Quick Update From Xian 7th July 2011
Just a quick update. Am currently in Xian which is one hell of a city. Arrived in the dark late last night and managed to negotiate the traffic – frightening.
Spent today sight seeing including Bampo village – 5,000 year old archaeological site on the edge of the city, and the Cotta Warriors.
The pace has been relentless and been trying to cram in as much as possible so not had much time to update this blog and get new pics up but will “backfill” as soon as I get a few hours and a decent internet connection.
Just spent a couple of hours with Mr. Sh and Frank figuring out the best route south. The weather is still bad further south and floods, landslides and road washouts are still happening so it may mean either taking a big detour or possibly having to strap the Tiger to the back of Mr. Sh’s pick up and taking the Expressway (I’ve been officially kicked off the Expressways after our little scam was discovered – more about that later) until we get to Kunming. We’re looking at the CCTV news now.
Chinese Name and English Name 6th July 2011
Tonight over dinner and a lot of beer and apricot spirit, Mr. Sh and I have given eachother an English and Chinese name.
From now on Mr. Sh will adopt the English name Geordie on the basis that he is from the North East, is hard as nails, loves a laugh, is an honest, hard working fella and knows how to party.
He has given me the name Xianqian which means Forward and was the name of one of Mao’s main Marshalls during the fight against Chiang Kai-shek. He thinks that I’m the sort of person who always goes forward and nevr back. He’s not far wrong. I’m genuinely honoured. I feel a new tattoo coming on.
Jiquan and The Great Wall of China 3rd July 2011
Leaving Dun Huang on fabulously flat and smooth road snaking through the desert towards Jiquan to visit the west end pass or gate of the Great Wall Of China.
I have been looking forward to this for years as the only other time I was in China was in 1999 working on a sports event in Tianjin. I was working stupid hours every day for the entire time so when the chance came up to have a day off and go the see the wall, what did I do? Overslept and missed the bus! So now I have another chance and grabbing this one!
The roads are great. Motorway all the way (still getting away with riding the bike on the highways and expressways).
Arriving at the West Gate at about 3, I dump the bike and head up the hill just in time to see a Kung Fu display depicting battles between General Gwan Yu’s troops taking on the Mongols.
I’m told every city in China has a General Gwan Ju temple as he was the ultimate kick ass Chinese soldier and sorted out all the potential invaders.
The West Gate and the wall do not disappoint. The general’s quarters are well worth a visit, complete with waxworks characters (I’m told they are made by Madame Tussauds).
After spending a couple of hours wandering around the gate, we’re off to our next stop. Camping at the foot of the Great Wall!
Chairman Mao once said that you could not be a hero until you have walked the wall so I’m looking to get some hero points pretty soon.
We pitch camp an hour later, and I go for a walk up the hill along the wall.Not the best idea in bike kit!
A bunch of young Chinese tourists turn up at our camp site later that evening facinated by the bike. They all want photos of me adn the bike.
Picnic dinner and drink too much scotch!
Then the skies opened and it hammered down all night
Dun Huang, Mogao Caves and Crescent Lake 2nd July 2011
Frankie wasn’t happy with the hotel so we moved up the street to a new one called Guanyuan. Way better.
Mogao Caves were carved out of the rock around 1500 years ago by early Buddhist monks. The caves include two huge Buddah Carvings. Very impressive.
Next up was the Cresecent Lake on the edge of the desert sand dunes which is a spring that popped up in the middle of the dunes and now attracts thousands of visitors every week.
I was a bit shocked at the entrance fees for both. On a par with UK prices but definitey worth a visit.
That evening was taken up with a Mongolian hot pot which is a big pot of boiling water on a gas ring, plates of different fish and meat pieces (including tripe), which you chuck in the pot, boil up and then mix in with different pastes and spices. Washed down with beer and Mr. Sh’s 58% Chinese vodka. Lethal.
We finished the evening off with a proper massage down the road from the hotel. And before you say anything it was a proper massage, head to toe and no happy ending. Really needed it after the battering I’ve taken over the last few weeks.
Off to the Great Wall tomorrow. Can’t wait.
