I remember standing near that road in the late morning with a smile on my face because I know this place and I have mistaken it for home. Because I have warm clothes and a girlfriend and some food in my bag. Because I speak Chinese enough to ask Ni hao mei nu, ni chu na li? (Hello young lady, where are you going?) which is way more that I can say for my Mongolian.
And because, I am going more South how the minute so my chances of freezing diminish and will soon dissapear completely. If I have to be honest with you my dear readers, I would say that I am not afraid of dying of cold, not one bit. It is not because I have better clothes now, it is because of those dinosaurs. A place which has the luxury of having plastic dinosaurs soaring from the ground just can't have third-world problems such as freezing to death or dying of hunger, that would be a violation of the Maslow's pyramid.
Also, in West China, people take without money and that's a worry that I don't have.
A black car stops and two happy Chinese tell me to get in.
Since there is only one road, it cuts the orientation debate short and they help me out to Sonid Youqi, the next big city after Erlian.
|Erlian and its dinosaurs|
After the police car leaves, instead of continuing on the main road, he bifurcates on a small, barely paved road, to the east, not too far after Zurihe. From one side, it is in the direction of Zhangjiakou and I will be no more big cities on the road and I won't get stuck in Ulanqab.
On the other hand if his destination happens to be anything other than Zhangjiakou, I have mathematically zero chance of meeting another car here tonight for sure but even tomorrow and ever because the location is so remote.
The problem with destinations in China is that because of my poor knowledge of the Chinese language, I try to guess them from the general behavior of the driver, the matriculation of his or her car, documents present in the vehicle and the random babbling that serves as our means of communication.
It's not enough just to say "Ni chu Zhangjiakou ma?" (are you going to Zhangjiakou), first because nobody understands my accent, they're likely to just understand the city name and say something like "Shi Shi, Zhangjiakou hen hao!" (Yes yes, Zhangjiakou is very nice.) And Reykjavik and New York too but I am not going there.
In our current case, based on the fact that he is driving a truck, I guess that he must be going to Zhangjiakou because any other destination leaves me in a fucked up situation. Plus, there is a sinogram on his matriculate part of which looks like 家(jia) which I know because it means family and it's a good guess it should be in ZhangJIAkou.
So far the ride is joyful, my driver is a bit tired but keeps driving and passing villages where I really don't want to stop.
At one point, I am almost positive we're going to my Pakistani haven and then we stop. We stop at some village in the middle of Inner Mongolia where the traffic probably is a car per month in a parallel universe.
Is it a final stop? Maybe, maybe not, because my driver invites me to a restaurant for a great portion of Chinese food... and more than I would welcome of jiu, their alcohol.
|We stop to eat and drink in a restaurant in Inner Mongolia|
|The truckdrivers flock together|
|A yurt in inner mongolia, a pale Chinese attempt at Mongolian culture|
Fortunately, Umer advises me on a workaround which I set up on my tablet.
The next day I am on the road again, on the road to Beijing.
From the landscape around us, it doesn't look like I am approaching the capital. It's nothing like approaching Paris where buildings greet more buildings. Approaching Beijing is going through a lot of nature and the city seems to appear at the last moment. The road is mountainous and we also pass the Great Wall of China. And then, at last, I am at a metro station, at Le's friends.
If this is not home, I don't know what is.