13 May, 2008

Beijing to Inner Mongolia - 10th May

Beijing to near Datong.
Time to move on afer 2 days in Beijing running around obtaining a Mongolian visa and seeing a few of the Peking sites and sounds. This first photo is a picture of the inside of the courtyard of my Beijing lodging - they were most gracious to allow me to park the Haobon inside.

I left Beijing on Saturday (10 May) and rode to Huai'an (400km). I rode out of Beijing at 8am making sure I kept well outside of the 2nd ring road, found the expressway and had a great 70km run to Badaling (bikes are allowed on the expressway) and then did a 2 hour Great Wall walk before heading out to North West. The Great Wall truly is a stunning work of architecture and pictures do not do it justice, especially the first sightings from the expressway after you round a bend. Riding a bike meant I was also able to park it right close up next the wall itself.

Of course, being a non-local, you are besieged by many local girls to have their photos taken with you - twice I even had men ask me for a photo of myself and their wife/girlfriend together.

Once I got close to Badaling the weather changed dramatically (altitude was 1,000+ metres) and it was a VERY cool ride for the rest of the day (little did I know what was to come). It was a good run on decent roads, until after around 150km I came upon this massive 15-20km long roadblock where police were stopping all Beijing bound trucks for checks.

As a result, all the inbound trucks just parked themselves in both lanes blocking all traffic in either direction (of course they managed to turn a two lane road into 3+ lanes of stuck trucks so it was absolute chaos). I managed to thread the bike through this mess by riding along either the edge of the road, through lanes of trucks no more than 80cm wide or by taking short cuts through fields as the need arose). This happened at least 3 more time that day.

During one major logjam I pulled offroad and found a Jialing dealer who replaced and installed the rubber cush drive hub for the Haobon, oiled the chain, tightened a couple of loose boats and sold me two new bungy straps all for 20 yuan ($2.50). The Haobon rides much more nicely again now.

The dealer also sold many "3 wheeled motorcycle trucks", which are a very common form of transportation locally.
Interestingly, as one expects, the architecture of the buildings change as you move around China but I didn't expect to see this massive christian church in China, which has echoes of Russian orthodox churches about it.

Apart for the weather, and the trucks, the other challenge for the day was navigation. Basically I was supposed to be taking the G110 North but signposting was almost non-existent. I tried to use the GPS (which showed the G110 as the right route but the road didn't exist where the GPS said it was) and this only served to confuse me more. I managed to get myself on the wrong road three times by following the GPS instead of my instinct. After almost ending up in Datong for the night I pulled in around 8pm to the only hotel I could find and paid my highest sum yet for a night's accommodation (160 yuan or a little over $20) right on the border of Heibe and Inner Mongolia.

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