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Week Three Chapter: 23 May ~ 29 May 2006 - China, Russia

"The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis.' One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger - but recognize the opportunity." - John F. Kennedy (1917 - 1963)

"We must get beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths... and tell the world the glories of our journey." - John Hope Franklin

"I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia." - Woody Allen (1935 - )

Forbidden City, Beijing, China

I don't know about you, but I'm thinking that just maybe, the person who made this work of road signage should have also taken heed of the very warning he was creating . . . .

Starting location for this week: Arong Qi, China
Ending location for this week: Ulan Ude, Russia
Planned mileage for this week: 1,790 kilometers

Every day, a new adventure. The last week in China has not disappointed. Even in the most congested and chaotic of traffic conditions, the now finely-honed riding skills of the group allow the entire convoy to move through the cities with alacrity and majesty. Riding "sweep" in the rear, it's an impressive sight. As we enter an intersection, riders split left and right, sometimes blocking encroaching traffic for others, always dodging pedestrians, bikes, tractors, trucks, the occasional horse-drawn cart, three wheeled bicycles and taxis, looking momentarily like the break on a pool table, magically re-grouping on the far side in perfect staggered formation.

What were once tourists are now travelers. We started out with questions like "Why doesn't the toilet paper tear on the perforations?", and understandable complaints about the lack of hot water in hotels.  Now, the question is "Will there be water?" It's not whining. It's an experienced rider asking about conditions ahead; if there's no water, they know what to do and will plan accordingly. At first, some moaned about the lack of forks.  Now, if forks are on the table, they ask for chopsticks.

Reaching Harbin has always been a seminal point for any World Tour.  It's a big, sprawling city, but it's a very different city. As in year's past, we were met by riders of the Harbin Motorcycle Club.  Outlandishly dressed, demonic drivers on every sort of motorcycle, they dodge and weave through our formation like we weren't even there.  It's a wild ride to our hotel, but it's incredibly exciting to finally meet fellow riders. We make introductions and renew old friendships.  The local media is present. Cameras whirring, microphones arrayed, they present Helge with a welcome bouquet.  The motorcycle group hosts our visit for three days and two nights.  It's a memorable event - ahead lies the frontier.

Heading for Inner Mongolia, we encounter sandstorms, harsh winds, and long, exhausting, unmarked detours due to continuing highway construction.  There are no markers, no flagman, no lane dividers, no pavement.  Instead, the "detour" winds it's way randomly around highway construction camps.  We hit huge ruts, long expanses of coarse and ungraded gravel, sand, potholes, pea gravel, broken rock, and choke-points where buses, trucks and construction equipment play "chicken" for who will get through first.

Tired, sweaty, dirty with grit and sand in every pore, we arrive at our hotel, only to be met by a bevy of smiling beauties in traditional garb. One by one, the riders step forward and are given two ceremonial cups of potent liquor.  An immaculate white scarf is carefully placed around each rider's neck.

And if only cold water awaits to wash away the grime, no one seems to care.

At least there's water.

Siberia lies ahead . . . .

MikeP - Guide/Webmeister

* * * * * * * * * *

The many forms of "Hello" in over 800 languages and other useful words and phrases are courtesy of Jennifer's Language Page.

To find out what time it is there (or anywhere!), visit The World Clock.

To see where they are now, visit the Navigation Technology Chapter.

For more information about the countries in southern Africa that the riders will travel through, please visit the resources listed below:

- The World Factbook, maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States:

- The Consular Information Sheets, provided by the Department of State of the United States:

- The web-based, free-content encyclopedia entries at Wikipedia, maintained by "GlobeWriters" everywhere":

23 MAY 2006 - Yakeshi, China



China’s landmass is less than that of Canada, yet with a population of 1.3 billion it outnumbers Canadians 43 : 1. To control populace a maximum of one child per family is permitted. A “natural” control may have engendered a trend, if persistent, of a 17% male dominancy.

The Chinese are homogeneous with the majority of Han origin. The official language is Mandarin (Cantonese in Hong Kong) with some 40 other minority languages. The majority of the Chinese are atheists with Confucianism (traditional beliefs) and Buddhism as the only significant exceptions.


The majority of the inhabitants live in China’s Eastern regions. The sophistication of the major cities is rather surprising. The initial impression is that of any major city in the world : big, busy and loud. Not until the metropolitan areas recede does the Chinese flavour surface . Agricultural modes are primitive, judged by our standards, but with abundance in labour, mechanization is not only unnecessary but often economically unattainable.

Driving in China is a study in behaviour. The first rule you learn: there are no rules or none to adhere to, surprisingly creating chaotic order. Passing is executed at any time, at any place preferably ignoring oncoming traffic, double yellow lines and with a total disregard for speed limits. All this is acceptable as long as you make your intentions clear with incessant use of your horn.

