After four months, 40,000km, seven countries, five punctures, we finally arrive in the destination we set out to reach: China.
China is the country of my birth; my childhood; and it resides in a warm corner of my heart because it is the place where my family lives. For Henning China became a second home, a place that turned his Germanness upside down and where he learnt a thing or two in the art of improvisation. So naturally we found ourselves overtaken by a flood of emotions when we finally crossed from Mongolia to Inner Mongolia.
For one, we no longer needed Google translator or hand gestures to get around. For two, the border crossing was quite an adventure in itself that involved: waking up to the realisation we were not as smart as we thought we were by getting ourselves into the wrong queue the night before; which soon turned into hustling with Mongolians and their army of hundreds of shabby-looking but surprisingly reliable UAZ Hunter, that due to the freezing cold are fighting hard for the spark of ignition. Then picking up hitchhikers; and fulfilling Chinese bureaucratic tasks that made us part with Toyotoro for one night at the border.
Needless to say, we let out a sigh of relief to finally be on the road in China. It was then when we looked at each other and couldn’t stop smiling because it was the first time we realised how far we had come.
Our first stop? The Great Wall.
Throughout our journey Toyotoro has received much attention and positive feedback from various locals, from offerings of thumbs up, often at the risk of the driver’s own safety as it mostly occurred on the move, to comments such as ‘machina bomba’ which we can only hope it’s something mightily cool.
However, nowhere was the power of hospitality so great as those we encountered in China. It started with a Mr. Ming, whom we befriended while figuring out how to get a better photo of Toyotoro with the iconic Great Wall. We decided that a proof of our grand arrival with China’s iconic structure is essential. Luckily for us it just happens Mr. Ming works at the Great Wall; thus, he was not only more than happy to open the gate for us but also offering us tips as to which angles to best take the photos.
Let us not forget The Great Wall of China is a 5A-ranked tourist attraction armoured with the security measures befitting its rank. This include electric gates and turnstiles for mass control. I would like to also add that in order to reach the wall we had to cross a bridge over a large dam and various narrow pedestrian paths. We thank you Mr. Ming for your kindness and help.
Our next stop is naturally returning to Henning’s second home and where we had lived for the last 3.5 years – Beijing. Although we considered this metropolis ‘our hood’ for a short period of our lives but it all seem somehow different this time. Is it because we are now in the shoes of tourists, so everything is once again refreshing? Or is it because it was such a journey to arrive, so we appreciate everything that much more? Whatever the reason, we had a spring to our steps when wandering around the bitter cold streets in the start of winter and getting lost in the hutongs (traditional courtyard residences in narrow streets with a prevailing but intimate smell of public toilets).
As we enjoyed the luxury of a friend’s serviced apartment in the heart of Beijing (Wangfujing) we were discovered and subsequently invited to join a cult – The Chinese Land Cruiser 70 Series community. The definition of a cult according to the dictionary is as follows: a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object. And boy did this group of enthusiasts show devotion and passion towards their Land Cruisers and their owners!
We were greeted in VIP style (sandwiched between other 70 Series with emergency lights flashing in front and behind us). We were offered maintenance, repair equipped other high-quality vehicle gadgets. While this was all taking place in the background, we were treated to delicious food and got intoxicated by their fervour for travelling and discovering no-man’s land in China but mostly because of their baijiu (white spirit of about 50-60% alcohol) and huangjiu (yellow liquor that is less than 20% but it sure makes you dizzy) and pijiu (beer).
Land Cruiser 70 Series brought us together and we soon felt home as part of their family. I only hope that we can give them just as much when they make it to Germany in their own 70 Series, sometime in the not so distant future. Don’t forget, it only counts if you drive, lads!
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