Hello All,

It’s Monday September 24th at 00:25 am. 15 minutes ago we flew away from Beijing Airport and are now high up in the air. The trip is done!!! We made the Finish. YES! We have now left Beijing behind us…… I wrote a whole story this morning to keep you informed of the latest news on the web log but something went wrong with placing the story on the web log site. So now we are in the plane and I am giving it another try and will try to send the story through when we get to Dubai.

First we go back to a couple of days ago……..

We did finally (as you already know by now) cross the border after lot’s of bureaucracy. Once through on the Chinese side we were awaited by an organization which would escort us to the Great China Wall and Beijing. This also because we are not allowed to travel through the country by ourselves but have to drive in convoy. They had everything organized in good order and after 3 hours waiting for the paperwork to be settled we could finally resume our journey. We all received our Chinese drivers licenses (with our foto and just Chinese signs on it) and Chinese license plates to put on our car. At about 17:30 we actually started our first Chinese journey of 500 kilometers. There is an immediate change with Mongolia. The trees are planted in a row along side the roads, the grass is much greener, everything is planted, the roads are tarred and I can keep going on like that for ages. When we drove trough cities and towns, the inhabitants would watch our convoy drive by and here you could immediately see the big contrast between rich and poor. The first few kilometers we were still driving through the last part of the Gobi dessert and on either side of the freeway you could see dinosaurs ( I have been told that many dinosaur bones and skeletons have been found in the Gobi dessert, so that’s why…)Blog Image

It was a long drive and we finally all arrived at the hotel at 03:00 am and were exhausted. It was a beautiful hotel and it is a pitty we could not really enjoy the amenities and even our soft bed because we had to get up again at 07:00 am to resume our trip to the Great Wall of China. We crossed amazingly beautiful landscape and drove across mountains, through mountain passes, villages, and finally there it was right in front of us. The great Wall! It’s very impressive. Too bad that we could not go all the way to the top because of the short time we had but we made pictures with the other Challengers and toasted on the finish with Champagne. It was a very emotional moment. All kinds of things flashed trough my mind. Al the stress of the past few weeks, all the good and bad times, the intense preparations of the past few months. We have been so busy with everything to just be able to start the journey and suddenly we are standing here, at the finish The journey comes at an end. We still are in some kind of “high” resuming our trip to Beijing. Again we pass trough breathtaking landscapes. Slowly we are entering the outer city limits of Beijing and you immediately notice how busy they are working here at getting everything ready for the 2008 Olympic Games. Complete cities are being build and rise out of nothing. Everything has to be perfect and that’s very noticeable. We are already hours too late for our expected arrival at the Dutch Embassy. Driving in convoy is not so easy to keep everyone together in a busy city, so we have to stop several times until all cars have caught up again. Then we get informed that we have to turn on our warning lights and to not stop for a red traffic light anymore and keep driving following each other closely and loudly beeping the horn when crossing through a red light. So said and so it was done. You can imagine how the other traffic reacted to us. But what a kick this gave, to drive like this through a busy city of millions of people with this beautiful sunset in the back drop………. The Dutch ambassador welcomed us with champagne, beer and bitter balls (traditional Dutch treat – they’re small beef filled croquettes) Mmmmmm. All this and we still had to drive to our hotel afterwards. Oooops! I am still hanging in this kind of rush or high, even though the trip is really at an end right now. I must confess that I prepared for this trip with mixed feelings being very unsure but I can tell you that from day one until today I enjoyed every single minute. Yes, sometimes it was very stressful and frightening, it was sensational, real, emotional, letting go, frustrating, enjoyable, good times, bad times, meeting many interesting people from who you also learn something new. Shortly, it was sensational, a try before you die and a……..want to do it again adventure. This last suggestion only in compliance with the home front of course. Blog ImageBlog Image

