How Far Have They Got?
Many thanks to those that have donated.
Week 12 Summary: Around 1/3 of the World in 80 Days
This week: 550 miles, 11,268ft climbing and 41:26 hours riding
Accumulated totals: 6500 miles, 136,841ft climbing and 508:41 hours riding
Day 80: Sunday September 1st: Gridlock in Mangai
A short ride was planned for today with a quick 40 miles to the City of Mangnai. We had breakfast in the cafe adjacent to the hotel (the same family run the place) good job as we had not paid for one of the dishes we had last night. It was all taken in good spirits.
We packed the bikes up ready to go; it was good not having to pack all the extra water and we had finally finished the cream soda. Our bikes felt pretty light and we were on the road for about 08:30. No-one was rushing this morning. With the road predominately downhill the ride was a bit of a breeze really, athough there was quite a few trucks on the road with very little room to manoeuvre out of the way.
We followed a new railway line most of the way and passed a few oil wells; this area is definitely being developed.
As we approached Mangai we went through a police check but it was nothing like the previous state. But they still made us wait there for 10 mins. Soon we are on our way again. We decided to stop at the first café with WIFI but for some reason all our phones cannot get the a signal. Either we have been had by the Chinese girl who set our phones up for September or we need to activate a message we have all been sent; probably the latter.
We had lunch in the little café and had a nice meal again and company with the owners.
Mangai is just a concreate mass of building; all new set up in a grid without much character. We managed to find a hotel that takes tourists after the third attempt. It wasn’t much of a hotel either but it is far better than camping.
The plan was to have a shower, do some washing then go and have a look for some spare inner tubes and possible a tyre. Then sort are next routes out. We may have a little plan,that entails a few more miles but has more going on between the villages, towns etc.
Day 81: Monday September 2nd: The Bear is Kidnapped
Bear or no bear!
With no breakfast in the hotel we had breakfast in the room, packed up and carried the bags down to the hotel foyer where the bikes were stored. Disaster then struck; Keith’s bear was gone. It had been on his bike since early May when we first got the touring bikes.
Keith was inconsolable and Linney tried to comfort him but got the cold shoulder. We gave the hotel manager both barrels. I thought he looked a little confused with the phone translation. Anyway the bears are gone. Long live the bear!
I have no doubt the British Consultant has been informed. I just hope that the incident does not get blown out of all proportion and causes a diplomatic incident and stop all the Sino-British trade deals.
Day 82: Tuesday September 3rd: Endless Pot Noodles
As we set up camp last night the wind got really strong. And it was in the the wrong direction. We all looked at each other over our steaming coffees and cakes (we could not take another pot noodle) with apprehension. Nothing can can wrong; surely it will all die down in the morning
We woke up to a beautiful sunrise coming over the desert, though it was quite cold, but the good news, virtually no wind! We had breakfast cereal and coffee – we ate all the cakes last night.
We set off around 08:30 and with the roads having less and less traffic on it was good riding. We could go three abreast down good roads with a slight tail wind. However we knew we had a long road ahead with virtually no signs of anywhere to get supplies.
At a really good pace we came across a tourist information office; toilets, map of the area, but sadly no supplies. A kind tourist gave us three cans of red bull! Off we went again. When we came to a workers compound they waved us in though the foreman seemed a bit grumpy. We managed to get some hot water from them for our pot noodles and coffee. One of the workers took a shine to Linney and kept having his photo taken with him. He left Keith & I alone to slurp on our pot noodles.
The roads were still really good with next to no traffic and with us making good progress after about 70 miles Linney spots a garage (from about 5 miles away). We put a little spurt on and sure enough it’s a garage and it was open. That was the good news; the only thing on the shelf was one soft drink, eight bottles of water and half a dozen pot noddles! So we had three pot noodles again, all the water and the soft drink and sat outside in the shade and enjoyed our pot noodles and coffee again.
As we had done nearly 70 miles already we rode off pretty relaxed. We did hit a bit of unpaved road but that only lasted less than 1/2mile. Before we knew it we came across another tourist sign! The first to mention Shanghai: 2000 miles away (3100km on the sign). This gave us a bit of a boost. Linney checked his maps and said there was a small hamlet about 18 miles away. As the time was only just gone 4 o’clock we said go for it. It would make a total of about 110 miles for the day,
So on we pressed, finally came to the lake. It did have flocks of birds on it but it looked really salty, with the road running between two lakes, which join up in the winter, the road was pretty rough in places, but not too bad.
As we approached the hamlet which was dominated by a lithium battery factory. We pulled over and the first place we saw was a hotel/hostel with a restaurant next door. Happy days with 111 miles in the bag (all done on two pot noodles and a bowl of cereal), it was great o have a meal and a few cold beers. They needed to move some meat out of the freezer for the beers!
