19,200 kilometers = 11,930.3269 miles

A poignant vibe hung over breakfast this morning – our last on-the-road breakfast together.  Our journey finishes this evening at Richard’s place in Wisdom Valley, just outside Beijing.

It was raining hard, so we shrugged into our wet weather gear in the lobby, went outside and set out on the last leg.  This little girl watched us go.

We started by weaving our way through small rain-drenched towns…

…but soon we were climbing into the mountains on terrible roads that had been made even worse by reconstruction work, rain and landslides…

There was hardly any local traffic – the roads were too difficult even for them.  And it was clear that this – the last day – was shaping up to be one of the most challenging and dangerous days of the whole trip.

And as we got higher into the mountains we found ourselves on treacherous, muddy tracks beside huge drops…

…and by now even the usually serene Paul was looking anxious and questioning whether he had made a dangerous route choice.

The bikes are so heavy and have such enormous momentum, that a slight mistake when descending on a muddy trail could have sent us sliding over the edge.  So we picked our way carefully through the slime, alongside vertiginous drops and round hairpins.

When we pulled in to a scenic spot for lunch we were already exhausted.

But the beauty of the spot and some decent food restored our spirits.

We pushed on, only to find conditions getting worse as mist drifted in around the mountains…

 

This went on for hours as we picked our way towards the end of the mountains and the final approach to Greater Beijing.  It took all our energy to maintain concentration and avoid the one small slip that might send us plummeting into one of the deep ravines.

I had never believed I would be happy to see Chinese traffic again, but as the first trucks and cars began to appear we knew we were nearly out of the mountains and relief began to nudge aside the anxiety.

Finally we emerged from the mountains and found ourselves on the outermost ring road of Beijing.  From there it was an easy couple of hours around the city and then up onto the beautiful and much less dangerous mountain road that leads to Wisdom Valley.

By now Richard could smell home and was in the lead – sweeping round the bends until we passed through the village close to where he lives and onto a driveway where Christina was waiting for us waving.  We paused to savor the moment…

And then we rode on for a few more minutes and arrived at Richard and Christina’s gorgeous country home and THE END OF THE 19,200 KM TRAIL!!!!!!

 

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