July 2022
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Cape Town, South Africa
July 2, 2022, 3:38 am
Partly cloudy
Partly cloudy
humidity: 82%
wind speed: 20 mph NNW
sunrise: 7:52 am
sunset: 5:48 pm
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July 2, 2022, 3:38 am
humidity: 74%
wind speed: 2 mph NNE
sunrise: 6:42 am
sunset: 5:22 pm
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July 2, 2022, 4:38 am
humidity: 89%
wind speed: 0 mph E
sunrise: 6:36 am
sunset: 6:39 pm
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Great Wall

Day 44, Mon June 15, Turpan-Hami – 401 km (249 miles)
At 4:30AM 4 riders depart from the hotel to the dry Lake Ayding, −154 meters (−505 ft).  It’s the 4th lowest point on earth depending how you measure.  It was a 2-hour round trip, approx. 35km each way.  By some measures, it is also the hottest and driest area in China. 42.684048°, 89.261119°
Gary and I depart at 7:30AM preparing for the hottest temps.  We skirted around the tollbooth and locked onto a 110-kph speed.  Imagine our surprise when dark clouds formed ahead of us and it started to rain.  This was followed by an aggressive cross wind.
For the next 4 hours rain and wind kept us busy.  This stretch of the toll road had a new layer of asphalt on the right hand slow lane.  This caused long stretches of water to pool in the center of the road.  Crossing that puddle to pass trucks in high cross winds made for interesting handling.  Traction was a concern because rain is so rare around here.
We pulled into Hami around noon.  It rained all afternoon and into the night.  Our hotel is Hami Hotel Building 6, No. 4 Yingbin Road, Hami, China. N42 49.680, E93 30.911
Day 45, Tue June 16, Hami-Dunhuang – 406 km (252 miles)
It’s another short day of riding.  We are entering the southern boundary of the Gobi desert which stretches northeast up into Mongolia.  The Gobi Desert is the 5th largest desert in the world.  The scene and scenario is pretty much like yesterday … rain, wind, trucks and maintaining good tire traction.  Getting through the G30 tollbooth gate is fairly easy now.  My procedure to turn off my headlights, enter the tollbooth area solo next to a group of vehicles or beside a truck.  We don’t seem to notice the upset guards anymore.
The last 60 miles G215 is a 2-lane road SSE. It’s a rough asphalt patched, very straight road.  The hotel waypoint is way off!  After wondering around a plant nursery for 20 minutes, we show the address to a local and he points us in the right direction.
The Grand Soluxe Hotel Dunhuang, No. 1339 Yangguan Middle Road, Dunhuang, China is a 5-star!
Dunhuang means “Blazing Beacon.”  It is one of four frontier garrison towns (Dunhuang, Jiuquan, Zhangye & Wuwei) that patrol the Great Wall as it runs westward.  Blazing Beacon refers to the fire beacons lit from watch-tower to watch-tower to communicate attacks from the northern Mongol horde.  The Silk Road ran through these four towns.  Dunhuang was the eastern crossroad where the Silk Road split to the northern route above the Gobi through the Kyrgyzstan / Tajikistan / Russia and the southern route into Pakistan & India.

The Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang is one of the ‘big four’ world-heritage attractions in China.  The others being the Great Wall, Forbidden City, and Terracotta Warriors.  Our Silk Road adventure visits all but the Forbidden City.

Day 46, Wed June 17, Dunhuang Local Discovery
The day starts overcast with sprinkles.  First thing on our agenda a visit a whisky factory … with tasting!

The whiskey comes out of the little faucet lower right.


This stuff packs a kick-in-the-butt!

The main stored in earthen vats.

This prep of the main stuff was very unusual.

The distillery staff and riders

Mid-morning we went to play on the Mingsha Sand Dunes.  After all, on a Silk Road expedition, camel riding is a required experience.

Of course we had to partake in a cheesy tourist camel ride to fulfill our Silk Road traveler image.

That's David D behind me.

Rider Gary S leads our caravan.

At the camel stop, you can pay a few yuan to climb a huge sand dune and slide down on a wooden sled.

Riders Terry G and Patrick O near the bottom

The Crescent Lake.

Bence H getting ready for his ultralight air tour of the Mingsha Sand Dunes and Crescent Lake.

We finish the day at the Mogao Grottoes.  Beginning in 360AD, over a period of 1,000 years, hundreds of carved out grottoes were built into to steep sandstone cliffs along the Dang River.  After massive restoration, 492 grottoes of Buddhist scripture and painting are on exhibit.  Unfortunately, no photo inside the grottoes.

The IMAX style theater at the visitor’s center shows 2 separate films that are very well done!

