Beijing to Nanjing.

The route from Beijing to Nanjing is predominantly good "freeway" (i.e. expensive toll roads). In most countries this would make navigation easy, but in China new roads are built at such a rate that all maps are out of date and even the police 50km away can be unaware of a brand new stretch of freeway. Things are also complicated by the fact that our new guide (Mr. Gong) is over-confident that he knows the way, although his map is as wrong as ours, and he has never been this far from Beijing before. Added to this is the "need" to stick to the agreed itinerary even if the best road no longer goes anywhere near next "transit" town on our list.

Tai'an: our first real stop after Beijing is the gateway town to the sacred mountain of Tai Shan. Most of the group took a combination of bus and cable car to the top (only one person, Pat, walked down). The cable car ride was across deep chasms and up steep limestone cliffs with wild lilies and orchids and was stunning. The views, both of the mountain and from the mountain were somewhat spoiled by the cloud of pollution (smog?) we have been traveling in since before Beijing.

Once again finding somewhere to park dominated the first part of the day and the unhelpful nature of our new guide became more evident. Kon-Tiki suffered puncture number 7 and probably need their second new tire.

Qufu: Qufu as a tourist attraction is based on the fact that Confucius was born there and his descendants ran the place for over 2000 years. Our tour of Qufu was meant to start with a visit to the Confucius Forest but we were unfortunately taken to an incredibly tacky "Confucius Theme Park", designed to extract money from local tourists. The "Confucius LegoLand" and Karioke Bar exhibits were not to be missed!

The Confucius Temple.The real Confucius Forest (and the family graveyard) was lovely - thick with old elegant trees and deep uncut grass and butterflies. Very cool and restful. The Confucius Temple was also very beautiful - a smaller scale "Forbidden City" but with more grass and trees and less people.

Xuzhou: The main attraction of Xuzhou is a miniature Terracotta Army. This "army" of 3000 soldiers is only 400mm high but 2000 years old and pre-dates the better known life-size army near Xian.

Between Beijing and Nanjing most nights have been spent at service stations on the freeway, not beautiful but easy to find and free.

We had hoped to camp in Nanjing near the Sun Yatsen Mausoleum, where the French had camped in 2000, but alas overnight parking rates have now risen to 200 Yuan per van per night! After Mr. Gong eventually contacted China Swan they suggested we try the International Conference Hotel nearby. This turned out to be a very good suggestion, made even better by a very helpful lady working for Iveco who had already stopped to suggest an alternative parking place to us, but ended up leading us to the hotel and then negotiating a reduced room rate for us! Many thanks!

Several members of the group succumbed to the temptation of an air-conditioned room, a bath and the use of the pool. Parking was charged at 40 Yuan per van per night, and rooms at 240 Yuan per night.

Stephen Stewart.

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