In Hongkong I organize the next leg of this journey. The Russian visa is still one of the most laborious (and expensive) visa at all. I can only get it at home. And so I send my passport back to Switzerland and get ready to wait.
For 2 weeks I am now in a town where the weather is currently so terribly hot and sticky that it kills every lust to do anything outdoors and where rooms for budget travelers are the size of a closet.
I try to make use of the time to overhaul my bicycle and put some pounds back on my ribs. In the past weeks I just lost too much weight.
After 2 weeks my passport does really turn up again with one more of those colourful stickers more inside.
In comparison, the Chinese visa is a quick affair and I am glad I can finally move on.
I start the next leg of this journey in Harbin, in northeastern China. Harbin is of course best knows for its ice sculpture festival taking place every winter. But now we have summer here too and the weather and the temperatures are just pure joy coming from the washhouse like Hongkong.
As much as I love China, I don't like Chinese big cities. But Harbin surprises me very pleasantly. A very beautiful town with a big pedestrian zone, good restaurants, nice places and a very impressive Russian orthodox cathedral. Definitely one of the nicer towns in China.
From Harbin I am heading north. All along the route there is lots of agriculture and with every day that I get further north the scenery becomes wider and more open.
In the evenings I stay in small towns. After many month in India I experience the Chinese remarkably friendly and quite. They are little towns where probably never a tourist stops and I am often marveled at las if I was an alien. Not a single person speaks one word english. I like that. Chinese are often very good at sign language and I always get what I am looking for.
I have now left the huge agricultural zones behind me. I am now in the northernmost part of China and surprised how warm it is here. Although I have already crossed the 50º latitude it regularly gets over 30º C in the afternoon.
For about two weeks I ride along the border with Russia. Distances between towns are getting bigger and in between there is forest, nothing but endless wide forest for days on end.
So much untouched nature is of course very much to my liking. But eventually there is a bit too much nature even for my taste: at first it is only a few horseflies that are here to annoy me. But soon word seems to have gotten around that there is a sweaty cyclist in the neighborhood.
Soon I have a constant armada of hundreds of horseflies accompanying me constantly. Of course they are not just here to escort me and every now and then one tries to sting me which results in me constantly cycling with wild flying arms all day long.
Support comes from someone totally unexpected: My old archenemy the head wind is there to help me. I have probably never before been so happy about a strong head wind. Wind seems to be the only thing, that keeps the flies away. Either I cycle 25km/h which is only possible if I am in a downhill or the wind simulates that.
As soon as I stop and put up my tent in the evening the horse flies are replaced by Mosquitos and huge swarms of little black flies that take over the job to annoy me. Putting up the tent is always a race against time until I finally can close my inner tent and it is quite.
In Hulunbuir the forests change into grassland. The horseflies don’t seem to like it here anymore and I am not sad about their disappearance.
They are beautifully gently curved hills with meadows and wide rape fields. A few yurts already appear and there are huge horse and sheep herds. It is the Chinese type of a Mongolian steppe with good infrastructure and more densely populated than the original.