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Syd Stelvio Peking to Paris 24, Day 12 & 13 – Urumqi to Forest Park Camp to Khorgas – 449km + 343km

Syd Stelvio Peking to Paris 24, Day 12 & 13 – Urumqi to Forest Park Camp to Khorgas – 449km + 343km

Our time in China is coming to an end, over the past two weeks we have followed the path of the setting sun across the width of this substantial country, and tomorrow we will pass through the border and begin our adventure in Kazakhstan. We will once again begin the day with the sun on our backs, as we continue to head east, continuing to push towards our objective in Paris, which is still so far away.

The last two days of our time here have largely been spent in transit. It is a necessary tedium, if you want to travel great distances there will always be some days that aren’t as action packed as others, and some highway miles are inevitable. On the flipside, these are relatively easy steps on the path, an opportunity to not push the car so hard, to have an easier time with the roadbook.

That’s not to say the last couple of days haven’t contained highlights, they certainly have. Day 12 included one competitive section, a mountain regularity set in delightful scenery, but first of course there was the escape from the clogged streets of Urumqi, which were some of the busiest we have seen in China. It was the usual case of finding the right balance of elbows out motoring, and serene patience – oh, and developing eyes everywhere.

Once clear of Urumqi’s gravitational pull, and an hour or so down the highway the mountains beckoned, and they were green. It was a real treat after all the desert driving, and whilst they weren’t exactly alpine slopes of evergreen tree’s there was enough alternative colour to place a new kind of calm on the day. These were agricultural lands, and the new calm was needed as the cars navigated the farmers that were driving cattle and livestock up the roads, with no real care given to the traffic. There was plenty of that, too, with a great many coal trucks and, later on in the day, tourists, sometimes parked three deep on the side of the road, gawping at the view and then having their attention snatched by the rally cars.

Some suffered more than others in the mele, the big losers in the top ten were Matt Bryson and Mike Pink, dropping 34 seconds. In comparison, Katrina Kyvalova and Jon Minshaw dropped 14, and whilst this was still higher than some, it was enough to move them up into third place in the Classic Category. Lars and Annette Rolner are leading that, and head the entire leaderboard by a minute and a half now and have certainly been the masters of China. Across the rest of the top ten though things are much closer, with just a minute covering everyone in a list that is predictably filled by machines in the Classic category, except for one exception, the Chevy Master Deluxe Coupe of Richard Walker and Faith Douglas. They are pushing on and doing extremely well and are third in the entire rankings – as well as being our rally leaders, besting the closest Vintageant machine of Andy Buchan and Mike Sinclair by over a minute and a half. It’s a tremendous performance by the duo and rounds out a fantastic first fortnight on the event.

The regularity was over and done with fairly early on in the day, and a lengthy cruise into our final Chinese camp followed. Camping in China has been a bit of a mixed bag, but for anyone who had been suffering any misgivings about our time under Canvas, the Peoples Republic had saved the best until last. Once off the highway, the road took the cars up into the foothills of the Tian Shan Mountains, one of several ranges in the Xinjiang region. Their snow-capped peaks towered over our camping spot – confusingly named the Forest Camp, it seemed to contain a total lack of trees. Still, they would only have spoiled the view of the majestic massif, that sat in dramatic and beautiful light with the cloud that was constantly evolving over its highest elevations.

It wasn’t the warmest spot we had stayed in, neither was it the driest, especially when a rain storm hit just after nightfall, it was however an incredible location to round out our time in China and as dawn broke just as the first cars left camp in the morning of the thirteenth day, the sun rose in a red disc, far across the vast plains below. It was simply stunning.

The early morning light show might have been enough of an antidote against the monotony of the transit day that followed, but there was another treat as we approached our final Chinese destination of Khorgas, in the form of an alpine pass that could have easily been straight out of the Swiss or Austrian Alps. Pine Trees dominated the slopes, and the peaks were still capped with snow, as horses galloped across the valley floors (as well as up the road). A more chocolate-box vista you could not hope to find, China still offering up the surprises even at this late stage.

All that remains for our Chinese story, is to tackle the first border crossing of the event, after a good night’s sleep of course. Well, a good night’s sleep for some of us, there is never a time more tense for those in the organisational hot seat as a border crossing, so if you bump into Chris Elkins or Guy Woodcock later, perhaps offer them a hug.


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