Inner Mongolia by Motorbike
Inner Mongolia by motorbike, 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 a smartphone as it wasn’t 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, in a transport truck and they arrange as they could to secure the bikes with carton boxes and straps, at that point we started to worry a bit but it looked like it wasn’t the first time they did it so…
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 headed to Decathlon to buy a big backpack in to squeeze in my 25 kg luggage so we could finally start our trip.
After exiting the city, we couldn’t believe our luck that we were allowed to ride on the highway as it’s forbidden in Shanghai. We found our way out of Beijing and after a 70 km ride we left the highway for an 80 km road under construction. It started to rain, but it was just the beginning of the trip we were still pumped up.
To save some time we tried to get on the highway again, but this time the police didn’t agree, even they were very friendly and tried to convince us that it was for our safety, so this time and only this time, we didn’t insist much or argued :).
We arrived in Chengde at nightfall.
July 7: Chengde to Tong Liao– 561 Km
We rode to Chifeng, and pass the border control to Inner Mongolia, 2 policemen stopped us to control our (fake) registration but as at that time there were no legal dealers of motorbikes in China, it did work like a charm (i don’t recommend to do that nowadays it’s not possible and the risks are high). They were polite and friendly and let us go almost right away, just a bit surprised to see us traveling by motorbike that far.
After a beautiful and perfect road, we reached Chifeng by midday and could ride 400 km more on the highway after a 20 min negotiation with the policeman who wasn’t very sure of his decision. We didn’t let him think too much about it though and started a wonderful and fast ride to Tong Liao
July 8: Tong Liao – A er Shan 650 km
On the first part of the day the road wasn’t so good, gravel, potholes, construction works, dust, lots of trucks, all the way to Ulan Hot, then we’ve been rewarded with a superb and curvy mountain road, (S 203) until nightfall to Ae r Shan.
July 9: Ae r Shan – Manzhouli (Russian border)- 400 Km
As we arrived in Manzhouli, we cruised around town for a while before finding a hotel vacancy, the city is full of Russians from across the border. It takes us almost 2 hours to check in because the hotel was so packed. After we quickly settle in, we could go for our first ‘photo-walk’ around town to capture the local suburbs’ atmosphere. Being Caucasians, the street sellers spoke to us in Russian, and we surprised them by replying in Chinese.
July 10: Manzhouli-Hulun Lake- Coal Mine-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 and asked if we we can go inside, we were welcome with a smile and start to take some portraits, they invite us to go down in the mine but with recent news of mine collapsing around China we politely declined their invitation and instead had a good talk with them about our respective lives as both sides had a lot of questions…good moments and a lot of laughs
Back on the road, one hour later, we hit heavy rain all the way to Hai la er then after the rain…we hit a bunch insects too
July 11: Hailaer – A er shan – Mandou 591km
We rode to A er shan again for the second time and enjoy this mountain road again, then we took one of the unsafest road of the trip, the S303 which is along the border of Outer Mongolia, a narrow road, with very big trucks passing us closely without slowing down, so we had to ride most of the time on the gravel side of the road, dusty afternoon and big struggle for both the bikes and us!
This was our longest day through the steppes and we started to really worry about finding gasoline, there was nothing around for hundreds of km, and Benjamin was running out of gasoline soon, as the SV tank is smaller than the KTM.
It was impossible for us to sleep in the steppe without proper equipment and we were at 180 km on the same tank, but still no gas station ahead so we started to slow down and drive for the mileage in order to save our gasoline.
We started to stop at the houses around to ask if by chance they had any…in vain.
At nightfall we finally reached Mandou, with 277 km on the same tank only to hear that the 2 gas stations of the village were only carrying 90 octane which was too low grade for our bikes, and that the next station carried 93 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 “interview” in Chinese as they wanted to know what the heck we were doing here on bikes as they never saw foreigners in the region. After believing that we were not here to spy on anything, they “escorted” us to a designated “room”, where we had to spend the night.
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 the dinner, we learned from our host that just beside our room was a government office. Our host told us that their high-end cars probably ran on 93 so we went to sleep with some hopes.
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 and that we would probably find nobody there. We found two workers painting the 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 with all ears and stupefaction (he could not believe we came so far on a motorbike) he turned on his computer, looked for several contacts, 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 and met our savior who first invited us in his home for a tea. He then brought us to his garage at the back of his home and himself, sucked the air out of the pump to fill up our tanks.
We were so thankful and naturally asked to pay for the 33 L of gasoline we took from him, but he strongly refused arguing that people around here always help each other out.
The only favor they asked in return was to convince our friends to come and visit inner-mongolia, so here you go!
We invite them to a coffee in our super room and talked more about the trip and their life here.
After a few photos we hit the road again on the S 303, with still only gravels and potholes for another 100 km, but we were happy to continue our trip.
The road became much better later on but when we reached Xi lin hot in the end of the afternoon, we discover that Benjamin’s bike had a small leak of clutch fluid.
July 13: Xilin Hot – Hohhot: 854 km
Our longest day. riding: 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, and all Xilin Hot riders came to meet us riding some huge sports bikes as Hayabusa, FJR1300, R1 etc.
After fixing the leak the shop’s boss, didn’t want us to pay anything and we had to force a few hundred in his pocket.
We then leave Xi lin Hot, and hit some perfects road and nice weather so can push forward to try to reach Hohhot
In order to reach Hohhot, we had to ride through Hebei Province, and 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 and we were not in the mood to negotiate our way… After forcing the way, we kept a 180 km/hour average average speed for over an hour, to avoid being caught by the highway police.
At nightfall, we took a break on the highway at a gas station, we were still 200 km away from Hohhot, we had some small snacks, then when we got back on the road, the night had already fallen, it was getting colder and we were really tired, but we got back on the road to reach our destination.
