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Old 12-18-2010, 06:05 PM   #152
Frederic_Shiffer OP
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Joined: Sep 2010
Location: Paris, France.
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Talking Episode 7: China's Very Wild West

Don’t tell my Mom I rode 17,000kms from China to her house in Normandy, France with a stolen Yamaha XT250X prototype crossing the middle east on the way.

Episode 7: China's Very Wild West

Hey sexy boys!

I am currently having some issues with my computer, it is overheating and stopping from time to time, you can imagine how it makes you feel when you are writing an article and it is shutting down brutally.
I now made it sit on ice cubes in their plastic recipient, hoping that it won't let me down again.

Time to take stock of the motorcycle report situation:

I am still in China, just drove out of the high plains of the Qinghai province. I am driving with my Chinese friend Leo on the back of the bike. The bike is Yamaha XT250X that I bought in Qingdao from a small shop, it got imported from Japan (and well... I'll tell you more later).

I have now been on the road in China for one month and a half.

I have been driving with Matt B. on the back of the bike for 2 weeks, then with Max Le Québecois for 1 week and now with my Chinese friend Leo for more than 1 week. The bike has been behaving amazingly.

I have almost no knowledge of mechanic and was trained on-the-job. I learned how to clean the carburetor after watching a Chinese mechanic do it. I was carrying really few tools and was putting chain lubricant only once every week or so.

The trip started the 1st of July 2009 in the Chinese city of Qingdao (the red dot on the map).

Until now the trip has been unreal, I have crossed cities of hundreds of thousand of people which seem totally out of the world, almost no one out of China knows about those cities.

This is incredible how many huge Chinese cities there are. Some of them are only a dot on the map and even the Chinese people of the other provinces don't know about it.

And there you have it: a city of 200,000 people, an other of 400,000 people. In some of these cities, which I can't even remember the name now, I probably was the only person with blue eyes in the whole city.

I was receiving an incredible attention in some of the hotels I was stopping by.

I remember one place where we stopped with Matt. It was an hotel like there are tons in China. Its big, it looks falsely luxurious and its around 10euros a night. Great!
We stopped in one of these place and, as usual, all the staff was giggling because we were foreigners. We had 8 young girls and boys of the staff following us around, giggling, trying to help us clumsily.

Back to the report:

Now we just passed the huge and dirty city of Lanzhou (look, its in the middle of the map of China I posted on the top).

What can I say about Lanzhou?

Wikipedia, tell them!

“In regard to air pollution Lanzhou has some of the worst air quality of all cities in China."
"At one point, a controversial suggestion was put forward to bulldoze a mountain adjacent to the city, in order to let fresh air in to the bowl where Lanzhou is situated." (!!!)

Ok, so we were now getting in the Chinese wild west: dry, desert and the density of population drops dramatically.

Total freedom. On the horizon, a wall appears. It is the Great Wall of China but not the one you know.

It looks like that around Beijing (I took these in January):

It looks like this in the west of China:

I was driving on flat land, very fast with my friend on the back and all the luggage. What was supposed to happen happened, the back wheel couldn't handle a small jump with all the load on it, it punctured and then quickly the tire got totally deformed and burnt the chain protection (you know that plastic thing annoying you when you want to lubricate ;)).

As there was no one around. I drove on the tire while checking from time to time that I was not damaging the wheel itself.

First small city we find, they tell me that they have no tire for me. Yeh... having a supermotard bike is cool but not when you need 130/70 – 17 inches tires.

So then, I drive till the next city at very low speed, while Leo catches a public transport and takes all the luggage to remove the weight.

There I finally found a tire, its larger but well it will do OK!

Now, at that point of the trip, I only knew that I wanted to get in Kazakhstan and had no itinerary planned for the trip. The next stop was the city of Urumqi, the last big Chinese city before hitting the Kazakh border.

Leo and I met a cool Chinese bike who was going to drive a bit with us. This was the occasion for me to do the most stupid stuff I'll probably do on an highway. Let's go:

  • Illegaly riding the highway
  • Driving against traffic
  • Towing an other motorcycle on the highway
  • Making a lunch break on the highway

First, as usual, we sneak in on the highway because it is forbidden to motorcycle in China, so we wait for some trucks, hide behind them and vrooooooum.

Ok now, what happens? The Chinese guy ran out of petrol in the middle of the highway in western China. I also do not have much gas left.
So I ride in direction of the next gas station, knowing that when I reach it, I'll have to come back driving on the same road but on the wrong side...
5kms, nothing
10kms, nothing, no panel, nada,
15kms, no indication, nothing.

Alright, I am going back to see the guy. Driving against traffic. There was not a lot of traffic but well, it was a shit situation.

Then I towed him until we saw some farmers on the side of the road with small motorcycles, we bought them some gas through the wired-fences on the side of the highway and a little bit later, we bought some food.

So to finish all this in style, we ate on the highway.

For the next article, the things are going to get a bit shocking as I was at the wrong place at the wrong time, just after the riots and the Uighur Massacre in Urumqi. Phone lines were cut, internet also and a lot of people died in horrible ways, I'll tell you more later, hope I can shed some light on that as it was barely spoken of in the medias.

Next episode: Urumqi, censorship and horror

Frederic Shiffer.
Writing from Buenos Aires.
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