A 7285 Km journey by motorbike in 17 days, from Beijing to Shanghai, through Inner Mongolia, Xi An, Shaolin Temple, and many places that i can’t remember the name…
Most of the photos were taken with smartphone as it wasn’t really convenient to pull my camera out.
We shipped our two motorbikes (SV 1000 Suzuki and KTM Super Duke 990) from Shanghai to Beijing one week before the trip.
Monday 6 July 2009: Beijing-Chengde – 230 km
Benjamin and I were almost ready to go and, as I start to install the – made in China – Tail and tank bag on my bike they both suddenly rip apart. Only one solution left, we head to Decathlon to buy a big backpack in order to squeeze in my 25 kg luggage before we can finally start our trip.
We can’t believe our luck that we are allowed on the highway (not like in Shanghai), we find our way out of Beijing and after 70 km we leave the highway for a 80 km road under construction. It starts to rain, but its just the beginning of the trip so we are still pumped up.
To save some time we try to get on the highway again, but this time the police doesn’t agree, but they are very friendly, they try to convince us that it is for our safety, so this time only, we don’t insist.
We arrived in Chengde at nightfall.
July 7: Chengde-Tong Liao– 561 Km
We ride to Chifeng, and as we pass the border control to Inner Mongolia, 2 policemen stop us to control our registration. They are polite and let us go almost right away, just a bit surprised to see us traveling by motorbike.
Very beautiful road, we reach Chifeng by midday, and can negotiate with the policemen after 20 mn, to take the 400km long highway to Tong Liao.
July 8: Tong Liao – A er Shan 650 km
Very bad road, gravel, holes, construction works, lots of trucks, all the way to Ulan Hot, then superb mountain road, (S 203) until nightfall to Ae r Shan
July 9: Ae r Shan – Manzhouli (Russian border)- 400 Km
As we arrive in Manzhouli, we cruise around town for a while before we find a hotel with vacancy, its packed with Russians from across the border. It takes us almost 2 hours to check-in because the hotel is so packed. After we quickly settle in, we take our first ‘photo-walk’ around town to capture the local suburbs’ atmosphere. Being caucasians, people speak to us in Russian, and we surprise them by replying in Chinese.
July 10: Manzhouli-Hulun Lake- Hai la Er: 240 km
We decided to have a look at Hulun lake, near Manzhouli, and on the way back, we stopped by a coal mine, to take some pictures…
Back on the road, one hour later, we hit heavy rain all the way to Hai la er then after the rain…we hit some insects on the road
July 11: Hailaer – A er shan – Mandou 591km
We go through A er shan for the second time, road was nice again, mountain road, then we took one of the unsafest road of the trip the S303, which goes right along the border of Outter Mongolia, a narow road, with very big trucks passing us (without slowing down), so we had to ride most of the time on the gravel side of the road, dusty afternoon and struggle for both the bikes and us!
Our longest day through the steppes, we started to really worry about gasoline, there was nothing around for hundreds of km, and Benjamin needed some gasoline soon, as the SV tank is much smaller than the KTM.
Impossible to sleep with no equipment in the steppe, we were at 180 km on the same tank, but still no petrol station, we had to start driving for the mileage in order to save gas.
At nightfall we finally reached Mandou, with 277 km on a tank only to hear that the 2 gasoline stations of the village were only carrying 90 octane (too low grade for our high-tech bikes), and that the next station only carried 93 and was about 300 km away.
Because we were very close to the border of Mongolia, we got stopped by the army and went through a 45 mn questioning, after which they escorted us to a room chosen by them, where we had to spend the night (no such thing as a hotel in the village)
We faced a difficult issue with the gasoline, but since we traveled around China for many years on the bikes we were confident that we would find some help the next day.
During dinner, we learned from our host that just beside our room was the government office. Our host told us that their high-end cars probably ran on 93, there was some hope before going to bed…
July 12: Mandou – Xilin Hot 445 km
After a night dreaming of gasoline and army, we woke up and headed directly to the government office, realizing that we were Sunday there would probably be nobody there besides the two workers painting a wall…
They nicely told us that there was only one guy from the government on-site. We were ok to wait for the guy to wake-up but the workers trying to help, ran to his room and knocked at his window to get some help.
