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SCOTT DREYER: No Man Is An Island Indeed PART III

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.   –Romans 15:13 (NIV), (Terry Racher’s life verse.)

A high school student somewhere got his vocabulary and history mangled when he wrote this blooper:

“Magellan was the first person to circumcise the globe with a 100-foot clipper.”

As discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of this tribute to Mr. Terry Racher, he and I launched our voyage to circumnavigate (travel around) the globe in the summer of 1991, starting and ending our trips in Taiwan. A mutual friend, Max, traveled as far as his native Austria (not to be confused with Australia :).

After a 90-minute flight from Taiwan, we landed in the then-British colony of Hong Kong, on the Southeast coast of Eurasia. Hong Kong then was a wonderful mix of Chinese culture and energy, matched with British order and freedom. While there we applied for visas for China and got our Trans-Siberian Railroad tickets and travel tips from our travel agency. 

Knowing we had to make our money last to get us around the world, we were thrifty. So, in Hong Kong we stayed in a cheap hotel in the “Chungking Mansions.” It was a “mansion” in name only. Terry’s single room was so small, he could sit on his bed, stretch out his arms, and touch both walls with his two hands. 

After five days in Hong Kong, we boarded a ferry on Saturday night, June 22, in famous Victoria Harbor to cruise up the Pearl River into China. Standing on the bridge of the ferry as the cool evening air swept past us and as the huge neon lights on all the skyscrapers reflected off the water created an unforgettable sight. 

We slept onboard and woke up early Sunday morning in Guangzhou (formerly Canton), China. 

After the day in Guangzhou–including my catching an impromptu nap atop a pile of Persian rugs in the back of a showroom–we boarded a train that night. From Guangzhou in southeast China to Berlin, Germany, we were to travel only by rail.

That first train offered almost no privacy. Each car had rows of three bunks stacked one atop the other, along the length of the car, with a narrow aisle along the other side for walking. There were no walls or curtains in the main part of the car. However, each bunk had belt-like straps you could fasten to keep you from rolling out and hitting the floor in your sleep. We were on that train Sunday night, all day Monday, Monday night, and we awoke to refreshingly cool, crisp Tuesday morning in Beijing.

We spent four days in Beijing, including a one day trip to a part of the Great Wall that was an hour-drive north of the City. Energetic Max hiked from the parking lot up to the top of the wall, while Terry and I rode the leisurely cable car. It seemed almost unreal: We are walking atop the Great Wall of China! 

While in Beijing, we visited some historic temples, took in a show by the amazing Moscow circus, and applied for our USSR transit visas at the Soviet embassy. We also walked around enormous Tiananmen Square before dusk. It was eerie being there exactly two years after the Tiananmen Square Massacre. There were few people there, some taking a walk or others letting their children fly kites. A few folks struck up conversations with us, since as foreigners we were a novelty. However, after short chats some uniformed policemen would approach us and the locals quickly said their goodbyes and hustled away. It was clear they did not want to be seen as too friendly with westerners.

Friday night we boarded the train that would be our home for the next six days and nights until we got to Moscow, Russia. That train–blessedly–had more privacy than our first one. Our own compartment had four bunks, a door, and a large window for taking in the scenery. We met our fourth roommate–Joan, a Christian from California who had been teaching English in China and was heading home.  So, we three men and a woman we had just met shared a tiny living space for almost a week, but we got along great. 

In fact, I do not remember a single time Terry, Max or I had an angry word or argument. We got along so well and had such a jolly time, we dubbed ourselves “The Three Amigos.” Since Terry and Max were in their fifties and I was in my twenties, several people along the way asked me, “Which one is your father?” I’d say: “Neither one; we’re just good friends.” 

The scenery across Siberia was spectacular. Terry said the endless grasslands and forests reminded him of Wyoming or Montana. And we had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery; since it was midsummer and we were so far north, the sun came up around 3:00 am and it did not get totally dark until around midnight. We passed Lake Baikal, the deepest and largest lake in the world, which is bigger than Taiwan! 

With the beautiful scenery and interesting co-travelers, I never once felt bored.

To be continued…

Hear Terry’s interviews about our round the world adventure in the Life App Podcast:

Interview Part 1

Interview Part 2

Scott Dreyer in his classroom.

– Scott Dreyer

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