ADVENTURER Steve McCutcheon is seeing in the New Year in China as he prepares for the final leg of his 6,000-mile horseback journey along the ancient Asian silk route.
Steve, aged 28, from Bromley Cross, is aiming to become the first person to ride the route made famous by explorers such as Marco Polo, from Delhi in India to the Chinese capital Beijing, to raise cash to improve education in the region.
The former Turton School pupil set off in November, 2004, after seeing Asia's poor education provision first-hand during three years of teaching and is hoping to raise £10,000 for the anti-poverty charity Action Aid.
Steve has already travelled through India and Pakistan and although he is taking on the challenge alone, he has picked up a "caravan" of supporters who have joined him for stretches of the route.
In an email to The Bolton News he said: "As we travel across China, our caravan is visiting and filming remote nomadic schools along our route to show the lack of education in the region and its impact on poverty."
He said more than 600 million people are unable to read or write in India, Pakistan and China, and that raising cash can have a direct impact.
Steve said he had crossed the Pamir mountain range, which stretches from northern Pakistan and across Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, to reach China. He then joined an ancient trail connecting villages dotted around the Kunlun Shan mountains on the Tibetan border.
"The road is little used, its communities, untouched, unchanged and uneducated," said Steve.
According to the Long Riders Guild, he has already been the first person in history to ride from New Delhi in India to Lahore in Pakistan on horseback.
Now his family are calling on people to support him on his last leg of the expedition. Mum Gaynor said: "Steve hasn't had the easiest of journeys.
"He has been caught up in natural disasters including the earthquake in Pakistan. He delayed his journey so he could help.
"Every penny that is donated goes straight towards improving education in Asia."
His dad John added: "We are proud of him. He sent us a Christmas card, so we know he is OK."
You can sponsor Steve by logging on to www.r4e.org.