Having finally passed the final barrier, China customs into Shenzhen I got a chance to meet up with the guy who had been helping me out over the last year with my motorcycle plans. Bing had certainly given me a lot of grey hairs during the process but that wasn’t his fault, it is China and I know it far too well. I have never met a person with so much appetite for life, and food, as Bing. Always with a huge smile on his face giving his favourite comment to basically everything ¨I love it!¨. He is like a glass of ice cold sparkling lemon water on a hot and humid summers day. We had a lot of those days. In other words a great guy to have around. I loved it.
Task number one, have my sons motorcycle transported to the forwarding company for shipment to Laos border. We took off, me on the bike and Bing in the car. Once there we handed over the bike to some dudes on the street but it seemed OK. It is like that in China, I have gotten used to it. However, forwarding regulations stipulates that the tank must be empty from fuel and the tank was actually almost full. Only way to get it out was to hose it, meaning suck some of it out through a hose and then let it free flow. Its not very tasty actually so I tried to offer the forwarding guys that if they did it they could have the fuel. They scratched their naked bellies and concluded that they had already had lunch and figured they would get the fuel anyway which of course was right. With the words, I love it, Bing offered himself. Then the guys started building a crate, we got the transportation docs and off we went in Bings car.
Once in the car Bing revealed the big info. He was nervous (don’t think he loved that one actually), there was a problem. I am not allowed to drive the motorcycle in Shenzhen, Dongguan and Guanzhou districts. Somewhat of an issue since we needed to go through all three of them, a drive of approximately 4 hours. We went to a restaurant nearby that I often visit and ordered some lunch. I was hungry, a lot of things had happened that day. It was three o clock in the afternoon and I was starving. So a bit of energy intake and we needed to come up with a plan. After a lot of food and a lot of talks the plan was – Lets make a run for it but improve the odds of not getting caught by the police as much as possible. After some scouting online we found out that the major part of traffic police gets off the shift at 8.30 in the evening so we decided not to leave until after that. Smart huh……….
8.45, we are about to leave from the parking lot, bike has been started up and lights on and immediately the police shows up. Bing had parked his car illegally. Quickly I kill the engine and the lights of the bike hoping they wont see me. Bing got fined and lost points on his license (he definitely didn’t love that) but they didn’t see me. That was a close call and the bike hadn’t even gotten out of the parking lot yet. Did I start sweating? Nah, a dash of perspiration maybe, well a big dash actually. Ten minutes and lots of heavy breathing in a paper bag later we took off. Even though it was quite late traffic was heavy, as it always is in this region but it went not too bad except when I was almost out of Shenzhen and I saw a couple of police cars having pulled over another motorcycle driver. They saw me too and one started to follow. I tried my best to get ahead in traffic and hide in front of bigger vehicles and Bing did his best to slow traffic down by driving slower in his lane. Eventually they got tired of the pursuit and let us go. Actually I think we reached Dongguan city limits and they were not interested in following there. The remaining part of the trip was rather uneventful and we eventually reached Foshan outer permiter where bikes are actually allowed and I could breathe like a normal person again. Somtime around 01.30 we reached our destination and it was the end of the first day.
Goal is Guiping and it was a long beautiful ride along the river. I could finally start enjoying my time on the bike. First day was simply too much of everything. This was also the day when I started on my new eating regiment, breakfast a protein bar and lunch Oreo cookies. This became my everyday diet. Not the best but it did save a lot of time during lunch and breakfast, yeah well, Chinese hotels outside the bigger cities actually very often don’t serve breakfast and if they do its, fish. I must admit, I cant do fish for breakfast. Protein bars for the win.
Long ride considering the not so smooth Chinese roads. Please bare in mind that bikes are not allowed on the highways in China and I was not going to get chased by police again, I was going to be a good law abiding citizen, or so I thought. Anyhow, this day we actually stopped for lunch, I had to, Oreo cookies can only do so much and I had 460 km of bad roads to travel meaning 12 hours in the saddle. We found a small roadside restaurant and had a gigantic tray of fried rice, enough energy to get me all the way to Sweden. The restaurant was ran by a very sweet lady who I of course could not talk to but who cares, we managed anyway.