That’s how we met the solution to our problem: Mister Ergute (pronounce elgouteu).
After listening to our story and our trip, and a few questions, (he was very interested about our trip, and we were kind of adventurers for him), he started his computer, made several phone calls, and smiled at us while saying: “I found some 93 in the village, my friend the mayor of the village has some”
We hurried to his friend’s place, pushing our motorbikes. The mayor, himself, sucked the air out of the pump to fill-up our tanks. We were so thankful and wanted to pay for the 33 L of gas, but they strongly refused and said that people here always tried to help each other out. The only favor they asked us for was to convince friends to come and visit inner-mongolia, so here you go!
They invite us to have a tea, and we invite them to a coffee in our super room
Still on the S 303, only gravel and potholes for another 100 km, but happy to leave Mandou…
The road became much better later on but when reach Xi lin hot in the end of the afternoon, Benjamin’s bike had a small leak of cluth fluid.
July 13: Xilin Hot – Hohot: 854 km
Our longest day…over 13 hours on the bikes!
Leaving Xilin Hot, we realize after 10 km that Benjamin’s bike cannot reach HoHot without repairing the leak, asking around for a mechanic that could fix big bikes, we got lucky, and found a shop with some big bikes. It took about 1/2 hour to get the head mechanic back to his shop. But when he arrived he couldn’t believe what he saw, a KTM superduke, his dream bike. He then started calling his friends, all Xilin Hot riders to come and meet us, and as by magic, we saw some huge sportbikes showing up: Hayabusa, FJR1300, R1 etc.
Then when the time came to leave, the boss didn’t want us to pay anything and we had to force a few hundreds in his pocket.
After leaving Xi lin Hot, we hit some nice roads, nice weather and we can push forward to try to reach Hohhot
To reach Hohhot, we had to ride through Hebei, then back to Inner-Mongolia province.
Once again, we forced the way to get on the highway, being pretty sure that if we asked, they would turn us down. After forcing the way, we kept a 170 km/hour average for over an hour, to avoid being chased by the highway police.
At nightfall, we take a break on the highway at a gas station, still 200 km away from Hohhot, had some small snacks, then when we got back on the road, the night had already fallen, its getting colder and we are tired, we are not happy at to get back on the bikes.
Our hardest time of the trip began then: 200 km on highway by night with trucks and cars driving on high beam coming front and back front and back…then we finally arrived in Hohot.
As Benjamin is checking-in at the hotel, I meet VVR (pronouce Our), an Outter Mongol rider who has 3 big bikes, he comes to talk to me at the entrance of the hotel, just after seeing us riding in.
He came back 15 mn later with his Walkyrie 1600 cc, and we had a few beers in the hotel lobby.
July 14: Hohhot: 0 km
After our longest ride of the trip, we decide to take a break, enjoy another ‘photo-walk’ in Hohhot to shoot local scenes, we visit the main museum and have a relaxing evening.
After an all day taking some pictures, we meet up with VVR who brings us some kerosene to clean our bike chains, we stay late drinking some beers at the hotel.
July 15: Hohhot- Qiaogouwan (Jingbian, Yulin, Shaanxi): 655 Km
Back on the road again, we head to Baotou, VVR escort us to the highway tollgate, and watches us with a smile, forcing the highway gate, with police running all around trying to catch us…but when we reach Baotou, police was waiting for us, and made a roadblock. Benjamin is first, turns on his blinker pretending he is going to stop. The policemen walk towards us as we accelerate and escape. Because of that, we become paranoid and see police cars everywhere, but it really looks as if they are trying to stop us. We had a hard time getting out of Baotou. Later on the road, we are all excited to cross a portion of the Gobi desert again…
We ride all day, forcing the passage to highway again, to save some time, because the road outside highway was very bad. (Note for the readers: their is no law in the transportation code of China forbidding large displacement motorcycles to ride on the highways. For this reason, some provinces like inner-mongolia do not enforce any interdiction of motorcycles on highways. However, most of the time toll gates still try to enforce this rule to avoid small bikes getting stuck on highways with no way out in case of problem)
Around 5 pm, we get off the highway, in the middle of nowhere, in heavy rain, and decide to find a place to spend the night. We are now in Shaanxi province, in a very very small village, and cannot find any accommodation, except for a truck stop “hotel”.