Day 83: Wednesday September 4th: No Change
We had a nice meal in the café next door to the hotel/hostel but when it came to paying for the meal and the hostel rooms we realised that we did have much cash! School boy error again. We paid for the meal and room and then counted out what we had left; around 200 yen, (£20). We dug out some Sterling, Euros and Dollars and then went to see the guy again. He preferred the Euros so we changed 70 Euros and that will have to last until we reach the next bank (ATM) about 200miles away with two nights camping.
We had to wait for the café next door to open for breakfast but it was worth the wait; noodles tomatoes and scrambled egg all in the same bowl. Hence we did not get going until just after 9.
We had only gone 20 miles down the road when Keith had a blow out in his front tyre. The tyre came straight off the rim (he did put some air in the tyre before we left, possibly to much). He changed the inner tube and set off again. Linney then said his bike was not balance correctly as we were all carrying at least 8 Litres of water as well as extra food.
He stopped and re-balanced his bags; it was just one of those days we could not seem to get going.
However we soon got going riding three abreast on quiet roads. With the lake on one side and the dunes on the other it was very pleasant. Then we came across some sort of resort. It was down a private road and we were in two minds whether to go down there or not. We decided on the latter.
There was a little hamlet showing on the map at about 45 miles so we rode on to there. Maybe we could get a meal or hot water for the pot noodles. It was better than thatas the place had a shop and a restaurant. It seemed like a posh workers complex for the new factory. So had another big fill; so much better than the pot noodles and had time for a good rest.
We had plenty of time, so just rolled on through the desert. The car drivers are getting a lot more courteous; waving , beeping their horns, and generally being very nice, even stopping for photo shoots and giving us bottles of water, cans of red bull (ice cold) and ice cold coffee. All received with thanks. We pushed on with a plan to make around 70 odd miles to day and with the same planned for the next day and then a relatively easy day to the town.
With nothing around we just kept going, Keith out in front, with Linney taking pictures of the dead straight road, just rising up and up until Keith pulled over with a flat rear tyre. That made our minds up; fix the flat and then find a suitable camping spot off the road.
Our first place was not good so we moved and then found a nice sandy spot in a hollow. I am undecided on whether to sleep under the stars and will wait till the sun goes down and see how cold it is.
Day 84: Thursday September 5th: Goats and Hares
I decided to sleep under the stars again and found a really nice spot in the sand. I had a good nights sleep though it was very cold in the morning. Keith had a bit of a bad start to the day as I noticed his back tyre was flat. Then while taking off his rear pannier he snapped the clip. With good inner tubes in short supply I mended two while Keith sorted out the pannier clip and with the gas running out on the camping stove we changed fuel to mentholated spirits. Not a good start to the day.
Still, we were on the road for 08:30. The road started with a gentle climb, then got steeper as the day went on. What we did not account for was the head wind. It was very strong making the climbing difficult to say the least. With nothing on the road, except for a possible place at a junction with another road just before a big salt lake at around 45 miles. We planned to stop for lunch there.
We just rode on passing a few Chinese tourist waving at us and taking weird pictures; laying on the road jumping around all a bit strange. Just before the planned lunch stop my back pannier snapped causing both bags to fall behind the bike, acting as a brake. Luckily I had just levelled out after a short decent and managed to keep the bike upright.
The stays holding the pannier bracket to the bike frame behind the seat post had failed. I fixed two jubilee clips around the bracket and onto the pannier frame and it was all sorted. Keith rode back down the hill and said why stop at the bottom but then realised it was a mechanical.
It was only a few miles to the intended lunch stop but unfortunately there was nothing at the junction except a workers compound. We tried our luck again and with a wave they invited us in past two barking dogs and into their canteen room. We were offerred not only pot noodles but left over rice and a cucumber chilli thing. It was the best pot noodle ever – even better than the baked bean version and with a cup of coffee to go with it was an excellent lunch, matched only by their hospitality. We filled our water bottles up and set off again.
With the head-wind easing off slightly we made pretty decent time. As we came across another intersection Linney got excited as he could see a garage up ahead; about 8 miles away – all up!
We finally managed to reach the service station though we did not hold out much luck. But this one was ok and we had coffee, cold drinks and rested up. The next challenge was ‘will they let us onto the toll road?’ No problem, we sailed through until 6 miles further on another decision; we have been so used to just following the same road for miles after miles. Do we bear off this road onto a minor road or stay on the toll road.
As we had already done 70 odd miles we decided to stay on the toll road and look for a suitable place to camp. It was pleasant riding up through the grass mountains and we even spotted some wildlife; wild goats, hares and birds of prey.
Eventually we settled for a camping spot though it took a bit of manoeuvering to get the bikes around the fencing and away from the road.
Day 85: Friday September 6th: No Foreigners
As we went to bed last night it threatened to rain so we checked all the bags and made sure everything was water-tight. We had a few drops before we got into the tent but luckily nothing in the night.
We woke to a dull cold morning but no rain. We breakfasted with a quick bowl of porridge and coffee and then were on the bikes for 8 knowing the first 8 miles was uphill. Then it was a nice descent into a small town for lunch, then another 30 odd miles of steady climbing, ending the day in a hotel. Nothing could go wrong.