A few hours later it started raining heavily, I could not see a thing so I had to stop and a break was needed anyway. I found a small convenience store that sold drinks, chips, ice cream and laundry detergent. I seeked refuge in there. Once inside I found an older lady, her daughter and her grandson. The daughter was working inside the shop, doing the stitches of baseballs. Technology have come a long ways but to sow the stitches on baseballs is not doable yet, it requires manpower. I started talking to them and she said it took about 30 minutes to stitch one baseball up. For this she got paid 1 yuen per ball (there are about 8 yuen in one Euro). Dear readers, is that OK? Is that really reasonable? But then you say, well in China she can buy much more for that amount of money. Hell no, she cant buy diddely squat for that. She makes 10 balls a day and get 10 yuen. As far as I am concerned that sucks. She should get paid much more and the consumers of baseballs should appreciate the craftsmanship and be prepared to pay a reasonable amount of money. Now, lets get things straight, I am not a socialist, I am all for a market economy, but that requires two or more, somewhat equal in strength parties, engaging in a business deal. This was nowhere near that. This was all about using people for unreasonable money. When one party is really weak and have no choice, market economy doesn’t work because the stronger party will utilise the other partys weakness as much as possible.
Sorry, I lost track there for a moment, the rain eventually stopped and I needed to get back on the road and so, late but in one piece, the goal for the day was reached, the town of Baisse. Now, for those of you who are not used to travel around with a motorcycle I can only say that the feeling you have in your body when you reach your destination is very similar to a day out sailing or hiking or 36 holes on the golf course or whatever, a kingdom for a shower, a meal, a beer (well actually the beer before the meal) and then pass out inbetween some clean sheets. I did just that.
The goal was Yanshan. A town roughly 320 km away, should be a pretty soft day of riding compared to previous days but it didn’t really work out that way. After 40km that took me 3.5 hours on a road which was so bad that if I ever wanted to invent the worlds most useless road, I would send my research and development team to study that particular road. The road was so hard and bumpy from broken pieces of tarmac that I constantly had to swallow my kidneys and liver down. They wanted to get out of town. On top of that, once I got the info that this Olympic quality crap road is soon to be over it all came to a giant stop. The road had suddenly turned into a giant lake. Now I am not really too afraid of trying some water out with my bike but this was different. At the edge of this newly developed lake was two brothers, two Chinese guys who also were out on their adventure bikes but aiming for Lhasa in Tibet. Well, not on this road they wont. They had already tried the depth and said we need a James Bond kind of bike to cross this one. Solution, go all the way back, another 4 hours, on that thing they called a road. Well it turned out there was another solution, there was a way for a motorbike to sneak onto the highway. Brilliant idea except, yes, bikes are not allowed onto the highway and secondly we didn’t know where that place was. The locals knew, but they wanted some, lets say consultancy fee, to point us in the right direction.
