August 14th; 448km; Rt. S212 to Yinchuan, Ningxia
One of our longest days in terms of km today and almost definitely the longest in terms of road time! We woke up at about 5:45 at our campsite just in time to catch a great sunrise before leaving by about 8:30. We found ourselves on the road until about 6 or 7 when we arrived at our hotel. Through that we experienced some very hot temperatures as well getting up into the high 30s.
We wanted to get to Yinchuan (the capital of Ningxia) today as we were expecting new parts to come in and wanted to be able to get them repaired the next day. Unfortunately we had a stretch of bad road in the morning with some sections not having been paved yet but they gradually improved again. This of course didn’t help much with trying to make good time, but there’s no arguing with road conditions!
Change in Scenery but Still Spectacular
We got a few more twisties today before the terrain changed again. By the second half of the day we were winding our way through a very long valley in between plateaus. The scenery looked almost prehistoric in this area, with clay and dry earth formations, a lot of plateaus, cave dwellings in the sides of cliffs, and farmed plots dotted throughout the valley.
By the end of the day as we passed into our 10th province, Ningxia, the terrain flattened out again, reminiscent of the Inner Mongolian plains (in fact we’re right next to the province again). We also accidentally hopped onto an expressway (it was poorly signed and we didn’t realize until passing through the tollbooth with someone running after us) for the last 100km into Yinchuan.
The Police… Again
The comfort and pace of the expressway didn’t last long though as we were soon flagged down by a cop with surprisingly good English, despite his being very self-conscious about it. He checked my documentation as he explained that motorcycles in Ningxia weren’t allowed on the highway. There was another cop with him, much younger and a little plump, who must have been a trainee as we busied himself with taking pictures of us through the whole episode. He even went into their police car at one point to get the other cops hat so that he could wear it for the pictures.
The two of them escorted us off then escorted us off the expressway to show us how to get to Yinchuan. The cop was very nice as he was obviously worried about us being able to find our way. At one point it even seemed like he was getting ready to escort us the remaining 60km to the city once he got off work.
When we exited the expressway we pulled to the side and they got out of the car to figure out what to do (while the trainee ran into the office to get his bigger Canon camera for more pictures). We then tried to explain that we could figure it out from there as we could find the directions on our phone.
He escorted us then to a gas station, by which point pretending not to know Chinese was becoming somewhat of a burden. We finally got the tank filled and insisted we could take it from their, thanking them for their troubles!