Our first Chinese fuel station stop yesterday reinforced that our just-commenced China Road Trip will be no ordinary kind of travel, and there will be no blending quietly into the landscape as we’d hoped. People of China, thank you for your intense interest in our vehicle and our journey- we’ve only just begun and it’s absolutely heartwarming.
For those readers who are new here, let me introduce ourselves and our plans (for those of you who already know us, skip ahead!). We’re an Australian family who have lived in Shanghai for the last three years and loved every minute, but our longing for a great adventure means for the next six months our home will be one on wheels – a campervan with its own beds, kitchen and even a miniature bathroom.
Our dream has always been to see all of China, every last gorgeous and wild corner of it, from the coast to the interior and everything in between, so over the next half year we will circumnavigate China roughly anti-clockwise, beginning and ending in Shanghai.
Our Travel Plans
Mr Google Maps has been a good friend to us so far and I’ve no reason to doubt him when he says it will be 18,941km from start to end. what Mr Google Maps doesn’t now is that I’m navigating, my maps are all in Chinese, and I seize the chance to take a detour if one presents itself, especially if it involves good food
or large and bulky antiques. So maybe make that 20,000km. Or even 25,000.
So here’s our trip in a nutshell. I felt really good about sitting down for this last five minutes with the Google Route Planner and making a plan. It’s the first time I’ve seen what exists in my head on paper, so to speak. (Please don’t tell my husband because he thinks I’ve had a day-by-day itinerary planned out for months, but I’m only giving it to him a day at a time so it will be a surprise.)
The summer months will see us head north then west, and during the winter months we’ll travel to the warmer climes of the south and east.
The northward leg for the next few weeks will take us to Inner Mongolia and the fabled Naadam horse festival of the nomadic Mongolian grassland peoples, then west along the path of the ancient Silk Road through some of the most remote desert in China to the trading oasis of Kashgar. Kashgar
is nestled in a corner of China bordering on five other countries including Afghanistan and Pakistan. We were there last year too, and can’t wait to return.
From far western China we’ll travel south and east through Yunnan
, a land filled with colourful peoples belonging to China’s many ethnic minorities, and some of the most extraordinary natural beauty and biologic diversity in China, then eastwards across Guizhou Province,
China’s poorest but arguably its most unspoilt and interesting province where tall green hills rise up from narrow river valleys dotted with villages belonging to the Miao people. We will visit during their lusheng
traditional music festival in winter to see the magnificent costumes and traditions of a people whose lives have changed little in the last five hundred years.
Lastly, our journey will bring us via the traditional roundhouses of Fujian Province back to Shanghai.
Our First Night
|Crossing the mighty Yangtze. Colour of sky and water identical.
I wish I could tell you our first night was idyllic, quiet and magical and we all communed with nature.
Actually, due to an unexpected late departure from Shanghai we drove like maniacs for five hours due north, crossing the Yangtze near Nantong and traversing hour after hour of flat wall-to-wall farms without a single suitable camping site anywhere among the rows of corn and the rice paddies. The sky was dense and humid, darkened by the smoke from frequent burning off in fields.
Around nightfall Google Earth (my other friend) helped me find a little river bordered by stands of trees (it looked like a perfect, quiet spot), where we parked in the mud next to a decrepit gravel dredging crane and right on top of the town dump. The sweet smell of rotting garbage was matched only by the thousands of flies and the stench from the duck farm across the water. My first step out of the van squelched ankle deep into a pile of manure. Love nature. Love camping.
Luckily, tonight I’m 500 kilometres from Shanghai overlooking the ocean, high on a hill. Darkness has fallen and when the clouds part I can see real, actual stars – lots of them, and high behind me a lighthouse casts its regular radial beam. Tomorrow I’m going to swim in the ocean, but tonight I’m happy to listen to its sound and feel the cool clean breezes blowing.
I hope you’ll follow along on our journey with us – thanks to my wonderful friend and translator JW, Chinese language posts will appear every Monday and Thursday. If I wrote it in Chinese, believe me, you wouldn’t want to read it.
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