The Alashan on a Chang Jiang 750
I'd been wanting to visit the Alashan since reading an article about it the January 2002 issue of National Geographic: "China's Unknown Gobi: Heart of the Desert."
The magazine had this opening shot, of which I am making a little 'fair use':
And Nat Geo this opening blurb:
"Spring-fed lakes, thousand-foot-high sand dunes, and the ghosts of an ancient walled city lie at the heart of the remote Alashan Plateau."
Sign me up! Easier said than done, but in 2005 I was fortunate to attach myself to a German-Chinese group touring the Alashan.
keep it coming, stop the teasing:clap
The trip was led by Paolo -- a German, notwithstanding the Italian-sounding name. Interesting guy -- he had lived as an expatriate in China for 25 years, working in Chongqing for a major European multinational. For some years, he had been leading motorcycle trips for friends and family into different parts of China. He ended up with a small fleet of Chang Jiangs garaged in Yinchuan, the staging point for trips to the Alashan.
Paolo was on the verge of retirement and was in the process of forming a motorcycle tour company he called Extreme Motorcycle Tours China. I think I was his first real customer.
He was laying plans to ride the Taklamakan in 2006 and I was set to join him. Sadly, Paolo died just months after this trip while en-route to the Alashan a final time.
This should be good!
Going anywhere on a CJ750 is always an adventure!
Keep telling the whole story....whole hog...wanna hear it all as I am a sidecarist myself. Always loved extreme adventures to far lands like China.
So sorry to see Paolo go....
I'd never been to China before so I spent some time in Beijing before meeting up there with Paolo and his group and flying to Yinchuan, the staging point for our ride.
What intrigued me about Yinchuan is that it is a city of 1.65 million population (by the numbers it would be the 5th biggest U.S. city after Houston) but few people in the U.S. or the West would have reason to have ever heard of it. It feels like a wholly Chinese city. I didn't see a single other Westerner outside our own group, from the time I boarded the plane to Yinchuan, until I returned to Beijing.
Paolo's garage in Yinchuan:
The bikes. The silk flags are so the riders can see the other bikes at distance in the desert:
Unlike some other big cities in China, a lot people here still get around by bicycle:
This guy with the corner tire repair service had customers waiting in line:
Orientation ride on the bikes: this is Paolo's son Marco, a medical doctor:
Jens and his gf Diana:
Me on the wide streets. The Chinese certainly think big.
Don't Stop Writin
This looks real gooooooooood ...
For the bike afficionados -- a Chinese military surplus bike. Paolo buys these as well as stock civilkian models, re-paints them and customizes them for the desert.
Modifications as you can see in the pics include a heavy-duty hydraulic brakes on the front wheel, replacing the standard drum brakes; heavy springs on the front forks replacing telescoping shocks; and hubbed wheels replacing spokes wheels on some of the bikes.
The bikes lined up outside Paolo's garage:
We had a couple days to acclimate in Yinchuan. Dinner one evening was at a hot pot restaurant. I don't remember ever seeing a dried noodle here, they always started with fresh dough being thrown:
Breakfast usually was steamed buns or soup of noodles, cubed tofu, some shavings of ham, cilantro and a egg soft boiled in the hot broth; another soup was plain yogurt whisked into hot broth with matchstick pickled vegetables and a dollop of hot chili oil.
Here's the steamed bun station at the hotel in Yinchuan:
Another day trip was to the Helan Mountain range -- the Helan Shan -- that rises to the north of Yinchuan. There are old trails into the mountains with petroglyphs on the rocks.
We had a picnic lunch in the shade along an irrigation channel:
This looks promising!:lurk
To go back topic ... this is really an interesting RR!
Fantastic. More please. :clap
Tell us a bit about the rig...is it equivalent to the URAL. Reliability, durability..ease of repair??
This is good and am subscribed:clap
One last excursion before heading into the Alashan. In the late afternoon on the day before departure we piled into jeeps and vans and drove about an hour I think east of Yinchuan on paved roads, to what I was told was 'Sand Lake.' This was a vast lake in the desert -- quite incongruous and unexpected -- the shores of which were thick with tall reeds. We boarded a motor boat and wended our way around innumerable small islands and clumps of reeds -- it reminded me a little of the upper reaches of the Nile.
It was teeming with fish and there weer vast flocks of migratory birds.
Strange thing is, I have looked for this lake on Google Earth and can't seem to find it. Mystery to me -- maybe it has subsided back into the desert.
We put ashore on a large sandy island where a number of larger vessels had also docked. There was a large restaurant bustling with customers where we were guests of honor at a dinner with Ningxia Province officials.
Paolo told me these meet-and-greets were essential for him to get the permits and passes required for him to travel in these parts of China.
Food included muddy tasting 'Sand Lake fish,' some steamed greens they described as 'wild desert garlic' -- and a heaping platter of dried caviar or roe. Countless toast of Mao Tai until we were glassy eyed.
Following dinner was entertainment; we sat in bleachers on a sandy beach with a couple hundred spectators and watched traditional Chinese dance and music a a stage built on a barge moored offshore. I didn't understand a thing but was dazzled by the virtuosity and athletic, acrobatic ability of the costumed dancers. The pictures didn't come out but this gives you an idea:
What I found delightful was that after the performance, the dancers rushed off the barge and onto the beach and someone set of a big iron brazier of wood -- an elevated bonfire -- and put loud techno music on the speakers -- and the dancers mingled and danced with the audience members. It seemed so youthful and exuberant. Dancing girls and bonfires.
I snapped this pic of one of the girls I was dancing with:
Next morning, all somewhat hung over, we readied to head head out on the bikes, Paolo in the lead:
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