Peking - Datong
The rally is underway and today has been
good but tiring day.
We were up at 6.00 and left the hotel at 6.45. for the 60 km run to the Great wall where the official start of the rally took place.
We were asked to be at the Great Wall venue at approx 7.30 and most rally cars had already left the car park when we arrived to pick up our car. We have done this trip three years ago and knew it would only take 45 minuets. There are however many crews new to this type of rallying and the ‘Tulip’ navigations system. They left very early to make sure they could safely leave the gi-normous city of Beijing.
We found our way quite easily and Anty familiarized himself with the route book, GPS and trip meters. This was a good day to sort it all out.
The official start came with a nice ceremony and then all the cars were started with a 30 second interval. With start number 94 this means a 8.48 start. This starting order will stay in place until we have had some real competition in the desert of Mongolia. Thereafter the starting procedure will be in one minute intervals and in order of overall results. The pre war cars will always start first.
When we left the starting area we joined a small highway into the mountains and quickly we were up to 1000 meters. There was a lot of traffic on the road and unlike three years ago when the traffic thinned out the further we got away from Beijing , today we have been battling the traffic all day.
We also realised again that the Chinese driving style very much resembles that of the driving in India. Complete chaos and the drivers are either on opium or they just have no sense of direction and rules. They drive like they are on bicycles. Most of the time they drive in the left lane so most of the time we pass in the right lane or the what is left between the right lane and the ditch. After a while you start to understand how it works and you can make quite good progress. Then there are the trucks. There are thousands of them. There used to be a hit song by Katie Melua ‘ There are a million bicycles in Beijing’ Now there is a new version; ‘ There are a million trucks on the way to Beijing ’
On the local roads the trucks drive in a sort of road train of 40 -50 trucks that slowly creep in the direction of Beijing. We assume they bring the food and coal to Beijing. The trucks are filthy, bulging loads of black diesel smoke in the atmosphere.. Most of them are painted red and so we assume they are all state owned.If you could clean up 10% of these trucks in China you would make a massive contribution in reducing the global warming.. That would work much better then keeping a few classic cars out of European city centres.
Anyway were was I, oh yes on the way to Datong.
After about 140 km there was a PC – passage control at a petrol station and at about 218 km there was a TC – time control – where we could take lunch. Anty and I looked around the lunch location with an experienced eye and decided that a) the available staff was never going to give us and the other two hundred competitors lunch in time b) the menu on offer with pictures of the dishes was not really very attractive, so we decided to take our TC stamp and move on. There was still only 180 km to go and we thought it would be better to get to the hotel early, get a shower and a beer rather then waste time at the lunch stop.
The afternoon run was hot and humid through very polluted air. The countries site is nice and green and we climbed some passes up until about 1400 meters, but the diesel fumes of the many trucks on the road make us feel ill.
The organisers offered time for some local sight seeing opportunities like the hanging Monastery near Datong and the Yungang caves also near Datung but we decided to skip the cultural part of today and go for the showers. We arrived at the hotel as no 2 car so we got our room keys very quickly. Nice clean and spacious hotel room.
Datong is a big city with 1.4 million inhabitants. The whole place is a sea of new or fairly new apartment buildings. Datong is situated about 300 km west of Beijing. The city lies at 1200-meter altitude and exists mainly of the coal industry. There is also a large train engine factory where until not long ago they were still building steam locs.
And what about the our Mercedes Pagoda – the little ‘Red Devil’
It is maybe a bit to early to say but today she behaved very well in the heat and traffic jams. The new rally tires make a hell of a noise and we need to experiment with the pressures once we hit the desert the day after tomorrow. The water and oil temperatures are stable and only rise a bit when we climb some of the passes. Considering the heat of the moment it feels pretty good.
We have driven ‘topless’ all day and just when we arrived at the hotel cark there were some drops of rain.
Tonight we checked the oil, water and looked for leaks but all looks healthy.
Tomorrow will be a long day with 595 km of driving ahead of us. Hopefully a bit cooler and with less trucks.
Anty just received news from Sonja that their beloved Labrador Besso has died this afternoon.
Rest in peace Besso.