To add to this chaos, little blue trucks, moving at a snail’s pace, belching out a cloud of black exhaust, ride along in whichever lane they consider convenient. Somehow it all works, but there is no dozing behind the wheel.

Large motorcycles are unavailable in China making our presence of great interest – imagine a group of nineteen rolling into town creating a sight to behold. Our appearance on the front page of a local newspaper attests to this. Celebrity status, however brief, is alluring. Plenty of stares with our western look, relative tallness and balding, greying heads, a rarity here.

I leave you with a cute quote I saw at Chengde’s garden park entrance, pointing out a quirky little habit : “Please no spit and piss at random in the park”


23 MAY 2006 - Yakeshi, China

What an incredible journey the GlobeRiders World Tour 2006 is proving to be, and we’re not even out of China!

It's been over eleven years since my first visit to China and the evident progress is quite amazing…even scary. In ’95 the bicycle was the vehicle of choice for the streets. While they are still in evidence, there has been a great change with the automobile being the predominant choice.

China’s outstanding economic progress is obvious. They are an energetic, hard working, and happy nation. Major construction on buildings and highways goes on 24/7.

China is an economic power that is truly to be reckoned with. They are on the move with a clear focus….to be No. 1 on the world stage. While we in the West are seemingly absorbed with policing the world, they are focused are building their nation towards being No. 1. They are not distracted as we in the US are by the political acrimony and divisiveness so all too evident. While China shows little concern for the environment, our environmental concerns have hindered our own economic growth and expansion. Their decisions are centrally made and carried out in a very expeditive and efficient way.

China is only slightly smaller in size than the U.S. Yet their population is 4 times greater. Their work ethic is higher and more driven than the U.S. Their natural resources are immense. They are busy buying up vast mounts of future iron ore from Brazil and oil from Canada. Their rate of industrial expansion is downright scary. They don’t have to go for a military conquest….they’re accomplishing it economically.

They certainly are to be faulted for their lack of civil and individual rights as well as their lack of concern for the environment, yet the bottom line remains: The U.S. seems to be bogged down in an unfocused effort to remain No. 1, China’s motto seems to be “Charge On!”

(These comments are only personal reflections upon glimpses into a few vignettes of China’s life, culture and their all too obvious progress.)

Thanks again to GlobeRiders for such another great Adventure!!!

{Again: We’re still in China with SO much more to come! Charge on!}

Frank Baughman

China's not the only thing that's changing. For the first time in 35 years, Frank takes the razor and shows the man that lies underneath.

