Today was meant to be the easy day at 61km. More of the hills that Google Maps ignores made the first 30km hard work, but it was an enjoyable slog that ended with me sat in glorious sunshine listening to the Football Ramble's John Charles Profile.
Better still, on the way up, a young couple driving a new Mercedes 4x4 down the wrong side of the motorway stopped to give me a Mongolian gift. I understood the following: it was Mongolian; I shouldn't eat it; and it should go in a place. I didn't understand what place or its purpose. I was heartbroken it wasn't a massive biscuit. My best guess is that it is something you use to make your clothes smell nice by leaving it in a wardrobe - like cedar wood, as heavily advertised by Nan Maureen. My second best guess given it's waxy feel is that it could be a candle.
Attention people who actually know about China! What the hell is this?
I saw a hare the size of a labrador but was on one of the long downhill sections so couldn't bring myself to stop to take a photo. I saw another later that was road kill, so didn't want to take a photo.
I also saw some yurts; both fabric and concrete for the more modern Mongolian. I should probably have mentioned that I'm Inner Mongolia.
The wind was bad on the hills, often stopping me on the descents if I stopped peddling, but on the final flat 20km into Ulanqab it was hell. I had to learn how to ride the wind, my preferred method was to stay in the easiest gear for the impossible gusts and crawl at about twice walking pace, before pressing on whenever it dropped. Attention cyclists! If there's a better way tell me in the next 12 hours.
It took three hours. Worse still it was in the exact direction I'm heading tomorrow for 140km. I'm terrified.
Best hotel experience so far. I arrived in my usual stinking state, approached the desk and was greeted by "you must be Simon" - there's not a lot of foreigners in this part of the world. My disgusting panniers were put on a trolley, which I could do with following me for the next 4500km. My room is genuinely non-smoking, a rarity in China. I was also brought some fruit, and because I'm a foreigner and we foreigners love coffee, some extra coffee for free. I even managed to order room service in Mandarin.
Best of all though, when these goodies were delivered I managed not to pop out of what has to be the smallest bathrobe known to man.
April 10: xinghe to ulanqab - 61km
Start Time: 09.30
Finish Time: 16.15
Hours Cycling: 4
Hours Pushing: 2
Hours Eating Oreos: 0.75
Near Death Experiences: Me: 0
Number of Dead Dogs: 0 (but one hare)
Number of Photos with Young Female Petrol Station Attendants: 0 (didn't visit a petrol station)
PHOTO EVERY HOUR - TODAY'S HIGHLIGHT: castle shaped wind shelter
PHOTO OF THE DAY - this man getting close
This is where I update on my progress. Expect lots of fabricated statistics and dated music references.