Background to the China tour
My first thought was to drive overland from Europe to Singapore and take my motorhome on to New Zealand via Australia, I ruled this out when I looked at the cost of converting the left-hand drive over to a right-hand drive vehicle and the differential in cost between buying a European motorhome in New Zealand and mine would make it not worth the bother.
This meant I had to take my European motorhome back to Europe so I started off looking at spending a month in China and when I saw how little I could see I quickly realised that 90 days was the minimum if one wanted to see a reasonable amount of China. It is not until you start planning the trip around China, that you realise just how large the country is and the distances required to travel, yes, the trip can be made shorter, but exactly what you not want to see?
I looked at ways of getting to China and ruled out Mongolia because of the lack of roads and the fact that Perestroika Tours place the motorhomes on their tour going through Mongolia on the train.
I ruled out Tibet because of my angle of departure of the rear of my motorhome and whilst others have done this route in similar vehicles I considered foolhardy to rely on somebody else towing you out of the problems caused by your choice of vehicle.
I considered having a four-wheel drive, what I call, “ serious motorhome” built but the length of time required for delivery coupled with my age did not necessarily make it a wise investment.
Therefore any travel I did, had to be done on my current motorhome, with whatever minor modifications I can make, to suit the area that I am going.
This meant the travels through China had to be that of a front wheel drive normal motorhome and every other service I required for the motorhome like fuel and water had to be available with the normal tanks I have on my normal motorhome.
The entry point into China was settled upon by the guide that we will employ to guide us around China as being an entry point where the customs deposit is one that can be handled by the company with us paying interest on that money.
The route to China that I've decided to take is across as few countries as possible, to eliminate the need of many visas and the need to be wasting time at border crossings.
I've yet to find out the problems we will have by taking vehicles into Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and the appropriate visas we will need.
I decided on a number to travel as being four to five vehicles as being a reasonable number to find a reasonable camping spot each night, however if we get more wanting to come on the trip is nothing to stop a second trip being planned to depart say three or four days later and follow us around the trip, with their own guide, at their own pace.
I settled on the tour guide NAVO as a company that replied to my e-mail is promptly, seemed professional, had good references, and I realised that there were other guides that would be cheaper, but then this is usually done by lowering the quality of the services offered.
I know this place, it is Mianshan Mountain near Jiexiu in Shanxi province.
It is a Taoist mountain. Jiuxiu is dozens kms away from Pingyao both of where we will pass. If you are interested, we can visit the Mianshan mountain.
Check out a beautiful pass through the mtns. Tourgat pass.
I looked at the possibility of having a separate vehicle for the guide and his driver as this would give them somewhere to sleep of an evening, and allow them to take their own cooking utensils, but the cost for this proved to be too high so I have ruled that out of the equation.
In the original quote there was provision for the guide to sleep on some occasions on the floor of the motorhome in his sleeping bag, the reason for this was that one man in a tent was not necessarily safe throughout China so this is why the company insisted in the guide sleeping in the motorhome. I realised some of the motorhomes were too small for this to happen so at that point I considered a second guide as being necessary, as they were happy if there were two guides in the tent and of course this does increase the cost, but I do not see an alternative.
I visualise arriving at the Chinese border sometime after 20 April to meet with the company's suggestion of this being a date where we will see China as its most attractive.
Comment I have reviewed the weather in Kazakhstan at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgxzxBbrOGo and feel we should arrive in China in May.... however let us see what March 2011 has to bring,,,,,
This will mean leaving Europe probably a month before this date and I have shown on the map the route I will be taking, again decided upon by visa requirements. Of course returning to Europe there is not the same urgency so you'll note a slightly more leisurely route that I've drawn out to take.
I looked at the possibility of travelling through Belarus or the Ukraine, but found Belarus was most difficult for motorhomes as the Belarus government require hotels to be booked and paid for in advance before the Visa is issued and they did not welcome individual travellers. The distance through the Ukraine or through Latvia was close enough to being the same from my starting point in Castricum Holland, with the advantage of another country that I do not require a visa for.
It is unfortunate in part of the China map that we appear to be travelling over the same road going into China and out of China round the area of Jiayuguan, but this of course is caused by the Desert and my inability to travel through Tibet.
I had considered shortening the trip in some way and considered missing out Shanghai and going direct from Guilin to Beijing on the basis that most would want to see the great Wall, and that only saved 500 km so I did not consider that to be worthwhile, and the other way I can see of reducing the trip is by going from Guilin to XiAn missing out the loop through Shanghai and Beijing, but getting in the terracotta Warriors before returning back to Urumqi and on out of China.
With two guides I visualise one Guide riding in the front vehicle and one Guide riding in the rear vehicle.
I visualise each vehicle on the tour will have one day leading the tour and then the next day I visualise the front vehicle moving to the rear of the tour, being tail end Charlie, and so the second vehicle will be leading for that day and so on. In this way each van has a turn at leading with any of the problems that may create.
It also means that there are four vehicles every second day you have a Chinese guide driving in your vehicle.
We are expected to provide food for the guides on a daily basis and every fifth day pay for a hotel where they can freshen up and shower, so this means every second day you would have a guide at your dinner table.
I would welcome any suggestions once you have had time to read all of the words that are already placed on this section of my website.