24 MAY 2006 - Manzhouli, China

24 Mei 2006

Aan de thuisblijvers; familie, vrienden en collega’s

Het is tijd om jullie een kleine up-date te geven van deze globeriders motorreis. Ik begin met de laatste dag, niet alleen omdat deze vers in mijn geheugen ligt, maar omdat deze dag tot nu toe de mooiste is. We zitten in “Inner-Mongolia”, het behoort officieel tot China, maar de mensen die daar wonen zijn van het Mongoolse ras. Ik meende gehoord te hebben dat het lang tot Mongolië behoorde, maar dat kan ik niet met zekerheid te zeggen. Het begon al als de eerste frisse morgen en had daarom al een fleece truitje onder mijn jas gedaan. We zitten op ongeveer 1000 mtr hoogte en de hele week staat er al een behoorlijke wind, maar gelukkig is het droog gebleven. Het zou slechts een ritje van 277 km zijn. Na de stad te hebben verlaten, kregen we zoals onze trouwe Chinese gids Sim had voorspeld, een heel slecht stuk. Ze zijn in heel China aan het verbouwen en klaar te maken voor de economische vooruitgang . De bouwactiviteiten zijn gigantisch, het schijnt dat 80% van alle hoogwerkkranen van de wereld in China staan! De wegen blijven niet achter, dus ook deze liggen helemaal overhoop. En zeker het traject van vandaag van Yakeshi City naar Manzhouli! Een lange rit over zand, gravel en laatste restjes asfalt, afzien zal het worden. Het verlaten landschap van deze regio, met grote droge en kale vlaktes maakt het leven voor de bewoners wel bijzonder, wat een tegenstelling tot de steden en de omgeving van de eerste weken. Er is geen boom te zien en de heuvels glooien in elkaar over als de golven die binnen komen rollen op het strand van Bergen aan Zee. Adembenemend mooi, maar ook woest en ontembaar. De lage temperatuur en straffe wind, rond de 7 a 8 Beaufort, gevuld met zand, zou deze rit er niet aangenamer op maken. Ik voelde me op de motor als een van de schaapherders die we af en toe tegen kwamen; eenzaam en overgeleverd aan de elementen. Al te veel tijd van de schone woestenij te genieten had ik niet, de ene kuil of zandbak dook op binnen luttele seconden. Geen tijd om rustig in het zadel te zitten. Opletten voor deze verraderlijke hindernissen was prioriteit. Niet te dicht op je voorganger, want het stof wat hij opwierp verslechterde het zicht enorm. Af en toe in deze “mooie” hel een vrachtauto passeren, waarvan er een, een grote kei op mijn tank liet spatten, maakte het zelfs iets heftiger. De valpartijen waren vandaag dan ook aan de order van de dag, ik heb er zelf een viertal gezien. Gelukkig geen letstels. Mij is het bespaard gebleven, niet vanwege mijn skills maar voornamelijk geluk en veiligheid boven alles te zetten. Alhoewel het was niet toegestaan de voorste rijder in te halen, dus ik moest me wel inhouden ;-) Nee, het was echt op de grens. Na een paar uur rijden zijn we gestopt bij een Yurt kamp. Hier leven een aantal mongolen in (nu van stenen opgebouwd) rond huisje a la de bekende Mongoolse tenten. De ballonnen hebben hier ook hun werk weer gedaan ik, heb het kamp een beetje verfraaid met de Slaets ballonnen. Even tussen door: enkele dagen geleden, was een groep de weg kwijt, toen ze in een dorpje kwamen en allemaal kleine kinderen met ballonnen zagen lopen wisten ze dat ze weer op de goede weg zaten. Ook hier werden we opgewarmd met zang en muziek, want koud was het vandaag. Na een paar uur rijden in dezelfde hel heb ik een lekke achterband gekregen. Ik baalde hier enorm van, maar al gauw was ik met een groep van een stuk of 7 rijders mijn band aan het omleggen. Een prop konden we er niet in krijgen, want we konden het gat niet vinden?! Gelukkig had de volgauto nog van een andere rijder een reserveband in zijn kofferbak liggen. Dus met z’n alle aan het werk. De zandstorm maakte het er niet eenvoudiger op, maar met mijn gereedschap en de geleende electrische pomp (Thanks to Kasper) de reparatie uitvoeren gaf toch wel een goed gevoel. Uiteindelijk hebben we er in totaal 2 uur over gedaan. Veel tijd verspild met het zoeken naar het gat. De groep die doorgereden was wachtte ons op een 15 km op in een echte Yurt tent annex eettent. Zij hebben daar ruim een uur gewacht enerzijds op ons en anderzijds omdat de eigenaar geen eters verwachtte en eerst nog even een geit moest slachten. Dus toen wij arriveerde, was het vlees (met bot en huid) net gaar. Eerst aarzelend, maar uiteindelijk zat iedereen ervan te eten. De laatste kilometers waren over asfalt, in de nog harder waaiende wind waaide het “snot” letterlijk uit mijn neus. In Manzhouli werden we, zoals we al de laatste weken mee gemaakt hadden, door een ieder bewonderend en vooral verbaasd aangekeken. De ontvangst in ons hotel was dan ook weer hartelijk en zelfs een TV ploeg, kwam ons filmen. In Harbin haalde we met onze groep zelfs de voorpagina van de krant. Snel het stof uit mijn baard gewassen, ja want deze begint nu al echt vorm te krijgen, om daarna dit bericht voor jullie te schrijven. Nog 2 dagen in China, overmorgen gaan we de grens met Rusland over.

Aangezien ik vandaag geen tijd heb gehad om foto’s te maken, heb ik verslag met wat foto’s van de afgelopen periode opgefleurd.


[Note: All photographs courtesy of Eef Peerdeman.]

25 MAY 2006 - Manzhouli, China

China Wow!!...What else can I say? We’ve seen and done so many things in the first 15 days in China, people, traffic, temples, rides and food that it's impossible to cover it all in one letter.

We've eaten a ton of awesome Chinese food; so much that most of us are getting pretty good at using our chopsticks. But for sure, we have also all gotten good at riding as a group through the crazy city traffic. At first, traffic in the cities seems like total chaos, but once you’ve experienced it, along with guidance from our Helge and Mike, you learn the Chinese “system”. It is so wild that after driving a motorcycle in China’s cities we all will be much better/safer riders in traffic back home.

Everyday has been an adventure; there is always some highlight some where in the day that makes it a very special one. You never know when and where these special events will take place. You just have to be open, take things as they come, leave your expectation and paradigms at home and let the magic happen.

Sometimes I’ve thought, “. . . well, this will be a straight-forward ride, it’s only a couple of hundred kilometers, what could possibly happen?” Next thing you know, we get lost (or more like off route) and have a great ride through back roads, or along trails through some farmer’s fields. Or like the day we had taken the expressway and get pulled over by 3 police cars that send us off through miles of back roads under construction.

Then the other day we stopped at this hotel that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. It didn’t seem like there would be much to do, what possible adventure could be here? Maybe this will just be a blank kind of day. Well that didn’t last long, for as soon as we were about to park the bikes in the secure parking garage of the hotel, one of my fellow riders pointed to a dirt road and some hills in the distance and suggested we take an extra ride.