Turpan to Hami and Dun Huang 1st July 2011
Bit of a strange day today. It’s two years since my dad passed away and also the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist party. Been thinking a lot about him on today’s ride (my dad, not Chairman Mao).
The original plan was to hammer down the highway to Hami before sunsrise, but we got an earlky start and made Hami by earlt afternoon, so on Frank’s advice we pushed on to Dun Huang on the basis that there was more to see there than Hami so total push today was abou 900kms of desert riad in about 13 hours ..knackered, but in a good way.
Mr. Sh warned me that there would be about 130 kms of bad road, and he wasn’t wrong.
The dust was like talcum powder and was getting into everything; the road such as it was, was 2 foot deep in sandy dusty talcum powder stuff that was being stirred up by hundreds of trucks coming at me from all directions. So no option but the open up the Tiger and cane it with a Hail Mary and hope for the best and left Mr. Sh and Frank behind. Scary as f**k but the only option was to dawdle, get the front wheel stuck in the sandy dusty stuff and end up on the deck getting run over by a big Chinese truck.
We eventually got to Dun Huang around 11 and found a local place for more great food and a cold beer or 12 🙂
Hanging out in Turpan 30th June 2011
I’m staying two nights in Turpan as Frank has organised a day’s sight seeing.
First up we vist the Karze Aquafier Museum dedicated to the hand dug underground rivers built over 1500 years ago to capture water from rainfall and snow melt and channel it to the city where the same system is used to help grow grapes and cotton. Grape Valley produces the bulk of China’s raisins, so next time you pick up a packet for your Xmas puddind down Tesco’s see if it came from Turpan before you buy.
Later that day we visit Jiaohe Ancient City first settled 200 BC. I’ll post the videos as soon as YT is unblocked.
That evening we head back to the main square in Turpan for more mutton kebabs.
The local square has a huge fountain with Vegas style lighting that synchs with music so we kick back, eat, drink and make merry.
Lake Sayram Hu to Turpan 29th June 2011
By christ it was cold last night. And my tent leaks like a sieve in a rain storm so will be looking for a Chinese replacement.
But what a way to wake up seeing the sun rise over the lake!
We’re heading off at 7:30 to ride 700kms to Turpan. Turpan is also known as Fire City by the Chinese as it’s the hottest place in China. Mr Sh tells me he was there last week and it hot 55 deg c! But for now I’m wrapped up in my warmest bike kit with the heated grips on as the lake is seriously cold and we’re at 3,500m altitude as well.
Motorcycles are banned from using the motorways in China except for this part of the world. Which is music to my ears. The road surface is like silk (well we are on the Silk Route after all). Just a joy after the battering the Tiger and I took from the Kazakhstan roads.
So we’re on the G30 tiwards Turpan and the weather soon warms up and we slip from mountains to proper Gobi desert. The express highway is a lovely curvy ride, until about 3 hours from Turpan. Then it starts to get really hot. The road starts to wind through hillsides that are very biblical looking. I fully expect to see a sign saying Noah’s Boat Yard round every corner, or Moses bounding down a valley shouting “Oi lads, take a look at these scrolls …”
Then we’re into the desert floor. Just rocks and stones and unvelieveably hot. As much as I’m enjoring the ride I’m glad to hit town.
Turpan’s small by Chinese standards. I like the place. The hotel is great. A shower that works, hot water on demand, internet and a glass wall between the bathroom and the bedroom so presumably you can watch your loved one take a dump before a night of high passion. How romantic.
I’m starving as is Mr. Sh and Frank so we head out to the local square for mutton kebbabs, little pieces of mutton and mutton fat dipped in spices and chuecked on a pavement barbecue plus meat dumplings in a soup – washed down with some local beers and liquors. Best food ever.
Having a great time with Frank and Mr. Sh. Top blokes.
Song of the day – Mowin’ Down The Roses – Jamey Johnson – coz it’s a bloody funny song and I can fully identify with it the story having done something very similar myself a few years back.
Khorgas to Yining 28th June 2011
Next morning we have the import licence for the Tiger so we head off early to Yining to sort out my chinese driving licence and number plate.
