Beijing. After months of not particularly meticulous planning I am ready to go.
Piss wet through leaving Beijing but it is 31 degrees. Better drenched in rain than sweat. Soon in the mountains. The road was marked by the 2008 Olympic logo. This must have been where they did the road race. First glimpse of the Great Wall from a distance. Forget to take a photo. Must remember to take photos. Camped by a stream. Incredible sound of crickets.
Gentle tootle around lake Yunghi with the day trippers from Beijing and then up into the mountains. Awesome hairpin climb if I did die a little towards the top. 32 degrees. Probably lost a few kilos.
Excellent day cycling. Descended down a gorge in the morning before a sharp climb into the mountains. Spectacular views all day. I stop for lunch everyday in random roadside restaurants. I just order blind by pointing at some chinese symbols and seeing what I get. All tastes amazing. Camped in a forest near a reservoir.
Tip of the day. When camping in a forest if you leave your cycle shorts out to air remember to check for creepy crawlies before putting them on in the morning. Out of the mountains and boshed along a wide open valley all afternoon. Amazing amount of construction going on everywhere.
Tough day. Grim cycling through industrial heartlands. Ploughed through what looked like a small town on the map but turned out to be an enormous metropolis. Beginning to get to grips with the scale of things in China. On the plus side I made good, fairly direct, progress towards Mongolia and found a quiet camp spot...
Another scorcher. Only idiots cycle in this weather. On I go. Nice rolling hills for most of the day. Found myself on a highway in the afternoon as the hills begin to give way to the desert. The Gobi looms. Highlight of the day was working up an incredible thirst and then having an afternoon ice cream.
Piled down a 4 lane motorway this morning heading for Ulanqab. When a police car pulled alongside I thought uh-oh but it was just the usual thumbs up and shouts of encouragement.
It's fair to say I'm struggling with the lingo. Carefully prepared words/phrases make no impression. Either google translate is wrong, the Chinese do not know their own language or my pronunciation is all over the shop. Probably the latter. Sticking with it though as it at least produces a lot of laughter. Always good to be laughed at.
Holed out in Jining (Ulanqab). Treating myself to a hotel after a week of camping. Need to gather myself (and charge devices) before launching into the desert.
Rest day. Bought myself a wide brimmed hat for the desert. I think we can all agree that I wear it well.
Tough road out of Ulanqab. Battling with the trucks in the rain. Everytime one roared past I would get soaked by the spray. My mudguards fell off somewhere in South America. Now when I pick up any speed in the wet I get road water in the face and up my back. Lovely. I don't like the trucks but the truck drivers are great. Twice today one pulled up in front of me, got out, waved me down and took a selfie of us both. Bizarre. Despite the language barrier I've had a warm welcome everywhere I go. People are very interested by the bike. Women are always filling up my water bottles. When struggling to find a hotel in Ulanqab I asked a random guy where I could find somewhere that accepts foreigners. He promptly got on his moped and beckoned me to follow and we set off round town looking for a hotel. The first was full, the second was for chinese only but he did not give up until I was safely checked in somewhere. Very nice people. The trucks stopped in some industrial desert town and I had a peaceful last couple of hours cycling. Found a nice camp spot on the edge of the Gobi.
The Gobi measures over 1,610 km (1,000 mi) from southwest to northeast and 800 km (500 mi) from north to south. It is the fifth largest in the world and Asia’s largest. Much of the Gobi is not sandy but is covered with bare rock.” (From Wikipedia)
Good cycling this morning. Lots of little dips and rises. On top of the rises you can see for miles. Amazing how even here in the desert the Chinese make the most of the land. Wind turbines for as far as the eye can see and solar panels everywhere. I guess you don't get to be the world economic super power by sitting around twiddling your thumbs. Wind turned against me in the afternoon and it became a bit of a slog. Camped by the wind turbines and a few wild horses under a million stars.
Wind with today so boshed on to the charmless border town of Erenhot. Holed up in a cheap hotel and will cross over into Mongolia in the morning. I will awake nervously to see what the wind is doing. It's over 200km from the border to the next water opportunity. With no wind or a tailwind this is an easy 2 days, 1 night. Into a headwind it could be 3 days, 2 nights. That's a lot of water I would need to add to my bike and then cycle into the wind.