Archive for September, 2009

China from the side road

BEIJING to HANGZHOU

Hello! Hello! If only we had a dollar for every time we’ve heard that…

China – you definitely know you are somewhere different!  Cars, buses, trucks, scooters, electric bikes, tractors, even wheel barrows, come at you from every direction.  It’s complete chaos, but strangely, it seems to work – as long as you blow your horn!  From the “relative” safety of the side road, our eyes flick from one meaningless street sign to the next.  Which way do we go?  We pull over to take a better look at the map.  Within minutes, we are completely surrounded by a horde of curious locals.  Hello! Hello! Is the best advice we can manage… ??

Crazy drivers and the language barrier is just the beginning though.  It is the “novelty” factor that has really amazed us.  Like, the police escort through town on our first day.  The hotel we stayed in that was completely free.  Everybody, from kitchen staff, to other diners, gathered around our table as we order and eat.  Cars that pull over to stop and say hello!  Trust me, you don’t see too many westerners in these parts, especially two on bikes!!  

So how have we managed the day-to-day?  Not too bad actually.  With a good map, and lots of patience, you can work out the signs.  Our hotel “check-in” is now carefully rehearsed.  Yep, that’s right – no more camping for us – it’s 3 stars all the way, and for less than US$20!  Dinner is a little harder.  We have pretty much lived off two meals that we have written down in Chinese characters.  Not alot of variety, but it is better than ending up eating dog (or even worse)!!  For the rest, a blend of poorly pronounced Chinese, a small dictionary, and lots of hand signs get us by :-)

Our route from Beijing, has taken us through China’s industrial heartland, so not surprisingly, the scenery has been average.  You do get rare glimpses of beauty though, like our climb up China’s most sacred peak, Taishan.  Even this was a suprise – not a climb as such, but a staircase up to 1,600m!

There is no doubting – China is a hectic, crowded and polluted place.  But it’s the friendliness of the people, and their willingness to help us, that has made it so special.  We will never forget the nervous, but heartfelt words, from our waitress in Wuhu – “Welcome to my home town”.  I’m just not so sure, how we will ever get use to carrying our own bags again??

We now take a week off in Hangzhou, resting our legs and catching up with our mates, Tim and Frank, as China celebrates its annual holiday and 60 years of communism!  It’s sure to be a lot of fun!!

As always, thanks for the support, comments and emails.  We miss you all!

Safe travels (and go the Saints!)

Jules & Jess

Chaos! The ride out of Beijing

Chaos! The ride out of Beijing

Our side road - on a rare blue sky day

Our side road - on a rare blue sky day

Anything goes in the side road - Locals drying grain

Anything goes in the side road - Locals drying grain

 

Watch out!  Here comes a lightly loaded tractor

Watch out! Here comes a lightly loaded tractor

 

Who let the ducks out!

Who let the ducks out?!

 

Hello! Hello! A typical 5min rest stop

Hello! Hello! A typical 5min rest stop

 

Industrial heart of China

Industrial heart of China

 

Rare glimpses of beauty too  - Tai Shan

Rare glimpses of beauty too - Tai Shan

 

You take a staircase to the top!

You take a staircase to the top!

 

Harder for some than others

Harder for some than others

 

Made it!

Made it!

 

The serenity at the top - NOT !

The serenity at the top - NOT !

 

Back on the road - typical chinese village

Back on the road - typical chinese village

 

You really sure you need the toilet ??

You really sure you need the toilet ??

 

No more camping - 3 stars for under US$20 !

No more camping - 3 stars for under US$20 !

 

A real treat not having to carry our bags

A real treat not having to carry our bags

 

Xuzhou - famous for it's dog dishes !

Xuzhou - famous for it's dog dishes !

 

Where's the chocolate ?!  Chinese false advertising

Where's the chocolate ?! Chinese false advertising

 

Nanjing - slick and ultra modern

Nanjing - slick and ultra modern

It's the locals that make it!

It's the locals that make it!

Hangzhou - joining in the party

Hangzhou - resting up and joining in the party

WARSAW to BEIJING

It is 6,404 kms from London to St. Petersberg.  To some, this may seem like a lot – there are shorter and easier ways – but this is the distance we covered, and what an incredible adventure it has been…

We cycled through 14 countries, following a mix of pilgrim trails, trade routes, alpine passes, famous rivers and historic cities.  The experience challenged and amazed us.  On many occasions, it opened our eyes.  We twice had friends come and join us, and made new friends along the way.  It showed there is still adventure to be had, even in the most developed and populated parts of the world.  This continent, like South America, has been worth every push on the pedals. Europe – west and east – we crossed it.

Leaving Warsaw, we headed north into the lakes area of Eastern Europe.  These stunning glacial lakes, too many to count, extend all the way from northern Poland, through the Baltics to Russia.  We were back adventuring again – camping free wherever we wanted, and braving icy cold morning swims.  In between, we passed through forests, rich farmland, quaint villages and historic old cities.  The kindness and generosity of the people here, has continued to amaze us.  Eastern Europe has been a pleasant surprise.

It is no wonder rural Russia came as a shock.  Run down, tired and miserable feeling – we were glad it would only take a day and half to reach St. Petersberg.  Russia is a country of contrast though, and this introduction, versus the major cities, couldn’t highlight this better.  In Moscow, we were fortunate to have some friendly faces to stay with.  Esther, Chris & Helen went out of their way to show us what is spectacular and unique about Russia – you haven’t lived, until being beaten with birch sticks in a banya!

Getting our bikes on the Trans-Siberian proved a lot easier than feared.  From there, the relaxing monotony of train travel took over.  For six days, we lurched 7,865 km across Siberia, watching Europe slowly turn into Asia.  While “trained out” by the end, it was a great experience and we would highly recommend it.

Now in Beijing, after 9 months, and having clocked up 14,609 kms – almost double the Trans-Sib – we are half way home.  Does it get any easier?  If we can get out of Beijing with this Chinese character map, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Keep the comments and emails coming.  They are much appreciated and a real boost.

Safe travels,

Jules & Jess

Eastern Europe's Lakes District

Eastern Europes stunning Lakes District

 

Trakai, Lithuania

Trakai, Lithuania

 

Back free camping again

Free camping and adventuring again

 

Something smells good

Something smells good

 

Koalas... out here?

Koalas... out here?

 

Europe - we crossed it!

Europe - we crossed it!

 

Celebrating...

Celebrating and seeing the sights...

 

...St Petersburg

...St Petersburg

 

...Moscow

...Moscow

 

Esther, Chris & Helen - you folks really made it !

Esther, Chris & Helen - you folks really made it !

 

Supplies for a 6-day train ride

Supplies for a 6-day train ride

 

How will we ever get these bikes on...

How will we ever get these bikes on...

 

Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia

Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia

 

Travelling 1st class for a change

Travelling 1st class for a change

 

Reading, eating, sleeping...

Reading, eating, sleeping...

 

Watching Europe turn into Asia

Watching Europe turn into Asia

 

 

Beijing - finally

Beijing - finally

 

Colourful hutongs

Colourful hutongs

 

Fast paced shopping

Fast paced shopping

 

Plus ancient reminders

Plus ancient reminders

 

Enjoying it

Enjoying it

 

And having fun - wax on, wax off!

And having fun - wax on, wax off!