08 May, 2008

On the road Day 5 - Friday 2 May - Wanyuan to Xian

Wanyuan to Xian - 500km.

This day was a killer on the road but the payoff was some beautiful scenery and great interactions with the local community.

Travelling through tiny villages crammed up against cliftops whilst travelling through narrow river valleys.

These roads then snaked up and down mountains affording eye watering views.

In the valleys themselves were many wooden suspension bridges over the rivers and it was quite an adventure to walk across them.

Lots and lots of going up and down mountains, lots of trucks and crazy drivers.

I passed an overturned truck which was carrying beehives. The truck drivers had set up all the hives alongside the road in order to keep the bees happy, whilst they had set up camp awaiting a tow into the next major town. With the help of my trusty electronic translator they were able to indicate that they had been camped for two weeks and weren't sure when a replacement truck was arriving.

In China trucks are all painted standard bright colours - either blue, red, yellow or green dependent on their size and carrying capacity. Many times I passed, or was passed by convoys of new trucks leaving the manufacturing plants around Chongqing enroute to their new owners.

Twice I had to climb mountains up to almost 3,000 metres and the poor old Haobon was running rich and had no power. A number of times I was riding flat out in 2nd gear at 30km/h trying desperately to stay ahead of trucks bearing down on me. In addition, the tops of those mountains were very cold especially as night started to fall.

I eventually descended into 33C heat and made it into Xian around 8.30pm. I then found my way unassisted throuh the gates of the old city and into the centre of town and after an hour or so of asking various policemen discovered I was only 250 metres away from the hostel I was aiming to stay at that evening.

Like most hotels in China (and throughout Asia for that matter) the owners allowed me to safely park the Haobon inside their courtyard for the night.

The next day was spent sightseeing including an organised tour to the Terracotta Warriors.

Xian is very much a tourist city, very pretty, but nothing like the true China I have experienced until now.

Whilst nice to relax in this city, I do feel sorry for the tourists and travellers who fly or take a train from one big tourist city to the next, it simply does not provide them with the opportunity to expereince anything more athan a picture postcard view which bears little resemblance to reality for your average Chinese citizen.