It was then some of our hardest time of the trip : 200 km on highway by night with trucks and cars driving on high beam coming front and back it was very hard to drive in these conditions but we finally reached Hohot after an 854 km long ride.
As Benjamin was checking in at the hotel, a big Mongol guy came to look at the bike and start to talk to me…that’s how i met VVR (pronounce Our) who is himself a rider and got 3 big bikes
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 Hoh Hot to shoot local scenes, visit the main museum, and have a relaxing evening.
Inner Mongolia by motorbike
After an all day taking some pictures, we meet up with VVR who brings us some kerosene to clean our bike chains, we stayed till late drinking some beers at the hotel.
July 15: Hohhot- Qiaogouwan (Jingbian, Yulin, Shaanxi): 655 Km
Back on the road again, we headed to Baotou, VVR escorted us to the highway tollgate, and watched us with amusement, forcing the highway gate, with policemen running all around trying to catch us…they might actually call their colleagues and when we reach Baotou, a police roadblock was waiting for us with a full brigade pointing at us. They asked us to stop and we put on our blinker as we are going to do so but we decided not to lose time on our day and when they confidently approach, to their big surprise we opened up the throttle and disappear.
We had a hard time getting out of Baotou as they sent a few cars after us but we finally manage to leave the city a bit stressed but we finally managed to do so and the excitement gained on us as we were heading to another portion of the Gobi Desert.
We rode all day, forcing the passage to the highway again, to save some time, as the road outside highway was in very bad shape and would have made us lose lots of time.
Note: there’s no clear law (at that time) 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 the 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 or simply to not take any responsibility.
Around 5 pm, we get off the highway, in the middle of nowhere, under a heavy rain, and decided to find a place to spend the night. We were 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 a strong temper, welcomes us suspiciously. We named her “Madame Yang”, because of her restaurant serving probably the best Lamb specialty in whole the province (“Yang” is a Chinese name and also means “Lamb”). Her picture was on her restaurant banner.
there were 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 asked us a lot of questions about our trip, while smoking like a chimney, but her accent was barely understandable for us.
Amazingly, in this little village in the middle of nowhere, we enjoyed the best meal of our trip, prepared and cooked by her and her granddaughters.
July 16 : Qiaogouwan-Xi’An: 518 Km
After a short, cold and itchy night at Madame Yang’s house, we were back on the road again, to Xi’An.
We arrive in Xi’An, in the afternoon, and because heavy traffic in the city, we had to stop on the roadside, by 40 degrees, to cool our bike’s engine.
July 17: 0 Km
We decided to make a day stop in Xi An and get a good night in a good hotel, we then visit the Terracotta soldiers site, it was way too touristic for us, but as we were there we couldn’t miss it and it’s finally something to see
After the visit, we went to shoot a few frames in the old Xi an, and visit the Muslim district
Escaping the busy streets, we found a building site, where people were searching for water.
July 18: Xi’an- Shaolin Temple: 614 Km
Back on the road, heading to Henan, Shaolin Temple.
After a very bad shaped road the whole morning we got rewarded by a perfect mountain road.
We arrived in Shaolin by the end of the afternoon after a long day’s ride, and left our bikes in the restaurant of the hotel for the night.
July 19: Shaolin- Tan Zhuang: 252 Km
We decided to visit the Shaolin temple, but like Xi’an, it was really too touristic for us…though we did it …
We met Mr. Wang at our hotel, and after discussing with him he told us that he was on his way to Tibet offering this trip to his daughter to reward her for being successful with her high school exams.
They were traveling on a 125 CC, with their stuff packed in rice bags, this is the guy! Big respect
We left Shaolin Temple in the afternoon. After getting lost on some terrible roads we saw an entrance to the highway and could not resist forcing our passage in. After the Baotou roadblock, we had agreed to forget about highways but it was tempting to save time again.
After a 40 mn ride, we stopped at a junction (yes it’s not safe) and checked the map. Then we didn’t see it coming and a highway police car pulled up in front of us blocking the bike and caught us for riding on the highway and overtook them earlier at more than 200 km/h.
They told us that we shouldn’t be on the highway etc….then they started to take pictures with us like we were the trophy of the day then they obviously didn’t use to that kind of case as they asked us to follow them till the next exit to meet their superior and take a decision about us.
We looked at each other with Benjamin and replied “yes, no problem” with a big smile, we started our engines, let them open the way then….we saw their car becoming smaller and smaller in our rear-view mirrors, and kept a 200 km/h average during one hour and a half, to get out of the province quickly…
Before leaving for this trip I didn’t remember that I had changed a smaller battery in a village near Shanghai and that I should replace it before the trip…that’s why after this ride my battery went flat which resulted in both of us being stuck on the highway emergency lane for more than 4 hours by 39 degrees and without water with trucks passing us closely at maximum speed trying to repair the battery without any success. Probably our punishment for getting on the highway again and escaping.
At 9 pm we started to worry that we will have to spend the night on the highway.
Then help came again from 3 workers from a nearby gas station construction site and we could carry the bikes over the highway fence and reach the next village with Benjamin pushing my bike with his bike. Exhausted, we arrive at a guesthouse and spend the night there, worrying about my battery problem for the day after.
July 20: Tan Zhuang – Huai Nan: 343 Km
We started the day by checking out the first motorbike repair shop, and they immediately brought us to another branch of their garage with big surprise:
In this gravel road and dusty village, we found the cleanest repair shop we ever saw in China, with all-new Suzuki equipment for 125 cc. Big contrast
They found a smaller voltage battery for my KTM, that could probably handle the rest of the trip and we could go 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, (15 days riding) we finally arrived to Shanghai under a heavy rain, welcome back!
Thanks to all the people we met along the road, who helped us always with a smile…