The day so far...

We have been camped in Beijing in the car park of the Exhibition Centre Theater, near the Zoo (N39.94083 E116.33882). We did not intend to camp here. We were heading for a nearby hotel car park and expecting to pay up to 170Yuan ($20USA) per night. But whilst waiting outside the theater to get into the hotel car park, the over zealous "guards" of the theater car park directed us to a corner of their car park (just so we did not block their road). And we stayed.

Each evening our car park fills up with the posh cars of Chinese theater goers and each night we are left undisturbed! The "guards" think somebody must have given us permission. On the morning of the 12th of August we were joined by the four French vans. A total of nine vans, four awnings, seventeen deck chairs, a number of clothes lines (and Les drinking wine, bare chested in his shorts!) And still no one questions why we are there!

We are adjacent to the canal that takes pleasure boats to the Summer Palace and for $5USA the boat yard let us connect to their electricity through the fence. It is fine camp site, and free.

As well as looking round Beijing, and replacing our old guide (Patrick) with a new one (Gong), one of our priorities is to to get K-Nine, Kon-Tiki and Womble serviced. Easier said than done. A few days ago there was an abortive attempt to do this at a garage (checked out by Gong?) that turned out only to service cars. This cost half a day and several 100Yuan. Tempers became frayed.

But today would be different. We were assured that there was a Mercedes-Benz truck garage south east of Beijing on the road we will take to Tianjin. Appointments were made to start the service at 08:30. All we have to do is get there. We have the address, we have several maps and we have a guide.

Gong assures us that it will only take 30 minutes to get to the garage, he suggests we leave at 08:00. We insist on leaving at 07:30 to be sure.

Most of us get up at 06:00 and take turns to fill up our water tanks with a hose pipe through the window of the Theater's toilets. The guards watch us with a look of disapproval. Most of us empty our chemical toilets into the Theater's toilets. The guards watch with a look of disapproval.

It is Kon-Tiki's turn to lead but we now discover that Kon-Tiki's CB radio is unusable so K-Nine takes the lead. With Clive and Gong at the front and Mog at the rear we finally wave good-bye to the French and leave at 07:50. We head east into the Beijing rush hour traffic. East is the right direction.

Under Gong's direction we attempt a "U" turn but are thwarted by a low bridge and spend 10 minutes in the back streets. We eventually get on to the intended road (going west!). We go very slowly west for 3km. We can not read any of the signs. Gong is sure of the way? We then go north for 3km, then east for 12km, then south for 15km. All very slowly. We arrive at the garage at 09:26. We have driven a total of 37km at an average speed of 19kph (the straight line distance is 11km!). It is warm and humid. It is rush hour in Beijing. Several apologies will be called for for things said on the CB radio.

Womble, K-Nine and Kon-Tike are serviced.The garage is large, new and sports a Mercedes-Benz sign. After several false starts we eventually make contact with an English speaking German engineer. He is very keen to help, but he explains they are not yet really a truck garage but they will do their best. We explain that we have all the required parts with us (oil, filters etc.).

The details of each vehicle and what is to be done to it are written down and translated into Chinese. Work starts on Womble and K-Nine. (In the end the service takes all day and costs about 1000 Yuan ($120USA) per vehicle.)

Several Chinese Mercedes engineers come out to admire Mog, one strokes the bonnet and whispers in awe "Unimog!" (Because Mog has such a high ground clearance I have been able to do an grease and oil change at 04:30 in the Theater car park without a pit and without the guards noticing!).

The garage (which is recommended) is the "Mercedes-Benz Qualified Service Centre" at Beijing Bei Ben Automobile Service Centre, No:17 Cheng Shouu Si Lu, Fengtai District, 100078 Beijing. Telephone: +86 10 67601580/1/2/3 or E-Mail (N39.85356 E116.43847).

It is 14:29 The service is nearly finished, now to fix Kon-Tiki's CB radio antennae that was botched yesterday by a "CB expert shop" for a mere 300Yuan ($38USA). But that is another story.

Stephen Stewart.

Home - This page last changed on 2002-08-13.