HONG KONG — Quan Peng’s wheelchair doesn’t have brakes or any kind of motor. To propel and stop himself he only uses his hands.
In the past two years, Quan has gone through more than 60 pairs of canvas gloves on his 3,000-mile (5,000 kilometers) journey across China — by wheelchair.
“I want to tell the world that disabled people can survive independently,” he said.
His destination — Sanya, in China’s southernmost Hainan province — is often referred to by the Chinese as the “edge of the world.”
“I once told a girl that I’d take her to see the edge of the world, but she didn’t believe that a man like me was capable of doing that,” he said when CNN caught up with him in Hong Kong.
“Now, I am almost there…on my own, by myself.”
Quan told CNN that his trip has been lonely and people often stared at him “as if they were watching an ape.”
“Some would even laugh to my face, when I tell them that I am traveling around China,” he said.
“They think I’m simply a beggar. And that’s the general perception of disabled people in China.”
Quan wants to use his trip to help change that perception. He believes that the more people get to know the disabled, the more they will respect this disadvantaged population.
It all began 14 years ago, when a botched surgery paralyzed Quan from the chest down.
“For a very long time after the surgery, all I thought about each day is how I could kill myself,” said the 29-year-old.
Even the simplest things like closing the window to stop the rain from coming into his room seemed impossible.
Born and raised in a small county in Gansu province, a dry, dusty region of northern China, Quan set off on his odyssey from Beijing in August 2014.
Aside from taking public transport in cities, he’s pushed himself the rest of the way — as his bulging biceps prove.
Little to his surprise, he’s yet to find a single city in mainland China that’s fully accessible for wheelchair travelers.
That’s out of 50 mainland cities he’s covered so far.
His 51st stop is Hong Kong, now one of China’s Special Administrative Regions.
The former British colony is the best city for disabled access so far, according to Quan.
“Once I waited for over half an hour in Beijing before a subway staff showed up to get the stair lift moving,” he said.
“In Hong Kong, it takes about a minute!”
Dreamers don’t give up
In vulnerable moments, Quan has turned to a unique therapy — reading poetry.
“Poems can inspire you to dream,” he said.
“Dreamers will not give up on life. Traveling has always been my dream, so I decided to do just that even if I had to do it on my wheelchair.”