A Bike Ride Through China: Part One

Video of the Mongolia/China slide show Patrick did for a presentation at a Horizon’s Unlimited travelers meeting on his trip around the world:

This post (and it’s follow up) is taken from the chapter on China from the English translation of Fernweh. Patrick and his sister entered China by train, they left his motorcycle in Mongolia as getting a motorcycle into China was a tad difficult. Or as Patrick wrote in his book:

Our original hope was to cross into China with our motorcycles. A little bit of research proved that this was not so easy. We found that there were two possibilities: one illegal and the other legal.

The illegal way has you load the motorcycle on a truck that will bring the bike across the border. You then give the driver an appropriately generous “tip.” You cross the Chinese border by train and then repeat this process when you want to leave China – and hopefully – you find your bike and your self back out again.

This method held little appeal for us. We did not want to have an intimate knowledge of the insides of a Chinese prison. Nor did we relish the idea of arriving only to find our bikes had not. Or that they had but were now under new ownership.

For the legal way, you need to possess a rather large wallet and two “guides” to accompany you so that you do not see anything the Chinese government wishes you not to. We did not have the money and even if we did, we did not want the guides. We decided instead to go by bus and train to China and to leave the bikes in Mongolia.

But Leonie did decide to break away from the group and bought a pedal bike to ride 300 kms from Shanhaiguan through the Chinese countryside and back to Beijing. This is part one of her story!

leonie on her bike about to ride to beijing

A German city girl, relatively fit and gifted with a fertile imagination, coupled with the inability to think things through, had the idea to buy a bike and cycle with it through China. It may not surprise you that person I am referring to is me, Leonie Schweizer. That I’ve actually gone ahead and put the plan into action, may surprise myself more than anyone else.

I bought a bicycle and christened it “Spicy” and then proceeded to cycle it from the coast of China to Beijing. Every mile was hard fought! At first I was pretty bold, so all alone, without a map, without a guide and without a word of Chinese.

I just started to cycle and was already pretty broken after the first few kilometers. In Qinhangdao, the nearest large city, I wanted to buy a ticket to at least know the general direction. But that was harder than I thought. After two hours of searching I gave up, resigned to failure. I found no map. When I asked the way to Beijing the people would arbitrarily point in all four directions. Fortunately, after a while I came to a kind of highway. I followed it to the west.

Wedding cake transport in China

The road led through beautiful avenues of peach orchards and wound its way along cornfields. There was a lot of traffic. Fully laden trucks thundered past me and black, dark-glazed luxury cars left me in clouds of their kicked up dust. The tractor drivers would have liked to have a chat with me, just as the moped drivers would. Unfortunately, most attempts failed due to the insurmountable English-Chinese language barrier.

Struggling alongside my fellow non-motorized sufferers, I decided to pit myself against them in a race. With Spicy, my great bike, I had a technological advantage over most, but my poor physical condition ultimately helped lead the locals to victory. And so it went, in the rain, the sun, the wind, up and down mountains and when I barely had a clue where I was or how quickly (or not) I progressed.

The nights I spent mostly in shelters or with families of truckers. I had a bowl of water to clean myself up and an outhouse in the garden that did not exactly possess the most sanitary of conditions, but I did not care. I just wanted to sleep, sleep, sleep! In the morning the whole village would be waiting for me, they were all anxious to look at me and very much wanted to talk to me or to draw in my journal. A whole book bares witness to the nice people I’ve met!

ebook cover: Fernweh: A trans continental motorcycle adventure Read more about Patrick's first around the world motorcycle adventure in our ebook
Fernweh: A Trans Continental Motorcycle Adventure
by Sherrie McCarthy
Get it for $2.99 USD at your favorite ebook store: Smashwords (all formats), Amazon (Kindle), Apple iTunes, Kobo, Barnes & Nobles (Nook)


About Sherrie

Sherrie was born and raised in Newfoundland, has her home base in Germany, and at any given time can be found just about anywhere in the world. Addicted to books, travel, chocolate and motorcycles, a perfect day for her is riding her bike followed by drinking good coffee and reading a good book or writing one.

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