in the world speak English no problem. Later, perhaps, they’ll speak Chinese…

My bookshop is like a hobby. The cost of living here is lower than compared to, say, Kunming. I go back to Beijing to work a little as a translator for an export company, then return. In Dali, you can be more relaxed. Like the bookshop – the sorts of people who like the books come and enter by themselves.

I’ve lived here for seven years now, I’ve run my bookshop, Bookworm, for four years. I want Bookworm to be the best bookshop in Dali run by a Chinese person. Later I hope that foreigners will come, interested in Chinese for exchange.

In Beijing, books are sold by weight – they weigh the books. Here, I swap books. I’m not poor, I’m not rich. It’s like a hobby. I choose who can stay at in the rooms, I don’t choose young people. Writers, documentary people come here. If I don’t like someone who wants to stay, I start telling them about the bad things…and tell them about the other places to stay!

I’m a little lazy about cooking things. We only eat baked things at movies – only Americans want popcorn! But nearly 95% of foreigners want baked things. When the bakery began we were authorised to sell for two weeks. I do it in cooperation with a German couple, they do the baking. It’s good for the bookshop customers too, they see the bakery and come in. It’s a good feeling, and then they buy books too. I’m living in Dali to enjoy it – and to help each other like with the bakery is beneficial.

Now Chinese artists come to Dali too. Young ones, not famous, they do art more as a kind of hobby. Here, it’s relaxed, there isn’t the pressure of the other cities. My friendscape here is people from 24, 25 to 60 years old. On the surface, everyone’s doing nothing, but everyone has their own thing that they’re doing.


YanziI spoke to Yanzi on the 20th of December, 2007.


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Copyright © 2007 Nick McIntosh. All rights reserved.

All web design, web construction, interviews and photography by Nick McIntosh