Back to where we started! It is almost hard to believe that it ever happened. Five old men, their bikes and a white van. I got back to Bristol without a hitch just in time to enjoy the wettest day in the UK for years, watch Miss Williams win Wimbledon for the 5th time and all the Formula One boys have a terrible day at Silverstone trying to drive in the rain. Poor old Jensen Button not even qualifying.
It was good to hear that Karen, Dave, Rosita, Nick and their son David got home safely. Tim leaves Beijing today and Susan is off to Korea tomorrow. Wisdom Valley must seem very quiet.
Beijing was hot and humid but we did get in some very interesting sight seeing before returning once again to the cool of Wisdom Valley to pack up the bikes and the van for Paul Shi so that he could start shipping them home on 9th .
I thought it would be good to let the blog wind down slowly; Madge and my mother Jane have mentioned that they miss it already. There is in fact more to do. The bikes have all got to be serviced once back and the van sorted ready for sale. They will all pop out of their container after it has been delivered to John Rose’s house in Devon in about 2 months time. Hopefully we will be able to sell the van with all its spares to someone like Globebusters who make this trip every 2 years.
There were some poignant images on our departure; and Susan managed to get a great shot for my “veiled woman collection” ( remember the money lender from Uzbekistan?!)
I wish I had used a mask more -I seem to have coughed up half Beijing on the flight home.
There are many odd things to note about China, one of the things that struck me was the apparent lack of older buildings. They were there in the form of “Hutongs”- small collections of bungalows which house nearly 1 million people within the city. The Reform and Post Reform periods have resulted in so much modern building replacement that when you do see the old and new together there is always a stark contrast.
The old temples all seem to have beautifully intertwined doulongs, a wooden matrix holding up the eves
The other 4 guys managed to survive nearly 12,000 butt wrecking miles on their BMW bikes which have looked after them so well. Not a single puncture or technical breakdown. We thought Susan had gone significantly over the top when she brought out to Istanbul an emergency supply of botty cream when we radioed for help concerning John’s arse which began to fall apart in the Dardeneelles . She utilised a considerable portion of her baggage allowance from London to Thessalonika by airlifting out nearly one gallon of “Sudocream” ( a sort of grown up nappy rash ointment) we did in fact use quite a lot but Richard still has a few tubs left and they should last him the rest of his biking career.
Our women have contributed a very great deal to this trip, sorting out all the hassles we left behind us at home, reassuring and caring for our worried mothers and fathers; and when they could, flying out for the longer stop overs. Susan and Karen joined us for the last two weeks of the trip through North East China and by driving and riding in the van got a very good idea of how the rougher moments went. I was particularly grateful for it gave me the chance to ride John’s bike the last 1000 kilometres through some the roughest and wettest roads. I learnt how to ride in slippery mud and diesel and water soaked roads and as a result feel a much better biker, much further on than when I broke my ankle in Morocco two years ago. It was also very good to have Tim come out to join us from Tuijan onwards.
Central Asia seems a long way away now . I don’t think we will be rushing back to Azerbaijan or Turkmenistan , two police states where their dictators and policemen make the lives of their very tolerant and friendly people unnecessarily harsh. We would go back to Kyrgyzstan -a beautifully varied and colourful country and we still remember Georgia especially its capital Treblisi with fondness.
China has really dominated the trip for me . I am so glad that we took Richard’s advice and gave it the extra time. If we had taken the rhumb line from Kashghar to Beijing and rushed through in two weeks we would have missed crossing the Talimakan Desert and the Tibetan plateau and meeting and seeing some of it’s colourful people. It has been difficult to understand the effects of the Cultural Revolution in the context of the places we visited and the people and customs we have tried to understand. Richard’s knowledge and tactful accounts have been key to understanding the many contradictions. Although their recent key historical figure Chairman Mao has been rehabilitated and his portrait is seen everywhere it is clear that people feel that some very sad things have happened in the not so distant past.
The images of old temples and silver domes seem at first incongruous but that is China.
Back from the U-Town Plaza Hotel to Wisdom Valley for the final pack up. Richard and Christina’s yard is strewn with our rubbish.
We sort out all the kit and find that John has managed to purchase half Asia and is bringing it home in a Transit which is designed to just fit in a container ;so we take off the roof rack and stuff it all inside.
All that is left are three bikes without their panniers.
They will be crated and taken on a flat bed truck with the van to Tianjin (the big sea port about 2 hours from Beijing) by Paul Shi , our Chinese agent who has been with us every step of the way from the Kyrgyzstan border to Beijing. I have to include another snap of Paul with us at Wisdom Valley before he whizzed back to sort out final visa and passport problems for us
We finished the packing early and had an extra day to chill out in Christina and Richard’s wonderfully comfortable mansion in the mountains
So its good bye from me for a while and thanks Dave for writing the blog with me. Our different voices fed off each others and I am certain that my growing aspiration to try and write with at least half your clarity and fluidity was a great stimulus to me . Apart from being with a great bunch of people the writing of the blog with you gave me very great pleasure. Thanks mate; here’s looking at you
And thanks to all of you who supported Dave and I by reading the blog and also Ben thank you so much for launching it and both you and Susan keeping the content and the mechanics of it going when we went off air.
Best wishes to you all