After renewing our visa in Lanzhou we have been heading west into the Tibetan Plateau. The visa renewal was surprisingly simple. Now we have until May 7th to reach Kirghistan!
In the next three days we will try to reach Golmud. The road to Golmud leads us through very remote mountain and desert areas. We are stocking up on food and water and are quiet excited for the days to come!
We’ll write some more lines about the visa renewal and our experiences on the Tibetan Plateau once we reach Golmud.
Cycling in the rain can be a nasty activity! It never takes long until the water finds its way past the rain jacket and pants. The vision is poor. Everything becomes muddy. If you pair up heavy rain with strong headwind you’ve got all the incrediants for a rather miserable day on the road!
Some days ago we experienced exactly such a day. Riding through the desert towards Lanzhou, rain and wind had teamed up against us. Beforehand we had many fantasies about riding through the desert – Rain was definitely not one of them!
But we were thought a valuable lesson on that day! Never judge the day before it’s actually over! Arriving in Yanchi, wet and tired, we were on the lookout for a cheap and dry place for the night. As we rolled by some stores a man and a large group of young lads in red overalls greeted us!
After a bit of laughing, gesturing, and trying to pronounce the Chinese word for Germany correctly we were invited inside for some hot tea. Very quickly they continued to offer us a hot pot of noodles. We couldn’t be any happier! After finishing up, the man, who apparently was the boss of this little company, escorted us to a small hotel. Happy to have found a warm shower and a dry place we thought the day was finally over…
But, wrong again! As we walked downstairs to get some snacks and a beer we met the company boss again, whose assistant asked us whether we could do his company a favour. Not quiet sure what to expect we were told that “the reason was propaganda”. Entering the business rooms of the little company we saw that the entire crew was still there, that the families had been called to have a look at the unusual guests, and that a local photographer had been hired.
Apperantly we were supposed to be featured in some marketing photos for the company’s products. As we agreed to our first jobs as models the fun began!
In some photos we accted as foreign experts, in others we were just requisites to give the company some international flair! The shooting included a good amount of laughing and everybody enjoyed themselves greatly!
Our salary consisted of a good amount of snacks, salad, meat, and beer! What a wonderful way to end this long day!
…fully story to come soon.
Shortly before hitting the first 1000 kilometres we met the first Chinese sport cyclist. By that time we had no clue yet that Hohhot had a lot to offer for cyclists.
But before, Hohhot greeted us with a lot of dirt, traffic, and some trouble. Trying to get cash at the Bank of China we had short moment of shock. After inserting the Visa card into the ATM, the machine decided to keep it. As the Bank was closing down at the very moment time was running out. After convincing the bank employees that we really needed that card, they did indeed find a way to get our card back and to draw the money.
While searching for an open WiFi afterwards we stumbled upon a little bike shop. People there were very friendly and using several translation apps we chatted for a bit before they helped us to find a cheap hotel for the night.
While the room was small, had bad air, and no windows we surprised to find showers, a sauna, and a small pool in the basement! What an excellent celebration for the first completed 1000 kilometres!
Since the beginning of the trip the fork at Johannes’ bike had given us reason for some worry. It was a bit loose and we had no possibility to fix it properly as a spare part was missing. So, at the next morning we decided to visit the bike shop again and see whether they could help. As we explained the problem to the bike shop owner he became very eager to solve the problem and we couldn’t stop him from taking apart four bikes until he found the right part to fix the bike.
We were incredibly happy and grateful!
Additioanlly, after finishing the repair, the bike shop owner refused to accept any payment.
Shortly after we cycled out of the town, happy about the fixed bike, money and visa cards in our pockets, and knowing that Hohhot has a heart for cyclists.
To navigate Chinese roads we have so far mostly relied on an offline navigation smartphone app called OsmAnd+. It relies on Open Street maps, which we downloaded beforehand. So far we have been very happy with this app due to the possibility to navigate without internet connection, the option to display relief, and altitude. For overview we purchased two maps of China. But we have rarely used them yet. Furthermore surprisingly good streets and clear road signs in Hebei Provinve helped to find the right way, even to tourist attractions. Since three days we have now been cycling through Inner Mongolia and we get the impression that street and sign quality is decreasing with growing distance to the capital.
12 O’Clock, time for a break! It’s the third day of our trip and we push our bikes down to a little creek. While having our lunch a Chinese farmer shows up, greets us, and sits down right next to us. Due the lack of a common language we just sit next to each other and enjoy our time off. Suddenly another group of people shows up, start taking pictures of us and trie to tell and ask various questions. After explaining them that we are from Germany and currently cycling home they invite us into their house. They show us their little house and garden and offer us cigarettes and tea. Since we breath enough car fumes day after day we stick with the tea. After a while we figure out that their daughter knows some English, allowing us to chat a bit more. As we say goodbye, the mother climbs into a hole in the ground, comes back with a bag of fruit and gives them to us. Using our very limited Chinese we thank them and cycle off.
While writing this blog entry we are sitting on the top of a mountain near Shuangshanzi. We have been cycling for two days now, starting in Qinhuangdao, were the smog was so thick that we had difficulties to find the ocean. By touching the waves of the paific ocean we officially started our trip! By sunset of the first day we finally found a little spot were we could set up our tents. At first we had a hard time to find sleep as quiet a few cars were driving up a small dirtbroad nearby and people were shouting through the night. The next morning we packed up early to leave without being seen.
We were very happy as the smog had vanished over night and the sun cheered us up as we got our bikes ready for the long haul. The cycling today was almost to good to be true. Passing by the Great Wall, little traffic, good roads, and some photo shooting with the locals made our day.