Rescued By the Highway Patrol
POSTED BY Thamar IN Adventures, China @ February 13, 2012 - 1:14 am

By Thamar

We left the comfort of the Drum Tower Hostel at about 9am on the 6th February - our plan was to head out on our bicycles to find The Great Wall - but not before grabbing a street omelette and a McDonald’s coffee.

We could have taken a tour to the wall or just caught a bus to the most popular section but we were adamant that as we had said we were starting our real journey on our bikes from 'beyond the wall' we couldn't chicken out - even though the temperature had dropped below minus 5 and the authorities had issued an extreme weather warning.

Leaving Beijing

We had plotted the route on the iPhone the day before and started to make our way out of Beijing which is a very different story on a bike, even though we had gotten more used to the traffic by now. The wind had picked up and added a cramping chill to the already blistering cold. This hampered our progress a lot and we had to stop to buy warmer gloves and have a hot drink to thaw a bit, before we had gotten anywhere.

I also realised that my chain ring got bent on the flight which meant that I couldn't go into any gear higher than middle, middle. This is a bit of a problem for me as I'm not very good with cadence but prefer to push resistance. Plus our bikes weigh about 40kgs each - you need gears to push a heavy load like that. Needless to say we were going painfully slowly.

Using Google maps we were trying to get on the main expressway which was the main route out of the city. We would have preferred to take a secondary road but had no idea what that road was. Trying to get on the expressway was manic as we kept having to cross lanes and had to dodge speeding cars. By the time we had gotten on the main highway it was already 1pm and we were frozen. And on top of that, every time we came to an off-ramp we couldn't get across as cars were taking the turn really fast and we were getting pretty nervous.

Finally we did some distance and when we came to a toll road we quickly cycled through, not sure of what the vibe was with us cycling on the highway. Then about an hour down the road we came to another toll road and a lady who was one of the highway patrol, dressed in uniform tried to wave us away. Clearly there was nowhere for us to go and so she told us to wait. I managed to gather in bits of Chinese that they were sending a car to pick us up as we were not allowed to cycle on this road.

So we began the wait, not knowing what they might do to us, although they seemed really friendly and even offered us their jackets to keep us warm as we waited in the deathly cold wind - so weathered I thought we might pass out right there.

After about 15 minutes the 'bosses' arrived - three guys in a minivan. One of them spoke a little English and explained that it was illegal to cycle on the national highway and usually one would pay a big fine, but because we didn't know they would escort us to the best road for us to cycle on and let us off with a warning.

Highway Patrol

They stuffed our bikes into the back and headed for the G101 - the 'other' highway where cars, trucks, bicycles, horse and carriages and pretty much anything else was allowed on. It was also a bus route - the bus we could have taken. And a painful reminder each time it drove past. Anyway as the 'cops' dropped us off they asked if they could take a photo with us, which we thought was priceless...
Now on the right road we seemed to be going on the same road for hours - the scenery not changing much. We also past the airport and the train station where we had first caught a lift on day one. Bright idea: Maybe we could take the train again on our way back!

We wanted to make it to a town called Miyun that night - a relatively big town - but since we'd wasted so much time it was getting dark just as we were heading into a town 20kms before Miyun called Hairou and so we decided to stay here. The road to the centre of the town seemed to never come and we were absolutely distraught with cold. And when it did come and we got off our bikes we couldn't feel our feet - they were literally ice blocks.

We ducked into the first restaurant we could find called Biggest Bowl. The staff could see we were about to pass out and were really friendly and helpful. They even made us sit by the heater. After ordering Kung Pow chicken for about the third time in a row plus some sort of noodles for Rich we tucked into some hot almond milk as they had no tea - something we are finding more and more. Who would have thought it would be hard to find a cup of tea in China! The almond milk was delicious though - we had two each.

Almond milk

We were nice and warm when we left and even got directions to the closest hotel which we thought was our first right down the road. Turned out the hotel the waitress was pointing us to was next door. Bonus!