It is Sept 10 and we have 4 days to be at the Chinese border. There are 2 choices 522 km on a track north east to the nearest pavement at Shainsand which will be sandy and washboard when not and still 215 km from the border. This could take 3-4 days. The other option is 1010 km on the paved road north then south. Orvar is still not well either. We all opted for the easy route as no one wants to risk the time line for China. This means we have a day here and the guys decided to go out and do the loop thru Dungany Canyon again.
Today is a warm sunny day for making miles! We headed out just after 930, gassed up, and aired up the tires. Then it was 300 km north to Mandalgovi and with a very flat boring view.
We saw a lot of camels along the way.
Speed control Mongolian style.
We stopped here to cook up some lunch and then rode another 230 km to Zuunmod, which is where the UB bypass road cuts over to the south bound road. It is then 25 km across. The only issue was the train crossing was blocked off just before the south road and there were dozens of trucks waiting. They had a detour on the dirt along the train tracks back 5 km to the next under pass and then another 2 across to the highway.
We arrived back at the highway at 415 and we had 185 km south to the next town of Choir. Sunset was at 710 so we had to press.
There are a few “hotels” here on the GPS, but several do not exist, one looks like a by the hour place, and one though 2.50$ a person is just too dirty. Riding around in circles in a shitty town after a very long day in failing light sucks!
Finally we headed in the dusk to the other side of town and found an actual hotel. It is clean, but there is no hot water. There is however a very good restaurant about 5 min walk away just on the highway.
We had not a bad night in the end despite the questionable comfort of the beds. It was cold and we snugged under 2 duvets. We had bought some fruit, yogurt, and musli for breakfast and and ate in the room. We had only 227 km to go today to Sainshand, which is the capital of the region and a fairly large town.
We knew there was at least one decent hotel with hot water according to the internet. This town puts us within striking distance of the Chinese border for day after with only 215 km to go. The road is straight and the scenery unchanging flat desert.
Arriving to the town we can spot the hotel as it is on the hill above everything else. It is full of Taiwanese tourists. They do not serve food from 2-4 and so we walked into the town to the other hotel we had considered and we had a very good meal there. There is quite a monument on the hill across from the hotel.
We will stay here tonight and then be in Zamin-Uud tomorrow. The plan is to be at the Mongolian border post at 8 am. We hope this gets us to the Chinese side by 9. Here we will meet our guide Tony, driver Mr Tang, and “the fixer” they have hired thru the customs broker to smooth the process of getting the bikes into the country. We were told we may have a medical check up for our Chinese drivers licenses, and we are not sure how long all the other bureaucracy will take. We spoke on Skype to Jah from Ride China today and he personally dropped all our paper work off at the border last week. Tonight we have some cold beers and a few episodes of Fargo session 3! Thanks to Trevor our media director.
There was howling wind most of the night, but it was fairly calm in the Morning. The Mongolian hotel breakfasts are always a challenge. Getting coffee can be impossible and today we had to bring our own Nescafe. The eggs if you are lucky are warm, but the weird hot dogs they serve never are. There is also often a side salad, which is not really a breakfast food to us. We are slow to get out today since we only had the 215 km to go.
The wind is a bit gusty, but mostly behind us. The terrain is again desert, but with a few more low hills curves at the end of the day.
We arrived to Zamiin-Uud and about 7 km before the town the road is diverted to a deepish sand road for about a km before it turns back into a 4 lane paved road. The hotel choices in this town are all pretty bad. The town itself is a dump. We finally decided on an hotel “on” the train platform for the reasonable price and an available second floor room. Several placed were floor 5 & 6 and stairs only. Since the GPS did not show a road to the hotel we had a “nontraditional access” as Dan said…thru the parking lot, across the pedestrian plaza, and down the train platform to the front of the hotel. We then rode down the side of the building on the foot path to find a parking lot and a maze of sand back streets could lead us out at least to the main street.
The trains were incredibly noisy and they almost continuously blared their horns. It did stop for a few hours in the middle of the night and so we did get a bit of sleep. All the hotels in this town only have hot water after 8 pm??
We were up and out by 730 for the 3 km ride to the border. We had gone about 5 blocks and found the road blocked with metal gates from all possible directions and manned by the army. None of this was here yesterday when we rode thru except the line of jeeps.
There was a line of jeeps that we had seen last night at least a km long. These are the transport vehicles for all the Mongolian passengers from the UB train. You can not walk or take public transport across the border. You must hire one of these guys to drive you to the Chinese side. Here they load up on supplies and then bring this stuff back. We talked to the guard and they said the gate opened at 8. They initially wanted us to back track thru the town and around to the other road to our right. After some cajoling they finally agreed to let us thru just after 8.
Next you show your passport at the gate to the guard for exit to no mans land.
Then you ride 2 km to the actual border zone.
We passed the first building, which seems to be a new border control hut under construction and then thru the X-ray scanners.
From here you ride 300 m and head to the small booth on the left that all the truck drivers are running over to. Here you hand in your slip of paper you got when entering the country with the 3 entry custom stamps and show your passport. After this the agent gives you one stamp.
Then the Quarantine guard will then walk over to you and he gave us a stamp with out even looking at any of our luggage. Next you pull ahead 100 m to park under the covered customs area. Here an officer took our TVIP paper inside and when he came out he said you can go and walked away. The next guard came up to us and said we needed to go to a second booth just ahead on the left. Here a very nice lady who spoke English said we needed to show the TVIP. She marched out and tracked the other guy down to get the papers. Here she did the cancellation of the TVIP, checked our passport and moto registration. She then stamped the passport with the exit stamps and the last stamp for the paper exit slip. Fastest border in a long time 33 min!