The owner, an old lady with strong character, welcomes us suspiciously. We named her “Madame Yang”, because of her restaurant serving probably the best Lamb specialty in the the province (“Yang” can be a Chinese name and means as well “Lamb” in Chinese). Her picture is on her restaurant banner.
Only women and girls working in her restaurant (all from her family), and she seems to manage everybody with an iron hand, smoking cigarette after cigarettes…
She asks us a lots of questions about our trip, while smoking like a chimney, but her accent is barely understandable.
And amazingly, in this little village in the middle of nowhere, we enjoy the best meal of our trip, prepared and cooked by her and her granddaughters.
July 16 : Qiaogouwan-Xi’An: 518 Km
After a short and cold night at Madame Yang’s house, we are back on the road again, to Xi’An.
We arrive in Xi’An, in the afternoon, and because of an heavy traffic in the city, we had to stop on the road side, by 40 degrees, to cool our bikes engine.
July 17: 0 Km
After a good night in a good hotel, we decide to visit the Terracotta soldiers site, but it was way too touristic for us, but as we were there…
After the terracotta soldiers, we decide to make some photos in Xi an, and visit the Muslim district
Escaping the busy streets, we found a building site, where people searching for water.
July 18: Xi’an- Shaolin Temple: 614 Km
Back on the road, heading to Henan, Shaolin Temple.
We had quite a bad road in the morning, then a nice mountain road again, very very very nice…
We arrived in Shaolin by the end of the afternoon after a long day’s ride, and leave our bikes in the restaurant of the hotel for the night.
July 19: Shaolin- Tan Zhuang: 252 Km
We decide to visit Shaolin temple, but like Xi’An, it was really too touristic for us…though we did it …
Respect to Mr Wang, that we met in our hotel:
He was traveling on a 125 CC, with his daughter to Tibet.
He offered this trip to his daughter to reward her being successful to her exam for high school
We left Shaolin Temple in the afternoon. After getting lost on some terrible roads we see an entrance to the highway and cannot resist the temptation to get on. But after the Baotou road block we had agreed to forget about highways.
And when you resolve yourself to not do it again, well…you should stick to it. And this time, luck was not on our side, we got caught by the highway police as we were checking the map on the side of the road. They pulled up in front of us, blocking the bikes.
They told us that we shouldn’t be on the highway etc….then they start to take pictures with us like we were the trophy of the day and said they would follow us to the next exit to see their Chief:
We said yes, “no problem” with a big smile, started our engines then….we saw their car very very very small in our rear-view mirrors, and kept an 200 km/h average during one hour and a half, to get out of the province quickly…
That’s also probably why my battery went flat which resulted in both of us being stuck on the emergency lane for 4 hours by 39 degrees without water, our punishment for getting on the highway again.
It is now 9pm and we start to worry that we will spend the night on the highway. We have to resort to carrying the bikes over the highway fence, thanks to the help of 3 workers fixing a future gas station, who had spotted us trying to move the fence.
Benjamin pushed my bike with his bike to the next village. Exhausted, we arrive at a village guesthouse and spend the night there, worrying about my battery problem for the day after.
July 20: Tan Zhuang – Huai Nan: 343 Km
Well, we started the day by checking out the first motorbike repair shop, and they immediately brought us to another branch of their garage and big surprise:
In this gravel road village, we found the cleanest repair shop we ever saw in China, with all new Suzuki equipment.
They found a smaller voltage battery for my KTM, that could probably handle the rest of the trip and we can got back on the road again.
Until the end of our trip we hit really bad roads, lots of dust, construction sites and trucks
July 21: Huai Nan – Danyang: 361 Km
July 22: Danyang- Shanghai: 274 Km
After 7285 km and 17 days, we arrive to Shanghai under heavy rain, welcome back!
Our route on Google Map
Thanks to all the people we met along the road, who helped us always with a smile…