Belfast to Beijing is a long enough journey by air - but Peter Emerson has done most of it on a bicycle.
And the north Belfast author's epic story contained an unexpected extra chapter in the form of coronavirus, which saw him fleeing China after the outbreak began. The 77-year-old former community worker hopes to be back in Belfast later this month, laden with all the information he needs for his latest book.
Peter wasn't short of company as he traversed the eastern hemisphere on his trusty foldaway Brompton; fluent in Russian and more than passable in Mandarin, he gave lectures in democracy in universities and other seats of learning along the way.
But his journey took a particular turn while he was enjoying Chinese New Year on a farm in Gansu province following the outbreak of Covid-19.
"They started shutting down vast swathes of the country and I was evacuated to Beijing," said Mr Emerson, who is currently staying at a friend's farm in Co Wicklow.
"News of the virus came as a total surprise to everyone in the village.
"Immediately, the two roads connecting this small hamlet were sealed off just with a piece of ticker tape, much like a New Year decoration really, but everyone obeys the law in China and the village was sealed, full stop."
Mr Emerson described his evacuation to Beijing as "more of an administrative move than anything else".
"I think they thought it was better to have all the foreigners in Beijing rather than dotted all over the place," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"A city of 20 million, but shops were shut, streets were empty and only a few folks were driving or walking around. It was really eerie."
The activist, who is looking forward to returning to his cottage on the Ballysillan Road in Belfast at the end of the month, travelled on to Hong Kong, where he'd been invited to do a book launch, before flying back to Ireland and going into voluntary isolation on the farm.
Mr Emerson, a bachelor who studied Russian at Queen's before accepting a job in Moscow, is no stranger to remarkable bicycle journeys.
As an active member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), he crossed from West to East Germany in 1986, and also cycled from Moscow, where he worked as a translator, to the Albanian capital Tirana, a journey of some 1,280 miles.
He is also very familiar with Chinese culture, having visited the country several times over the years, both for study and for lecture commitments.
"In February 2018 I visited Xinjiang, Kashgar, which was just like Belfast in the 1980s - police patrols everywhere, their sirens blazing all the time, body checks everywhere," he said.
The Chinese Government has reportedly detained more than a million Muslims in 're-education camps' in the north-western region.
"Most of the people who have been arbitrarily detained are Uighur, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group.
Asked about the decision behind his latest adventure, the activist, who moved to Northern Ireland from England in 1975, referred to his early work in Belfast.
"In 1983 the Cold War was at its height, and like our own Troubles, that world conflict was also binary," he said.
"As a community worker in Ardoyne I was crossing the peace line constantly.
"I was also very active in CND so it was time to cross the other great divide, the Iron Curtain, so I started to learn Russian and I crossed between the two Germanys on my bike in 1986.
"Then came Gorbachev, perestroika, and it all became very exciting.
"In 1988 I got a job in Moscow as a translator and, in my spare time, published articles on consensus politics in Moscow News, Pravda and other publications.
"Having seen political change in Northern Ireland, Russia, Georgia and Bosnia, it was time to look at China, which may also be changing - but not just yet," he said.
Focusing on his most recent experience in China, Mr Emerson said he "learnt a little more Chinese" and learnt more about the volatile situation in Hong Kong, where even shops and restaurants are now being labelled either yellow, to note support for the city's protest movement against Beijing's influence, or blue, in support of the territory's police.
"Hong Kong has become a polarised society, like NI, except there's no west Belfast for Catholics and east Belfast for Protestants," he said, adding that Taiwan "is another divided society, and there are dangers there also".