Day 20: Yakeshi to Manzhouli

After a nice sunset last night, we left Yakeshi this morning about 9 a.m. to drive to Manzhouli, which is on the border with Russia.


Yakeshi sunset last night

Yakeshi sunset last night (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

After about 60 miles, the G10 expressway we’ve been following since Suifenhe came to an end — we thought it would take us all the way to Manzhouli. But not to worry — we continued on the G301, which turned out to be an excellent four lane national highway, although we did have to slow down a few times for cows crossing the road.


Some of the many cows we saw on the drive today

Some of the many cows we saw on the drive today (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We saw many horses and sheep as well, including this herd of horses that raced to a nearby river, where they plowed right into the water and started playing and drinking.


Horses racing to a river

Horses racing to a river (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

The forests from yesterday disappeared and the terrain became smaller rolling hills — we’re now traveling on what’s known as the steppe. The weather was nice again today, but very windy. It reminded me of the winds in the deserts of the southwest U.S. — I even saw a couple of tumbleweeds go dancing down the road, and one got squashed by a car in front of me.

I could see the railroad track running parallel to us for many miles today, so I’m sure the original racers saw some of the same scenes as us. However, they would have missed the giant wind turbines perched on the surrounding hillsides. What they saw was probably something close to the picture below:


Typical steppe scene

Typical steppe scene (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We saw many yurts, the tent-like structures that Mongolians use for everything from houses to restaurants. We stopped at a resort that had large yurt for the reception area and restaurant and smaller yurts for the rooms. The large yurt had a main room filled with stuffed animals.


Main yurt at resort area

Main yurt at resort area (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Yurt hotel rooms at Mongolian resort

Yurt hotel rooms at Mongolian resort (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Some of the animals on display in the main yurt

Some of the animals on display in the main yurt (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We arrived in Manzhouli about 1:30, having made only one short stop at a closed gas station for a Roadster refueling from the side tanks. The wind was blowing so hard, it rocked the Envoy as we sat there.

Tomorrow: A short tour of Manzhouli and then ensuring our customs paperwork is in order for the Friday border crossing back into Russia.

Day 19: Qiqihar to Yakeshi

We had a beautiful drive today on the brand new G10 expressway through scenic Inner Mongolia. My map (which I purchased in the U.S.) depicted secondary roads for the rest of the trip, but it turns out that the G10 was completed from Suifenhe to Manzhouli (Eastern Russian Border to Western Russian Border) in the past year. The new road took more than a decade to build due to the short summers here.

We departed our hotel in Qiqihar about 9 a.m., but not before doing some troubleshooting on the brake lights again.


Brake light problems again

Brake light problems again (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

I also spotted two turtles on leashes outside our hotel — I’m not sure if they’re pets or if ingredients for soup is in their future.


Turtle in Qiqihar

Turtle in Qiqihar (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Leaving Qiqihar was easier than arriving, although we still had to go back through the mud bath from yesterday. Here’s picture of the road on the way out:


Leaving Qiqihar

Leaving Qiqihar (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We stopped for gas about 10:30, and the station had an overhead walkway connecting the service areas on both sides of the road, so I climbed up and took the shot below. You can see Manzhouli, our destination for tomorrow, listed at the bottom of the road sign in the distance.


The G10 Expressway

The G10 Expressway (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

The scenery in Inner Mongolia is spectacular, as you can see from the picture below — rolling green hills with forests and lots of rivers and marshes. We also had blue skies for the first time in more than a week.


Scenery in Inner Mongolia

Scenery in Inner Mongolia (Eileen Bjorkman)

Unfortunately, we also learned that because the G10 in Inner Mongolia is so new, the service areas aren’t open yet. The Roadster was running low on fuel, so we got off at an exit, but the toll booth attendant said it was another 25 km into town, and we would have to drive another 25 km back to the expressway. The area around the toll gate was deserted, except for a truck apparently taking a break, so we pulled over and John added some fuel from the emergency cans that he carries. It was enough to get us to Yakeshi, about 150 km down the road.


Toll gate where we stopped to refuel

Toll gate where we stopped to refuel (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Emergency refueling

Emergency refueling (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

About 30 minutes after we got back on the road from the emergency refueling, we crossed over the railroad line that used to be the Chinese portion of the Trans-Siberian Railway. We’ve been paralleling the track for some time now, but this was the first time we’ve seen it since we left Vladivostok. The original racers weren’t on the railway at this point in the race anymore, but they were following a nearby road, so we may have passed by some of the same scenery they saw more than a century ago.

Right after crossing the railroad, we ran into a downpour, and John had to stop to install the window panels in the Roadster. I appreciated the storm because it washed all the bugs off the windshield of the Envoy!

We arrived in Yakeshi about 3 p.m., taking only six hours instead of the nine hours we would have needed if we had taken the original route (the G301) the entire way. Part of us wishes we had been able to drive the old highway, but we really appreciated the smoothness of the new highway.

Yakeshi is much smaller than Harbin and Qiqihar, but Mir Corporation still managed to find us a very nice hotel!

At the hotel in Yakeshi

At the hotel in Yakeshi (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Tomorrow: Manzhouli, on the Russian border, 265 km.