The Peking to Paris Rally is a recreation of the 1907 challenge issued by Le Matin, "Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?"
The 2016 version will follow a route of 13,695 Km (8,510 miles) and take 35 days. We are travelling in Rhubarb and Custard, a 1936 Buick. We know nothing about cars or rallying.
Sunday, 12 June 2016
Race Day 1 : It Begins
There's a moment when men are about to go to war or set of on an adventure when what they are about to do - which they have lived with and chewed over, regretted, understood and come to terms with over weeks and months - becomes a reality for their wives, children, friends and colleagues. They feel a pang of fear and and a lick of excitement, they want to be part of the adventure and yet they cannot - because at the precise point when their hearts are beating faster and their emotions are caught up in the thrill of it all the adventurer's heart and mind have already moved on. He is focused on what is to come and what must be done. He is already lost to the world he is leaving behind and on the road into the unknown.
And what a road it turned out to be. I'd like to report that China is a land of mountains disappearing endlessly into the horizon, of willow trees brushing wide lakes and rivers, of terraced paddy fields tended by straw hatred peasants but none of this would be true.
We've spent the day driving through filthy little hamlets of rickety brick. Their streets strewn with old tyres, rubble, and rusty metal. Stray dogs mixed up with stray people and in amongst it all great piles of black coal. And if the coal isn't piled at the side of the road it's on a lorry in front of you, behind you or on the other carriage way or possible all three. Sometimes there are more vehicles travelling in your direction in the wrong carriageway than on the correct side of the road. The picture below shows the chaos that can result.
But we arrived at today's finish exactly on time and with no problems - we didn't get lost and the car didn't break. Two cars failed to cross the start line and one at least is out of the race. The other arrived on a flat bed truck with a broken gearbox. Plenty of other cars have minor niggles but most are in good shape.
Tomorrow we leave Datong for Erenhot on the Mongolian border.
To sign off here's a short video of some Chinese coal trucks. I could have left the camera running for ever.