Beginning in 366AD and continuing over a period of 1,000 years, hundreds of caves were dug out of the steep sandstone cliffs lining the Dang River.

There are almost 500 caves of Buddhist scriptures and painting. Unfortunately, no photos allowed.

Inside this grotto/cave is the huge lying Budda.

Many of the incredible paintings were still intact, not destroyed.

Day 47, Thu June 18, Dunhuang-Jiayuguan – 373 km (232 miles)
It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.
Chinese proverb
Seeing, touching, experiencing the Great Wall of China was high on my Silk Road list.  The Great Wall of China surfaced in my farm boy awareness in the early 60’s because of the space race.  It was claimed to be one of the few man-made constructions that could see from the moon.  This was debunked after astronauts in low space orbit, 100 miles, could not identify the Great Wall with naked eyes.

Earliest record of the original wall construction was the 7th century BC!   It runs along the northern border of China to protect it from the invading horde of Mongolia.  It is not common knowledge just how long the Great Wall is … 21,196 km (13,171 mi).  Almost all photos of the Great Wall show the tourist sites near Beijing and the Badaling Great Wall near Zhangjiakou both where the wall has been totally rebuilt.

During the Ming Dynasty, anything east of Jiayuguan was considered the wild, wild west – an autonomous region .  The Great Wall’s western terminus was here at the Jiayuguan Pass.  The Jiayuguan Fortress was first built in 1372 and completed in 1540.  Also known as the “mouth of China” because of its position at the end of the Great Wall.
Day 48, Fri June 19, Jiayuguan Local Exploration

Main gate of the Great Wall fortress at Jiayuguan.

At the fortress, entry fee was determined by height.  Chris P and Marty K measure up.  Chris still had to pay the adult fee.

Buddhist shrine inside the fort.

Scale model of the old fort.

Snow covered mountains surround the fort.

A reenactment of the Royal Court activities.

On the right is the fortress wall and on the left in the Great Wall running west towards Overhanging Great Wall.

The Shiguanxia Overhanging Great Wall is 6.5 km northwest of the Jiayuguan Fortress.  It is an extension of the Fortress.

After lunch we walk this section of the Great Wall.  The Overhanging Great Wall was erected on the 150-meter-high (492 feet) mountain ridges with approximately a 45-degree slope.  Most of this is a restoration.  The hike to the tower requires many rest breaks!!

Seen from away this part of the wall resembles a dragon hanging over the mountain, explaining where its name comes from.

This section of the Great Wall has been totally reconstructed.

Ken S approaches the steep section with the watch tower.

Looking back down the wall.

There are two watch towers ahead.

The wall is visible as it disappears in the center horizon.

Day 49, Sat June 20, Jiayuguan-Wuwei – 481km (299 miles)
We are on the road at 8AM.  Today’s ride has stretches that run along the western terminus of the ancient Great Wall.  We are on the look out for Great Wall encounters.
Ken S, Kerry G and I stop in a safe area along the toll road.  Ken thinks he knows where we can find the Great Wall.  We exit the G30 Lianhuo Expy Toll Road and ride north on G312, a 2-lane road heading up through a range of foothills.  Most of the remains of the wall are short runs that look more like dirt mounds.
Our encounter is at the top of the pass at 38.889001°,  101.090712° (38° 53′ 20.4036″, 101° 5′ 26.5626″).

This bare rock wall was ¼-mile of a small country road.

Terry G

ken S and I next to a huge rock wall.

After we get back on G30 Toll Road, the Great Wall runs parallel on the south side then crosses the toll road to the north side.  This stretch of the Great Wall is still a wall.  It’s been broken where they built roads through it and all the towers are just mounds.  38.660199°,  101.256242° (N 38 39.612, E 101 15.375)

I'm approx 25 m off the toll road. The Great Wall is behind me.

Great Wall, photo by Helge

Great Wall, photo by Helge

Today was full of excitement as we rode along side and around the Great Wall.  It’s amazing that this national treasure is so accessible and hundreds of miles of the original structure so exposed.
Our day ends at Tianma Hotel, No. 41 the West Avenue, Qiongliang District, Wuwei, China.  Went around the block the wrong way and ended up riding into the hotel on a pedestrian-only street.  N37 55.688, E102 37.701
Day 50, Sun June 21, Wuwei-Lanzhou – 287km (178 miles)
Most of us realize our adventure is almost over.  We have 3 more stops — Lanzhou, Pingliang, and the eastern terminus of the Silk Road … Xi’an (Chang’an).
Helge encourages us to make the most of the last days of our adventure … get on the National Road and meet people and explore the local area.  The problem is the closer we get to Xi’an, the worse traffic on the National Road becomes.  Everyone becomes more aggressive.  With the daily rain and wind, close calls are daily dinner topics.