So, we leave the embassy and drive towards our hotel, here we are awaited by orphan children with flowers for the organization “Plan” and the press. It was so nice and also the children of colleague challengers Piet and Rick handover a big cheque to “Plan”. The children of Piet en Rik spend a lot of time collecting money for this charity organization and flew to Beijing. Delicious Chinese snacks were served (decorated with the heads of chickens) and we toasted and drank a lot. Afterwards we all went for a very late night out in Beijing. The next day I slept in, what a luxury. Pieter was already up early, being busy with the car and he had his hair cut, which was well needed! Later we visited this really large covered market where you could buy heaps of clothing with brand names, and souvenirs. You know how it goes, we had to buy an extra suitcase to take home with us. In our hotel, which is by the way a splendid and place and everything is taken well care for, everybody goes their own way. When you would meet up with each other in the lobby and suggestions of places to go are offered, then you just decide if you want to go along or not. It’s all very easy going. The day before yesterday we had to get up early at 05:30 am as the car had to be brought to shipping company at the harbor. 1 person per car was enough but I really wanted to come along. This way I can sight see on the way there and you don’t see a busy Chinese shipping harbor every day. The way ther was very dangerous. It was very foggy and the Chinese don’t seem to take any notice of the traffic rules. They overtake you left and right, truck suddenly stand still in the middle of the freeway, no hazard lights, working class people are walking everywhere, so very dangerous situations. I was glad when we finally arrived at the harbor after 3 hours of driving. Here every 2 cars were fit into 1 container and we left them behind in the care of the containers owner until they will arrive in the Netherlands in 4 to 6 weeks time. This was the really our actual final stop for the trip. We took a bus back to the hotel and decided to go to a karaoke place with a some of the others later that day. That’s a must when you visit China, it seems. I thought at first we would go to a karaoke bar or something like that, but we went to this hotel were they brought us to this small room and this is where it was happening. So we laughed , cried and just had a wonderful time…….Blog ImageBlog Image

In the evening almost all the Challengers enjoyed our final dinner together. This morning we were busy packing, of course I still brought too many clothes with me because we hardly have had any need for the warm clothing but…. you never know! At 12 noon we wanted to go see the Forbidden City together with Arthur and Niels. Across the street from here lies the biggest square in the world. The famous Heavenly Peace Square. Where in 1989 a student revolt was taking place and where many have found their death. You must remember the tv images where this one person stood alone in front of this big tank. Luckily today we are in a different Beijing. 1000’s of tourists are now standing on this square and a free culture movement is tolerated, even they are all still being watched closely. You see the military and government involvement everywhere. On the walls at the entry of the Forbidden City you find a big picture (painted) of most probably world’s most biggest dictator. Back then this little Red Book existed and everyone had to live and abide by the rules in his book, if you did not then you would just suddenly disappear……… It is a big question mark for us why this person is still honored today. The story goes that his picture has to be painted anew many times because of the smog damage and that with each retouch the dictator seems to smile a little more and more?? One building is more beautiful then the other in the Forbidden City, restorations are taking place everywhere, so that everything looks perfect when millions of people visit the city during the 2008 Olympic Games. The city is surrounded by canals and walls and inside these walls you find temples. Here we were able to take a look. The Emperor’s part of the city was closed and we could not visit inside. We rented some bikes, which was a great way to explore the city. You could see the city Beijing from a different angle. It was only yesterday when I said that you would have to be crazy to drive a bike trough this city because of the chaotic traffic. But it’s all different when partaking in the traffic on bike yourself. You just go with the flow and never hesitate. We keep cycling and we pass lakes, cross canals, different bridges (seems like Amsterdam) and finally end up in this little alley with lot’s of cafe’s and places to eat. Looks cozy and so we chose a little roof terrace to rest a bit. But time flies and we had to return to our hotel again. And here we are sitting flying high above the earth in a plane. Pieter has already fallen asleep and I am starting to get tired as well so I will start to round up my story and we will try our best to send it through from Dubai. And with this I also officially close our Trip stories for the blog. I hope it has helped you all to take a little taste of the experiences we had. We really enjoyed the trip ourselves and also reporting to you and this could not have taken place withour Sonja and Bart who kept the website, photo album, you tube movies and web log up to date. So thank you to Sonja and Bart! I will read it all again myself when I get home as this trip leaves many impressions and ones can process only that much. One day you are walking through St Petersburg and a few days later you are standing on the Red Square in Moscow which is closely followed by standing on the Square of Heavenly Peace in Beijing. You pass so many different landscapes and cultures and it is so much to take in because you want to remember all you see and do for later……..Blog ImageBlog Image

Lot’s of love and greetings en see you back home xxx

P.S. When we get home we are going to add some more You Tube movies on our You Tube site. So keep posted!!!