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The official start day of the Peking to Paris Expedition - this is the day that most of our group of seven cars have been eagerly awaiting!

We needed to be at the New Zealand Embassy, located in Beijing 's diplomatic enclave, by 7am for the Ambassador, Tony Brown, to flag us away. This meant an early start to pack and ready the cars, which was a good idea considering the anticipated high temperatures expected today.

Today's journey of just over 400 km took us north east out of Beijing, firstly on the number two ring road, and then quickly on to the Badaling Expressway. Being a Sunday morning, this was a relatively painless exercise. The road climbs steadily for 30km and after an hour of travelling, we made a compulsory stop at the Badaling Gate at the Great Wall for photos and to experience the sheer mountainous countryside.

Everybody appeared to be eager to keep moving before the heat of the day arrived. Once on the plateau, the fantastic newly-completed expressway enabled us to gobble up the distance with ease, with most cars cruising at the 100km speed limit for another two hours until we arrived at our pre-arranged lunch stop at the city of Zhangjiakou.

The inhabitants don't often see foreign visitors in this town, so as part of the lavish Chinese style lunch, a local musical group of three singers arrived to entertain us. Once back on the road the fun began, with the slow truck traffic beginning to intensify. The road also steadily started to climb over a long distance to quite high elevations. Although our Fiats are handling the hot temperatures with ease, the two Saabs and the Volvo had overheating and fuel vaporisation issues today in outside temperatures in the high 30's. Lengthy stops at the numerous toll gates didn't help the situation, with the cars susceptible to overheating.

At the last toll gate of the day, as we entered the city of Jining, we were herded over to the side of the expressway and given a civic welcome by a cultural group of pretty young ladies dressed in the very colourful local costume, offering our group a warm welcome to the region. It was a fitting end to the long and hot, first day's journey.

Our hotel wasn't too much further down the road and located in the central city. This area is classified as Outer Mongolia and already the cultural changes, the physical appearances of the people and the food varieties, indicate that we are now getting close to Mongolia.

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