July 08, 2006 GMT
Going north

The trip is going slowly but surely. Iím making small steps, never more than forty to fifty kilometers a day after leaving Beijing, and a bit more north of Zhangjiakou. Iím trying to respect as much as I can the journey made by that woman in 1862 from Beijing to Moscow. Until Zhangjiakou the names of the places have remained basically the same and were easy to find, but after Zhangjiakou cities and villages had not yet been built at the time, and she, and her companions, had to camp every night in the middle of nowhere all the way to Urga, the former name of Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.

I didnít need to camp but Iíve had to stay in a few remote places during the past few days, like on July the 4th in the tiny village of Deng You Fang. In late afternoon, the police burst into my room. They wanted to know where I was coming from, where I was going and why stopping here instead of a city a bit further north or south. I had to explain my plan and told them that probably 150 years before me, a woman had camped in the vicinity. They checked my passport and left the room.

Two days later, I entered the Gobi desert north of Xianguang Qi where the asphalt road stops. I took a bus and we rode on a dirt, or rather a dust road heading northwest until we connected with the main road to Mongolia south of Xi Su Qi. The day was extremely hot, the road condition not too good and many people inside the bus got sick. A new highway is being built south of the Mongolian border to Beijing. Itíll probably be ready for the Mongolian delegation to use it for their participation at the 2008 Olympic Games.

A lot of motorbikes can be seen, small cylinder mostly, never more than 150cc, but sometimes with big frames that make them look like Harley. Motorbikes are mostly used by farmer but also by city folks who canít afford to buy cars, and by young guys who want to look cool.

Iím now in the border town of Erlian, on the Chinese side, and Iím planning to cross into Mongolia today or tomorrow. Some Mongolian guys I met yesterday have offered to sell me a motorbike and to help me cross the border with it. I said thanks but no thanks. I already have to go back to pick up a motorbike at a Chinese border somewhere east, I donít want to spend my time traveling around Asia to collect my bikes wherever theyíve been impounded.

Posted by Fabrice Blocteur at July 08, 2006 03:30 AM GMT

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