The first climb was fine and with fresh legs we soon hit the summit. Then we had the nice feeling of a 30 mile descent. It was really good. Linney did get a puncture about 7 miles away from the lunch stop but it was all sorted no problem. We rolled into a tourist stop. First some Taiwan ladies stopped us as we ordered lunch. We had a quick photo shoot with them. After lunch it all got a bit chaotic as a bus load of tourist from Shanghai turned up. It was one picture after another, though we did manage to get a contact number for an English speaking guy in Shanghai. Finally we managed to prise ourselves away from the tourist and get going again.
With around 34 miles to Delingha and plenty of time we just rode easy, taking in the different scenery. Eventually we turned off the road up to Delingha through a tree lined avenue flanked by industrial plants and new housing development. It all looked really new and a bit strange but very nice.
We cycled into the centre of the city and tried the first hotel; no luck not for “foreigners”. Then we tried a few more – all were the same. We had something to eat, then tried one more place. We seemed to be getting somewhere; the receptionist took our passports and then said she would need to phone the police to check. When the Policeman came he just said no tourists allowed in this area. We will need to move on,. He just wanted us out of the City. All a bit strange, I think they where processing uranium there or something similar.
Well that just meant another nights camping. Happy days. We followed the river out of the city looking for a suitable camping spot. Keith found a great spot in the woods by the river until the irrigation system started and soaked him, we did not camp there.
We ended up camping on a building plot out of the city. It looked like they were building another reprocessing plant but luckily enough it was deserted when we turned up. We were very tired and a little frustrated but nothing that a packet of monkey nuts and a jar of coffee can fix.
Day 86: Saturday September 7th: What a Shower
We were not expecting to camp last night and it was no joy to wake up on the building plot we finally found last night. Though to be honest we all had a good nights sleep. Be it in a tent not a hotel room. We only had a make-shift breakfast; tinned porridge (more like bean soup) coffee, snickers bar and some cakes.
We were on the road just before 08:00 with another day of climbing into the head-wind. We soon got into the rhythm and just rode the steady climb knowing we did not have a place to eat until around the 50 mile mark though we had snacks with us and plenty of water.
The vegetation is changing and we are seeing more established trees now. The grass is getting greener and their are signs of wildlife, making the scenery so much better.
Linney did see a camel today but the poor thing had been injured on the road. How Keith & I missed it nobody knows as that was just before a break. Keith pulled over to set up his solar charger and Linney and I pulled in behind him. The next thing a Chinese tourist car pulled over for the normal photo shoot but with the added bonus of giving us water, bread and apples, which were all gratefully received. Linney broke out our jar of jam (think we have had it since Russia) though it was really nice on the bread.
They left with a wave and a smile. Then two Chinese cyclists turned up; one on a road bike with wide tyres, the other on a Cannodale Leftie. We had the photo-shoot with them with a few high fives and that, and after that we all set off together, they pulled a little ahead, but did not get away. I think they were surprised we kept up with them. That’s what 85 days of cycling does. Eventually they pulled over after about 4 miles up hill to pick some wild berries. We waved and carried on.
A few miles further on we got stopped by the highway maintenance team. I think they were saying we should have hi-vis on, but we just smiled and kept saying no Chinese. With google translate I said we would buy some at the next town and that seemed to appease them, so they let us on our way.
By this time the road was quite stunning as it cut through the mountains with the railway following the same path. We stopped for a few pictures when the road crossed the rail line.
Still going uphill we pushed on to the little town of Keke, with the promise of a restaurant or cafe. As we rode through the small town/village there did not seem to be anywhere to eat. Linney was riding up and down the street in hope. Keith went into a building that looked a bit like a hotel. As he came out, I was speaking to a guy from there and he said we could eat inside. I think it was another Asylum or something similar (another theme going on here), but least we eat; ba ig bowl of egg rice each and bowl of soup. Athough the place was a bit creepy, we said our thanks and got out before they could keep us longer. We then had an ice cream and soft drink down the road.
As we were only 14 miles from Ulan, with the great possibility of a hotel we all got a bit excited and pushed on with a stomach full of food. As we got closer to the town we rode through an avenue of trees with the mountains in the background and the smell of honeysuckle; it was very reminiscent of riding in France.
With Linney map reading to the first hotel we came to a hotel. It looked a bit posh but with six days camping in the last week … lets live it up! If they let us in! Linney went in first followed by Keith. I was tasked with looking after the bikes, or I looked so scruffy they needed to keep me away. Good news – Keith came out and asked for my passport (always a good sign). We are in; result!
It felt so so good having a shave and a shower and we felt brand new again. It has been a tough week with long climbs, head-winds and camping most of the time. But we all pulled through.
[Pictures from the week: Ed]
Everyday and ALL the Details
Overland To India
See how Ben and Jess are getting on as they take a more southern route across Asia to India. You can catch up with them here. An excerpt is below.
They are now in Uzbekistan.