Well I decided to join forces with the Chinese guys, one whom I cant remember the name of and the other whose name I will never forget. He presented himself as, Nice to meet you, I am Superman. Yes, nice to meet you to, I am Green Lantern. Apparently his real Chinese name translated to Superman, so the guy was actually ligit. Who am I to make fun of his name huh. On our way back we bumped into a local who was willing to assist with some directions free of charge and after some really nice dirt trails around the mountain we finally hit the highway. Yes, we were free, the bikes were doing 110km, not super speed but compared to what we had been driving it was lightning fast. The three of us joined forces and things were looking up. I remember I thought we might make it to Yanshan after all. He He, suddenly I see one of these welcome to signs. Every city in the world have it nowadays from Sweden to well yes China. This particular one read, Welcome to Baisse! Ohhhh noooooooo, we had gone in the wrong direction on the highway. If Superman ever was a Superman his superpower was not sense of direction, that much is for sure. Having realised their mistake they immediately felt really bad and insisted on buying me lunch. I didn’t mind, I was hungry. Another plate of fried rice. Dessert, two Oreo cookies. What do we do now? Where I needed to go the only approved road for motorcycles was flooded. Hmmmmmmmm. We agreed that the only solution was to run through the payment checkpoint to the highway when a car passes the gates and just go. Why do I end up in these situations all the time? I was going to be a law abiding citizen. I wanted to be a law abiding citizen. But it wasn’t possible. Oh well at least I was fed so if I ended up in jail I would at least not starve for another day, so lets go for it. I positioned myself in the middle thinking that the first guy can see if it works and the last guy is the guy getting caught. We went straight through 4 paytolls like that. Now that’s adventure motorcycling! Once the highway ended we needed to stop anyway because the sky had just decided to drop all the worlds available rain reservoirs straight on our heads. We found some cover and waited. After a short while when it had cleared a bit Superman, who was the only one speaking English, declared that they were tired, they could not go any further today. I said, as far as I am concerned I have a destination, a goal and that’s where I will go. I told them they were weak and that I would text them once I reached Yanshan. Boy that was tough, I really had to push myself. But I got there. Tired, in desperate need of a shower, a beer, a meal and A bed…
Next stop Kaiyuen. Honestly the motorcycle riding in the Yunnan province should be on the list of the most beautiful places to visit in the world. To describe a landscape is very difficult, especially in a language I really don’t feel comfortable writing blogs in so pardon me for that but if I should in any way try to describe it it is like riding in the alps with the exception that all the mountains are completely covered in green vegetation, bamboo, palm trees etc etc. Its also 95 per cent humid and 34 degrees but sitting on the bike riding its not a problem that is until you stop. With the goal to hit the Yangshang terrace rice fields (on Unescos world heritage list) the day after I started my altitude climb up to 1.800 meters.
In the evening I went to a small Chinese BBQ place. There are plenty of those where you go and look in their fridges and pick something you can identify its origin of and have them put it on the grill on the street. Darn good I must say. I chose this particular place because the owner spoke a bit of English. He accompanied me during my dinner and at one point I asked him, since he took a lot of pictures of me if he maybe wasn’t used to foreigners in town. He responded that sure he was, three years ago there was two guys from Africa visiting.
Finally at the rice fields and was it worth the trip. Was that worth the trip??? Holymoly, it was an absolutely fantastic experience. This was so important to me for many reasons but maybe foremost since my wife and daughter are Chinese (well my daughters half but you can figure that out) and I have travelled the big cities and the industrial areas in south China for many years now and I don’t like it. It is ugly and bad. I think I needed something really beautiful from China that I could relate to my wife and daughter and I got it, plentyfull to be honest. I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the Yunnan province and motorcycles roads that would all fit on the top ten list.
The evening I spent getting a footmassage with cupping. I have had a lot of foot massages but never with cupping before. Im not going to tell you what is so if you don’t know, look it up. It was really cool!
Mongla is the goal now. Not far from the Laos border. This is where I will pick my other bike up from the forwarding company, if that has worked out…… and I will also get a riding buddy driving the other bike to Luang Prabang in Laos. It’s a smooth ride to Mongla, not too far and good roads. I arrive around 13.00 and go straight to the forwarders warehouse. Sometimes the Gods are with you because my other bike arrived 30 minutes earlier and so did my riding buddy. Piew, was the word. It seemed to work out. We got the bike out the crate and it looked whole and healthy. I started it up and my riding buddy gave it a test ride. He didn’t speak any English at all, well except he could say BMW 1200 GS. I guess that qualified him for the mission. Well, me and Lee, we managed to communicate somehow and found an hotel and a meal. Through google translate I found out that this was the first time he was outside of China. This was huge for him. Ride bikes he could but travel, maybe not. Oh well, I thought he was a cool dude and figured things would be allright. Actually they almost weren’t.
Only 50 km to the Laos border. Plan was to pass quickly and get ourselves to Luang Prabang that very same day. I had my eyes set on a nice hotel and some western food. That is except bloody Oreo cookies.
Getting out of China was actually quite smooth and having heard that Laos border is very easy I thought this was going to be a piece of cake. No it wasn’t.