The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2007
May 27 - June 30 2007
Peking to Datong
Expect the unexpected
Expect the unexpected, they said at the driver’s briefing. Today could not have been more surprising. Coasting along, another easy lope across China, and we suddenly find a policeman in the road, speeking no English, but making it quite plain that we had to suddenly turn right.
We all obey. Now we are off the carefully measured route book, now even today's bulletin of ammendments from the 24 hour advance car of Mike and Anthony Preston all became meaningless.
We drive out into open countryside, the terrain becoming more hilly. Beautifully smooth dark black tarmac snaked up a mountain pass, rich red rock faces loomed down as hills gave way to craggy mountains. The unexpected became Morocco and a road just like the Atlas Mountains, except we had cheering Chinese children in every village.
This went on for some time, and it was clear that we are now on a massive re-route, with no notes, no information. Junctions come and go, and groups of cars are in knots of confusion as navigators pour over maps in Chinese.
This could end up in one big muddle miles from civilisation, except that after bouncing off the new tar onto rutted hard-baked clay as dusty as hell for those with open-wheeled cars of the pioneer category, we suddenly hit the ring road of Hohot, and more by good luck than judgement tumble into the café where there is a Passage Control manned by Andy Actman.
A long day ends up on a Mongolia-style plateau, and we are all sleeping in round Yurts tonight. Facilitie are primitive.
News from the road is that car 55, the Jaguar saloon of Michael and Sarah O;Shea, have repeated yesterdays fuel starvation problems and had a frustrating time of it – the heat has caused vaporisation, and poor petrol blocked filters, for many.
More serious is the news that David and Adele Cohen from Canada have serious propshaft problems are may not make it in tonight, and Barry Frost from Australia in a Chevrolet have their axle apart and are in real difficulties. Our mobile workshop teams are on the case.
Despite the frustrations, the scenery has been glorious, the roads a challenge, whether crews took the proper rally route or the sudden alternative forced on many by the local policeman, and we have all ended up on the vast grassy plain which can only be good practice for Mongolia to come.