Next you show your passport at the gate to the guard for exit to no mans land.
Then you ride 3 km to the actual border area and there is even a stop light part way.
We were waved around the car wash of toxic spray and spuge wash pit.
In 200 m you arrive to the gate to China’s border zone control area. The guards checked our visas and told us to wait as some one would come. They also asked Orvar “What is a Sweden?”. They get very few bikes coming thru this border as most foreigners transit in the south west of China.
An hour later we were still waiting and we got out our chairs and a snack. There is a ton of action with vehicles coming and going. Many of the jeeps had “too many” people in them and the guards would make them get out and wait for another jeep or private car to get into to cross the border.
Killing time at the border.
At the 2 hour mark we were getting pretty anxious. Finally the guards came out to talk to us. They stopped a car headed to China with a Mongolian guy in it who spoke English and who asked us for the phone number of our guide. He then stopped a Chinese driver headed north and asked him to use his Chinese cell to make the call. That started the ball rolling and a few minutes later we could see Toni waving from the immigration hall 200 m away and then the guards let us thru.
We parked at the immigration hall and we met the guide Toni, the driver Mr. Tang, the local customs agent/fixer, and the senior police officer who probably was “paid” to streamline the procedure for us. The officer directed us into the immigration hall, asked us to fill out the tourist info cards, and then ushered us to an open agent for our entry stamp.
Then we went back out to the bikes and were told to follow the policeman to the quarantine area about 200 m away around the right side of the immigration hall. We arrived and parked. We did not even have enough time to get off the bikes before the senior officer had talked to the quarantine officer and he said “ you are done with quarantine”.
Next you ride 100 m to the customs inspection. The officer asked Dan what he had in his luggage..clothes, tools, computer, parts…After this there was a discussion between the guide, the policeman, and the customs officer. Our guide said to us “do you all guarantee that there is nothing bad in your luggage?” Like drugs, weapons, or meat. We said YES. Then they did not search anything at all. You then pull ahead 100 m and park under the cover. The customs fixer than steps in and get the process started to import the bikes. He was back in 10 min and we were told to ride around and park by the rainbow! Here we unloaded all the personal gear that was not in the panniers and put it in the driver’s van. The bikes will stay parked here until they clear customs today or tomorrow. All our paper work was submitted 3 days ago, but it is now after 12 on a Friday. The customs office is not technically open on Saturday, but they are making an exception. So we “ may “ get them tomorrow.
We then all hoped in the van for a 20 min ride to the hotel. We got cleaned up and went for lunch in the place closest to the hotel. There is quite an assortment of items for sale in our hotel room.
We had a delicious Bbq chicken rice bowls. Finally delicious food with flavor and spice. Well flavor that’s NOT GOAT! We have all obtained VPN’s so we can access simple things like google and gmail. We had a team meeting over dinner and some excellent Chinese food ordered by our foody driver Mr. Tang.
It is amazingly quiet in this town and most of the vehicles are electric. There is little “traffic” and the drivers are orderly. We went out for a walk to the main square where they were groups of people dancing and lots of families out strolling.
We had a very quiet night with our room on the inner courtyard. We had our first “Chinese” breakfast, which for us is a weird combination of steamed buns, pickled vegetables, and boiled eggs. No coffee of course. They only drink hot water in the north of China. Not even Tea is served here.
We had some time to kill as we had not heard from the customs agent and we went over to China mobile to get some SIM cards. It is really only useful for texting for us as North American phones support only E and you can barely open Wikipedia with that. To get a SIM card in China you must register your passport!
Our luck today was at a place that served fresh beef noodle soup. We westerners managed to eat all the garnish before the soup came and had to ask for more! There are rules here. You do not start eating until they have put 4 dishes on the table. We have a lot to learn.
There was a shop opening across the street and at an auspicious hour they let off a bucket load of fireworks. Then it was back to the hotel to check out before 2 in the hopes that we will get the bikes today. We sat about the lobby and at 230 we got the call the bikes are almost done.
At 3 they called back to say we could come and get them so we loaded into the van and headed to the secure border zone. At first the guards did not want to let us in, but after passport checks, some phone calls and discussion they said we could go as long as the same number of people left with us. It was awesome the customs broker agreed to work on Saturday for us. We drove in and got the bikes and Toni said “ lets get out of here before they change their minds!”
We are outside the border control zone and the bikes are now officially in China!!
The next order of business was to drive across town to the Drivers license office next to the police station. They are also closed on Saturday, but one of the officers agreed to come over and open it for us so we could be given our Chinese drivers license and so he could check the VIN numbers for the Chinese Plate (this is really just a laminated card representing the license plate).
They can make you do tests and eye exams, and even visit a doctor and so we are not sure what to expect. All he did was check the VIN and take a photo of each bike. The only potential problem here is Orvar is too old to drive a motorcycle in China and we held our breath until he was given his license.
The only snag was one of the digits on Sara’s VIN number was incorrect. The officer could have said come back Monday, but he let it slide!!! Again we were like the IKEA ad “start the car” get out before they change their mind!
Now were went back to the hotel to gear up and headed out for our 35 days thru