June 18, 2006 GMT
Entering China

The problem on the bike wasn’t serious. Shustrik fixed it in no time. We even replaced my battery with a new Chinese one. The weather in Vladivostok was awful during the ten days I remained there.

After asking around during several days how to enter China with my bike, the answer finally came on June 11th. A German biker had successfully made it a few months ago but the people who helped him weren’t ready to take the risks they had taken at the time and told me that I would need to do it by myself.

On the 13th I left Vladivostok early in the morning and drove to the nearest border at Suifenhe. The day was a bit chilly and the temperature on the thermometer never went above 14°. I stopped only once to fill up the bike and encountered no problem at all along the way except being held at a police check post for more than an hour supposedly because my visa had not been registered properly in Vladivostok. But finally they let me go and at around three o’clock I was at the border.

The first Russian officer I talked to didn’t know what to do and called his superior who arrived shortly after. He was extremely polite and told me that unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to ride my bike between the two borders. However, they would help me put it in a truck to go through. There wasn’t much traffic. A minibus showed up but was too small for the bike. Finally a truck followed some twenty minutes later and with the help of some people we put the bike on the open platform. I suggested that it would probably be better to put the bike inside a truck where it couldn’t be seen by Chinese customs but I was told that as soon as I reach the Chinese side it would be perfectly all right for me to ride it again.

Clearing the Russian customs didn’t take long and we slowly drove the five kilometers to the border where the first check post let us through. At the second the truck driver was asked to whom the motorbike belonged but then again they let us pass. At the third one we had to get off to have our passports checked. At that point they told me that I would have to wait a few minutes regarding my bike. I had already been admitted into China by having my passport stamped and I thought that everything was fine. It wasn’t. I waited for about an hour and finally was informed that I couldn’t go through with my motorbike. I had two choices: go back to Russia with the motorbike or proceed into China but without it.

I suggested that my bike could just transit though the country by train to the Mongolian border where I was heading but again I was informed that the rules were clear: it was impossible for me to bring my bike in China unless I go with a group accompanied by a certified Chinese guide. To do that, I first had to leave the country and apply through the proper channels.

During all the discussions that lasted more than two hours, all the custom officers were very courteous and very sympathetic to my cause but the rules were the rules and there was nothing which could be done. My bike was carried on the same truck and escorted by a custom officer to the nearest storage facility. On that evening I was invited to a Korean restaurant by half a dozen custom officers and they helped me find a hotel as well.

The next morning I went back to the storage facility to fill up some papers and was informed that I had one year to come back and pick up my bike.

I have decided to stick to my original plan which is to follow on the footsteps of a woman who went from Beijing to Moscow through Mongolia in 1862 on horseback. She was supposedly the first European woman to have accomplished such a journey. I was planning to do it by motorbike but will now do it by some other means. After crossing Mongolia and reaching Russia, I’m planning to go back where my motorbike is, bring it back to Russia, and drive it from there to Ulan Ude or Irkutsk where I will pick up on that woman’s track again.

For those who are absolutely determined to enter China with a motorbike, and possibly from the same border, I suggest that you put your bike inside a truck and very well hidden from the outside.

Posted by Fabrice Blocteur at June 18, 2006 05:12 AM GMT

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