25th June- The Horrible Hotel somewhere unexpected to Pingyao by Simon

We have  new members to the band- Susan driving the van, Karen on photography, but as usual Crazy Gerry on “point” in the pickup at the front with Paul, plus Richard, Nick, Dave and myself on the iron horses behind, and finally Tim landing in Taiyuan to meet us in Pingyao if we get there!

Having just about recovered from being  entertained by the authorities for taking an alternative route yesterday, Paul has flexed us into a hotel smelling like an old ash tray in Xing Godknosewhere 150 kms short of our original target for the day. This means a big bike ride today to catch up. We schedule a 0645 “van doors opening” to throw in kit, an 0700 breakfast for an 0800 lift off. Paul and Gerry had set up “coffee camp” in the corner of the breakfast room and predictably we were offered yesterdays’ dumplings and bean sprouts with vinegar. Thank God they also had the hard boiled eggs on offer . This has become the bikers staple , two hardboiled eggs squashed between two slices of Paul’s yellow and  sweet Brioche- washed down with Paul’s great coffee . Shame two of  the  waiters appeared to be having a domestic dispute and I have to shout to stop another  trying  to hit a dog with a basket ball.  .

We hit the barriers of the hotel at 0810- literally because would you believe it they happen to be managed by the police who decide to close them until they have  extracted a large parking fee from Paul for all our vehicles. He resisted initially but being a wise man knew that this was not a battle worth fighting,  and indeed the fact all the bikes were still there that morning was something, it was a rough area.   So he gave in, paid the sum and we were off.


waiting for Paul to negotiate another barrier

Paul has selected about 150 kilometres of winding and  hilly terrain for us for the first section. We have told him that endless dual carriageway isn’t the best way to see China and he has come up trumps. Despite an early rain shower which halts the group for the adornment of waterproofs, the damp clears and we enter a long section of green hills with intensively farmed terraces and thankfully a rapidly drying road. Because of the ever present haze which may be meteorological but is most probably pollution, you don’t get a clear sense of the height of the hills . We go up and down endlessly. I am not  suprised that the altimeter on Richard’s bike shows that we have oscillated from 500 to 1800 metres altitude every hour. This is the same as driving from Geneva to Val D’Isere and back  but you wouldn’t know it .

Goats in the rain

Paul leads the way for Susan in the van and we follow. The next three hours is some of the best motorcycling I have ever done. I have been driving the Transit now for two and half months and it has been great – I have got through the entire works of Patrick O’Brian  and a load of other stuff on the van stereo system. It has been great fun to drive and especially “off piste” when required despite the fact it is not specifically designed for it. But having a few days on John’s bike has been wonderful despite the pollution and crazy Chinese driving  ( ABCD-Absolutely Bonker Chinese Driving)

apples grown in filter bags all along the roadsides


No way ahead


Eventually we came down out of the hills once again to have lunch at the the Hukou Falls on the the Yellow River. The falls drop about 40 meters in a tangled fury of brown water full of silt. Below the drop and before the silt sediments ( the loess) out and a series of dredging canoes hoover up the water and pump into great sand castles, The water drains out leaving piles of very consistent sand.

pumping loess






The Falls


After lunch we traverse one of

















great times!

China’s major coal mining areas. Everything is coated with coal dust; even  the local street dogs standing around in the rain have sodden pelts which have become impregnated  with it. The streets of every village are festooned with coal trucks. For reasons we have not quite figured out the coal trucks appear to be painted red and the cement carriers blue. Is this part of a centralist policy? It is not to do with ownership because many business are privately owned;  Richard tells us 100 miners die every week on average in China.

We climb out of the coal valley onto a road choked  by trucks. The surface is wet and has patches of diesel. A lethal combination. Everyone slows to a bare minimum and every now again  one of the bikes twitches as the back wheel slides out. However thankfully the patches are small and the tyres stick and we all avoid a painful bum slide.

Tim has arrived with his fishbowl lens!

After several hours of nail biting banking and breaking we get out of  the hills and have only the Utterly Crazy Bonkers Chinese driving to contend with as we skirt Taiyuan and coast into Pingyao. This is a delightful ancient walled city,  a Unesco heritage site  with original buildings and tiny streets . We are booked into a small family hotel and have to leave our bikes outside the walls, We are ferried in a convoy of three wheel Tuk Tuks to the hotel . Ducking and diving through the ancient streets lit by swaying red  and gold lanterns the city is enchanting with glimpses of courtyards  and alleys. We expect to see an opium den any moment  but the hotel does not disappoint and there is Tim waiting for us. He is completely drenched having been caught in a downpour while out exploring the city.



One thought on “25th June- The Horrible Hotel somewhere unexpected to Pingyao by Simon

  1. I just want to say that you guys are heroes (and the women who have valiantly accompanied them on this last lap: you are, too).
    This adventure of yours has been alternately fascinating, harrowing, hilarious, and astonishing to read about, and always has inspired complete admiration for you all.

    Your blog has been wonderful for those of us who love you and were thirsting to hear about your trip, so thank you for so generously writing about it, and with such verve and honesty.

    And I’m sure I speak for others around the globe: welcome home, as you all reach home. We’re very glad you’re back.


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