ALL THE WONDERS OF THE ORIENT
What do paper money, the compass and fireworks all have in common? Well they're all marvellous things to have come out of China. And you get the impression there's more to come, especially for the bike industry. Officially closed to foreign visitors until 1974, China now seems on the verge of a tourism explosion... currently the third most visited place in the world. There's so much to see, so much opportunity and so many interesting, friendly people. Pinkbike only had 10 days to strike the mountain bike gold with Steffi and while we found the good stuff (further evidenced this episode) it was a big regret we didn't have longer to cover all the spots we were hearing about across the land. Nevertheless, here we are lucky enough to be riding mountain bikes in China one last time, in the final installment of our grand adventure scoping out the many wonders of the Orient...
So from our Beijing stronghold we headed northwest, stopping a little short of Inner Mongolia at a mighty ski resort in the making. Currently with one solitary lift, Chongli aims to have 22 before you can say 'Shénshèng de gǒu shǐ ' (holy sh*t) and a plethora of upmarket hotels to back up the development. It is massively remote, a stone's throw from absolutely nowhere. And well, it seemed our visit was in the nick of time before the place went into hibernation for a long winter.
|I didn't know 3 hours north of Beijing we would feel so close to the eskimos! Deep snow, poisonous animals and I didn't bring my thermals...or snake bite antidote- Steffi|
'Through the clouds'... Great trail name, but there were none to fog our lenses on this bluebird day. We'd heard too many over the top warnings of the cold so far on our trip to take them seriously and were glad to have been travelling light... until this point. Chongli was absolutely far-gone polar and all that crying wolf left us in shorts and rain jackets in an arctic tundra.
Anyway, one good thing is how at this point on a journey like this you suddenly become aware of the amazing bond of professionalism that has developed between rider and photographer. A genuine respect...You're doing your job... I'm doing mine. A sense of 'we're nearly there; lets focus and see it through, behaving in as streamlined a manner as possible.'
|I can't imagine a better first day of winter. Riding across the frost with no people for hundreds of miles around. It was like carving big turns on skis down the countless switchbacks! A few more tracks like this at Chongli and the bikers will start to outnumber the skiers in future seasons! Steffi|
|There's a super inspiring atmosphere to these ancient courtyards. Although it couldn't be busier, it feels like an island in the middle of the capital, where despite all the political and religious history there's a deeply spiritual vibe among these temples - Steffi|
|When I first set foot in the night market I was excited by all the beautiful red lanterns and all the nice Asian jewelry. At second glance I quickly turned pale at the thought that anyone would eat such things. My eyes were met by a Chinese chef in a white overall, sliding live baby scorpions onto skewers Steffi|
|The feeling of a scorpion claw cracking between my teeth was worse than any bike crash for me haha! As much as I didn't want to disappoint anybody, I also absolutely didn't want to eat that spikey, black, chilli-topped, delicacy. No offense to these great chefs of Beijing! Steffi|
|To say I was impressed by The Great Wall is a true understatement. The word 'epic' has come to irritate me badly, but for once I was speechless to say something else as I looked out over it - Steffi|
|On our climb to the wall we found a sign which said, 'Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints'. Well we I guess we left our tire prints instead - Steffi|
|It's always so sad when you come to the end of road on any adventure, but not this time because I'm definitely far from finished with China - Steffi|
Many Xièxiès (thank yous) are due to Travis Ott and Larry Wang at Trek Bicycles as well Karl Burkat and Karen Zhang of Pinkbike fame who each played huge roles in making this unforgettable trip a possibility.
Steffi's China Part One: www.pinkbike.com/news/Rice-and-Roost-Steffis-China-Part-One-2013.html
Steffi's China Part Two: www.pinkbike.com/news/Steffis-China-Part-Two-Panda-Mania-2013.htmlwww.steffimarth.comnathhughes.tumblr.comwww.trekbikes.com