Mr. Sh’s sat nav is playing up so it takes a while to find the right police station. The driving in the town’s is the worst I’ve ever known. You need eyes every where. There’s almost no time at all to check out the local laydees! Almost. They’re gorgeous.
After a couple of hours we find the first of two police stations. The boss and his right hand lady both come out to say hello and look at the bike.
Then we’re off to the equivalent of the DVLA. After a couple of hours I have my Chinese licence. I’m thrilled skinny!
Then disaster. The computer system crashes as my number plate was being processed, so we adjourn for lunch to a roadside cafe for tea and the best noodles I’ve ever had and then back to the station at 4 to see what the latest is. Still no computer so instead Frank arranges for us to take a letter from the boss explaining that the procedure could not be completed due to computer error but all is OK, so hopefully I won’t get arrested. I’m a little disappointed as I was planning this entire cockney ryhming slag gag about my old china plate so I can’t do that now.
So, a lot later than planned we head off towards the mountains where we will be camping at lake Sayram Hu, which Frank tells me is stunning. But not before another minor hitch and argument.
I have to fill up with fuel before we leave. At the next petrol station I am told that motorcycles cannot fill up at the pumps because the engines will make the petrol explode. You are supposed to wait by the edge of the station and someone brings 2 litres at a time in a tin kettle. There are blokes everywhere with fags on the go!
I lost my temper a little and told them to put the f’ing fuel in the f’ing tank or I’m going to f’off somehere else. After a bit of negotiation they agreed and filled me up at the pump. Now we have a routine whereby Mr. Sh and Frank go into each petrol station first and explain that the Tiger is a special British bike that will not explode at the pumps. This seems to work.
So, fully fuelled we head to the hills.
The road to the lake is both dangerous and stunning. As soon as I can get video uploaded I’ll post here so you can see for yourself.
And the lake it simply stunning. Frank tells me it is a plateau lake. Surrounded by snow capped mountains and pine forests, it’s an impressive sight. Looks like You Tube is blocked from here 🙁
China Baby! 27th June 2011
I’m genuinely feeling sad to leave Kazakhstan this morning but equally excited about crossing into China.
The riding, the poeople, the country, the deserts, even the big bad scary roads have been one hell of an experience in Kazakhstan and I want to come back.
But for now I’m concentrating on China. I’m nervous about the border crossing hoping that all my paperowork for KZ is in order so I can leave without a problem and likewise that China is all OK.
I needent have worried. The Kazakh border guards are all very friendly and helpful. I’m the first to arrive at the gate so end up chatting with the local Lieutenant who speaks some English. Then a quick look at my passport and away I go into KZ customs to clear the bike. All together it look about half an hour to complete the paperwork and formalities with the bike KZ side and I roll on the China.
I’m ordered by some very polite China border guards to park up in front of the immigration hall. A lady immigration officer comes out and with a big smile and handshake and welcomes me to China.
I’m being treated like royalty. My guide Mr. Fan (aka Frank) is with me and we get pushed to the front of every queue (much to the annoyance of everyone else trying to cross the border). That process takes about and hour then the bike is x-rayed, customs agent sorts the paperwork then one final customs search and we’re through. The last customs officer looked at my passport and asks if I was really born in 1962. Yes, I reply. He puts his thumbs up and Mr Fan explains that he thought there was a mistake as I look so young! I like China already.
Then I’m in China! On a Britsih motorcycle! I can’t stop grinning!
We head into Khorgas for the rest of the day as we need to pick up my temporary import licence, so we have some lunch, chat over tea before chcking in to a local hotel for a siesta. Dinner and an early night. Tomorrow Yining for my driving licence and Chinese number plate.
China Baby! Can hardly believe it.
Frank also has a driver, Mr. Sh. Mr. Sh is a top bloke, Sh means stone in Chinese.
Stats To Date 27th June 2011
The trip meter stopped working just outside Almaty so I’ve had to reset it, so here are the stats so far since leaving London and arriving at the Kazakhstan/China border.
Distance travelled to the border – approx 8,000 kms
Av fuel consumption 5.5l/100 kms
Av speed 56.4km/h