Welcome to Inner Mongolia

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I’m now three days out of Chengde.  After a day and a half of slow then very abrupt climbing I crossed over from Hebei Province into Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.  Funny, they didn’t even have a Welcome Center.  Plus the longest tunnel I’ve ever been through.  I measured a little over a mile.  I think I liked going through the mountain than over it, though.  Then a day and a half of abrupt then slow descending.  Two nights of staying at $5/night village hotels.  One of them even had a hot shower.  The other had an outhouse with boards to squat over to go.  GSM service kind of works just about all the time.

Today after a quick 50 mile jaunt I arrived in Chifeng.  Everything looks new and there’s more construction on the way.  Deciding to treat myself (I like to do this, you may have noticed) I stop at the first nice high rise that catches my eye, the JinDi.  Very new and I got a corner suite with a computer at a desk.  For $60/night.

My rear wheel was worrying me a little.  Things were wobbling in the back where they shouldn’t have been.  A quick application of my Leatherman and my spare hand and it feels perfect.  Apparently the bearing cups came loose.  Who needs special cone wrenches, I say.  I will monitor the situation.

I’m getting the hang of this country, but any time I have to find/rent a room, buy food or talk to a curious local it can turn comical pretty quickly.  Basically any time I have to talk to somebody.  My pronunciation and verbal comprehension is pretty hit or miss.  Sometimes it clicks and sometimes it doesn’t.  It takes a lot of mental energy.  Especially since I’m going to cities I don’t even know how to pronounce with characters I don’t know.  Usually I just say “Bei fang” (north area).  Basically, for Westerners, tonal languages such as Chinese are very difficult.  It practically takes a native ear.  People I talk to will have a sense of humor about it if I do.  I wouldn’t even attempt the language with the phrasebooks in the guidebooks.  Try taking a semester at your local college before setting out on your own here.  Or maybe a year.

Out of Chengde I took Provincial Road S354, which was very busy.  Trucks … trucks …  trucks.  Then S253, which was pretty quiet.  At the Inner Mongolia border, somewhere in the middle of the tunnel, it turned into S206.  For a while this was a good wide four lane, then it put me back onto a muddy and potholed two lane as they finish up the four lane.  I don’t know how the little VW and Honda, etc. sedans make it through.  But it was nice as it was a chance to go back in time, going through old villages.  I hope they maintain this route.  The locals need it and it’s a good bike route too.

Now I have 295 miles on the odo after six days of roller coaster mountain ranges.  The wind out of the west can really be a mother.  I get to skirt to the east of it between here and Ulanhot, where I have to turn left for the Russian border.  If the winds I’ve seen are any indication, it could really be a bastard getting to Manzhouli.

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2 Responses to Welcome to Inner Mongolia

  1. johnnyg says:

    Treat yourself, no worries. Glad to hear of your further exploits. Cyclotouring tends to diminish mental acuity, so the thought of communicating in a foreign, tonal language at the end of a day of riding is beyond the comprehension of a slacker like me. However, if you need a rear wheel, let me know. FedEx is only a day away!

    • alane says:

      No problem, just had to tighten the rear hub. It’s been fine for 1500 miles now. I had to buy a new cassette in Irkutsk because a couple of the gears are worn out. Will replace when the pain in riding on them exceeds my mechanical laziness.

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