Helge encourages us to make the most of the last days of our adventure … get on the National Road and meet people and explore the local area.  The problem is the closer we get to Xi’an, the worse traffic on the National Road becomes.  Everyone becomes more aggressive.  With the daily rain and wind, close calls are daily dinner topics.

Our day ends at the Grand Soluxe Hotel, No 428 Quingyang Road, Chengguan District, Lanzhou, China, a 5-star hotel.  N36 03.299, E103 49.326

Day 51, Mon June 22, Lanzhou Local Sites
Lanzhou has a 2,000 year history.  In the 1400 it had a major fort and was critical to the eastern stretch of the Silk Road.  The famed Yellow River runs through the city.
Lanzhou is one of the 10 most polluted cities in the world!
We start the day at the Lanzhou Provincial Museum.  The three sections are: Silk Road, Dinasours, and Chinese political history.

Various Silk Road routes - Green-northern via Russia, Yellow-our route via Central Asia, Blue-Sea route

Small statue

Small statue, horse

Buddhism Shrine

Everybody loves dinosaurs!


Joe H and Mammoth

There was a section on the political history of China

At one time, the entire city’s irrigation water supply was via waterwheels from the Yellow River.  First used in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).  Until 1952 there was still 252 working waterwheels.  A typical waterwheel could raise water 15-18 meters (49-59 feet) to irrigate nearby fields.

Water wheels lifted water from the Yellow River into the city's irrigation system

The square boxes captures water and pours it out into troughs above ground level.

Before the bridge was built across the Yellow River, folks cross on animal skin rafts.  So of course this mode is now a tourist attraction.

The animal skin raft uses 8 pig skins.

Ken S, John R, Bence H and Bob D were the only ones brave enough to cross the Yellow River on one of these animal skin rafts.

The Yellow River current was pretty swift!


The raft will cross the river and beach on far right of the photo.

Lanzhou Zhongshan bridge located at the foot of Bai Ta Mountain is an ancient bridge. It is referred to as “the first bridge over Yellow River”.  History of the Zhongshan iron bridge dates back to 1372.  Back then, there were floating bridges made up of ships tied together with ropes and chains.  However, it was neither sturdy, nor safe.  After over 500 years of use, the floating bridge was retired in 1909, and an early version of the iron bridge was built.

The historic Iron Bridge

Temple on the other side of the Iron Bridge

One of the more enjoyable things we do is visit schools.  In the afternoon we visited a middle school in Lanzhou.

We were welcomed by the school's staff.

We had refreshments and chatted with the staff.

The young ladies were English language teachers.

We are introduced to the class then split up into small groups.

This is my group of 5 students. English language is mandatory! In fact one of the math classes is English Only. They have 3-4 hours of homework every day.

Kurt took his BMW over to a car wash next to the hotel.  In a couple days when we get to Xi’an we all have to do a detail bike cleaning.  All of us rode in mud and dirt playing around the Great Wall. A few riders even had dirt naps yesterday.  To get most of the mud off, many of us followed Kurt and got our moto washed.
Tommorrow … Pingliang.

CURRENT LOCATION:  Upper right corner is my Delorme inReach Explorer satellite tracks provided by SPOTwalla.  When activated, it provides a real time track of my travels.  The tab “All-Star Motorcycle Circus & E” opens for more options.  “Adjustments” enables the viewer to select more days of the tracks.

The tracks are archived back to my arrival in Heidelberg, April 16.

Use the zoom slider on the left to open up the map to see our entire route. The two tabs in the upper right “Map/Satellite” switches the map illustration with satellite photos.

GlobeRiders has it’s own BLOG “Silk Road Adventure 2015 LiveJournal!”  There is a complete description of the excursion, rider bios, updates of the ride, and an active satellite location link.
Subscribing or Unsubscribing: You can subscribe a friend.  Just go to the upper left tab on this page and click SUBSCRIBE. You will be given the option to Subscribe or Unsubscribe.  If you dislike rambling babble enter your email address and click the UNSUBSCRIBE button.  You will be removed from the subscriber list.

2 comments to Great Wall

  • chuck hickey

    So I went by your house and checked the mailbox.

    Not sure what they were, but you have dozens of letters from the Chinese Toll Booth Commission – all are marked “Urgent” (in Chinese of course — I had a friend translate).
    The last one said —
    Open this, pay up…. or die – we know where you live.

    You might want to rethink that scofflaw toll bandit thing you’re doing !

    • Dean

      I learned the basics of Chinese toll booth running from the master … Mike Kneebone! And NO, they do not want money. We tried to pay at the early toll booths and was sternly denied! The side-car rig had the most problems because they had to pass through the toll booth fully exposed. They developed their own technique and only broke a couple toll booth barriers.

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