By the way, this fellow rider was introduced to me as Joe, “Joe Rocket” that is. Apparently he could ride fast very well. When I first heard him referred to as “Joe Rocket” I looked at him and thought hum?? With that white beard, he looks more like he could be driving a sleigh at Christmas time.

Well as we, “Joe Rocket”, two other riders and I blasted down a rough pot-holed dirt road heading for the distant hills, I start eating dust. I eat “Joe Rocket’s” dust for the next couple of hours, I couldn’t even come close! In fact, he has to stop for me at every fork in the road so I knew where the heck he was!! [Must have been a fast sleigh he trained on] But what a ride! The BMW GS just ate up the bumps and handled the rough terrain just great.

By the time our little group got back from our adventure ride, the other rides were having a great time with the local staff, taking group pictures and printing them on a portable printer that Mike brought along, right at one of the dinner tables. Everyone was enjoying the interaction regardless that we couldn’t speak each other’s language; smiles and laughter filled the restaurant.

China is a lot of things, but one thing that makes China so interesting is the people. Everyone in China has been great to us. From the cities to the small communities, they are very friendly, they help when they can and they try to communicate with us in anyway they can. They are interested in us and what we are doing, where we are from and they enjoy it when they can show or share something of theirs with us. Everywhere you look they are busy working, construction sites, road maintenance, open-air markets, stores big and small - everyone seems to be busy.

Wherever we go we get gawked at, even the people working in the rice fields stop and look at us ride by. Sometimes when we stop, we get quite a crowd of people around, it seems like maybe that they haven’t seen people like us before and most likely have never seen bikes like ours, which they call BMW “Bao Ma”, or “Treasure Horse”. The people of China have really made our experience just great.

We only have a day and bit left in China before going onto Russia, and I am already wanting to come back and experience this land and its people again. If you haven’t been to China, like to travel and can be open-minded and free of expectations, then put China on your list of places to visit.


[Note: All photographs courtesy of Vincent Cummings.]

25 MAY 2006 - Manzhouli, China

I talk a lot about the joys of adventuring by motorbike. It is the perfect way to travel, it's immediate, it's real, it's about "the ride", speed, mobility, power, concentration, technology, pushing the envelope, planning, skill and execution. Best of all, there is a bond amongst riders that crosses cultural, religious, and political boundaries. It's genetic. It's in the blood. If you ride, you are part of a global community.  If you don't, you'll never understand.

Harbin is special. Nowhere since leaving Beijing is the universal brotherhood of riders felt more strongly. As we roll into town, we see a large contingent of the Harbin Motorcycle club clustered at a street corner. We wave as we motor past. Watching my "six", within a few seconds, I see the swarm approaching, wildly dancing through traffic already overwhelmed by our passing. We're surrounded by a mad hoard of riders, weaving, dodging, racing ahead, helmetless, helmeted, wearing expensive leathers or T-shirts and slacks, the melee mixes it up with us as we ride into Harbin.

We park our loaded mounts in a square adjacent to our hotel. A crowd instantly materializes. The group is presented with a bouquet of flowers. A TV crew conducts interviews. A newspaper crew is not far behind. Handshakes and smiles abound.

That evening, we blow off the planned "tour" dinner, and instead, the entire group is invited to the BBQ and Beer restaurant of the club's captain. Pictures of bikes and riders adorn all the walls, some of the members of previous GlobeRiders World Tours.  As the drink and food flow, the now traditional "signing" frenzy begin.  Permanent markers are handed tour, and we're asked to put our signatures on shirts, Dianese and Kushitani leathers, sports coats, helmets, pictures, arms.

From dinner, we move on to a private rider's club, a richly appointed two-story affair, with a full bar, hookahs, neon lights, strobes, a DJ spinning hip-hop and Chinese rap, and motorcycle memorabilia everywhere. After this interlude, the hardiest move onto a disco - a good thing we added an extra recovery day this year!

The next morning, the World Tour and Harbin riders re-group, and an even larger crowd of curious on-lookers materializes.  Word has gotten out that I'm on a sidecar, and a group of local sidecarists show up on their highly-customized rigs. We've made the front page of the city's newspaper. With a thunderous cacophony of raw unmuffled power, the club's "chairman" arrives on his immaculate V-Rod Harley. In addition to being the most outrageous rider in the club, he's also a master calligrapher, and proceeds to adorn our rider's bikes with Chinese characters of their choosing.

The signing formalities completed, we road march the tour, and head out of Harbin, once again surrounded by "the brotherhood". At the outskirts of the city, we wave our good-byes.  It's been a heady and memorable visit.  We promise to meet again in 2008.


World Tour 2006 - Images from China

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