fire in the hole

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If you’ve read yesterday’s post, you know that I came here with basically no expectations at all.

…that being said, now please allow me to present to you the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at:


Doesn’t look like much, does it? That’s exactly what I thought at first, and I’m not going to make too many words:

– superb service,

– extremely clean facilities,

– very quiet rooms and hallways,

– an Internet connection 8 times (!) faster than the second fastest place I have been at on this whole trip (must have been Shijiazhuang – living large in the dust),

– clean, soft, cozy, nice, comfortable, awesome beds,

– and all that at a highly competitive price rate – no haggling involved.

I went out and found someone to take a look at my tires:

Zhao Fu fixing the Caboose

Zhao Fu ่ตต็ฆ, a passionate hiker himself, kind of just looked at me with my beard, and then he looked at the Caboose standing there, and then at my beard again:

“If you’ve really walked here all the way from Beijing” he said, “it’s my pleasure to repair your bike for free!”

Mr. Zhao repaired my Caboose for free

Thank you so much, Zhao Fu, may wind and rain stay far from you wherever you choose to go hiking!

You guys remember Uncle Shen, the cyclist who was riding his bike to the Chinese Northeast when I met him a few months ago on the road (misled)? We had always kept in touch after that. His hometown is รœrรผmqi ไนŒ้ฒๆœจ้ฝ, 600km west from here, and the other day he rang me up and said:

“Listen lad, the road ahead might not be as easy as you think. Let me ride my bike over and help you get through there!”

And so he did – we met up here in Sandaoling today:

Uncle Shen

What an interesting man: a bit over 60 years old and just retired, he is a passionate cyclist who has done thousands and thousands of miles all throughout the country within the last two years. More than 4 decades of work as a railway mechanic have made him a massive man with a deep voice and huge hands. His character is very kind though, and he likes to laugh and always keeps a meticulous diary about everything he sees when he’s riding his bike around. I call him Uncle Shen or just Uncle.

Tonight we went down into the coal mine to take pictures:

heavy machinery

People had been telling us about natural fires of some sort down there, flames that were coming from the ground without being volcanic, due to some kind of chemical reaction in the different layers of coal or something.

Anyway we staggered around in the dark for a while…

stars over the mine

…and then we found the fires:


So weird…


…these things are just there, and the miners seem to sort of work around them:


I didn’t understand what was going on…


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…but I thought it was really worth it, standing down there in the darkness of the coal dust, quietly looking at the fire.

PS: My Internet connection has been terrible ever since I left Sandaoling, so please forgive me for not being able to update as regularly as I would like to.

  • Hermann

    oh what a lucky man your are…


  • Barry aka Ba Lli

    Haste denn wenigstens Bratwürstchen dabei gehabt?


  • Steven

    So weird phenomena!
    Would it relate to the earthquake in the southwest yesterday ???
    Just the mother nature would know………!


  • Florian (Flo Li Anh,

    So treffen sich die Protagonisten wieder – die ganzen einsamen Wettstreiter, die sich in der Einzelkämpferdisziplin durch die Weltgeschichte schlagen… besser könnte es doch gar nicht laufen!


  • Alexis

    Das sind Kohlebrände bzw. Haldenbrände. Das entsteht oft spontan wenn sich Sauerstoff aus der Luft mit der Kohle in berührung kommt. Bei Kohleflözbränden kann dies auf natürlichem Wege geschehen, wenn das Flöz in Folge von Erosion oder Orogenese (Gebirgsbildung) an die Oberfläche tritt.

    Selten nicht natürlichen Ursprungs, d.h. im Bergbau bei unsachgemäßer Handhabung der Geräte, aber auch durch Methangasexplosionen die auch oft auf unsachgemäße Handhabung resultieren. Entzünden Waldbrände und umgekehrt.

    Ursache ist die spontane Enzündlichkeit der Kohle. Sauerstoff reagiert mit den Festsoffmolekülen der Kohle. Manchmal entzündet sich die Kohle aber auch unter Tage, wenn der Luftsauerstoff durch Bewetterung von Schächten unter der Erde befördert wird. Heißt aber nicht das das immer passiert. Oft entwickeln sich natürlich auch giftige Gase.

    Verdammt interessant, leider noch nicht selber gesehen. Weltweites verbreitet, freu dich das du es gesehen hast.

    Viel spass noch auf deinem Weg


  • Florian (Flo Li Anh,

    Nach den ganzen Loo-Themen ist der Titel natürlich eindeutig zweideutig…


  • Barry aka Ba Lli

    Und mir fällt noch ein: achte darauf wo Du Dein Zelt aufstellst ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Gisela

    Nette Menschen, tolle Bilder!
    Habt ihr ihn denn auch alle in picasa auf der Lokomotive gesehen???


  • Barry aka Ba Lli

    na klar


  • Anonymous

    …einfach genial! Das ist der Hammer! a place like hell ;o)


  • Christoph

    Hermann: Yes, at times.
    Alexis: Hey, danke für die Erklärung! Ich freue mich jedesmal sehr über Kommentare, die den Blog auf diese Art bereichern!


  • Jaime Machin

    I think is natural gas. At some mining places you can get natural gas. ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Rolfen

    Jaime, according to other (seemingly knowledgeable) comments, it would be coal spontaneously combusting when it comes in contact with oxygen.
    Sure, it might be gas – I’m not an expert. Just relaying what I read in the comments since you likely don’t understand German.


  • moose from Montreal

    the stories of Zhao Fu and Uncle Shen are very touching…


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