June 15, 2006
Camellia Hotel, Yunnan, China.
Distance covered: 2823 km’s
The last few days have been a blur of bad roads and blue construction lorries. Yesterday we covered 300 km’s in eleven hours, the day before 280 km’s in ten hours. Even if you are as bad as maths as I am you can work out that that is a painfully slow average speed. With another 6000 km’s to go in China we could be here a very long time.
Despite the British Embassy’s help, the Transport office have said a big fat NO to Ting Tong using the expressway. We have heard from several sources that the Chinese government are terrified of anything happening to foreigners, hence their refusal to bend the law. Apparently a lot of accidents happen on these roads – Sam said just last month there was a pile up killing thirty people. Who knows, maybe it is for the best and the expressway would have been dangerous, but at the moment its just
frustrating. While we crawl along in second and third gear on roads only used by waterbuffalo, goats, mule carts and the odd tractor, streams of blue Dong Feng lorries speed past us on the adjacent expressway. The mothertruckers.
The solution is uncertain at the moment. Put bluntry, we are in China and we’ve got to get to Kazakhstan, by July 7th if possible. The CSITS ( China Sea International Travel Service) are proposing that we drive in excess of 300 km's for the next 24 days straight. Given the evidence of the last few days this ain't going to be possible. So we find ourslves in a sticky situation. And no, we are NOT going to put TT on the back of a train or lorry. That would be cheating.
Jo and I are still in shock at the condition of the roads in China, well in Yunnan province – apparently they get better. Yesterday we arrived in Kunming – ‘the city of eternal spring’ and capital of Yunnan – home to 5 million people and one of China’s largest cities. Yet only 5 km from the centre the road was no more than a dusty track, riven with deep holes. Trucks, pony carts, tuk tuks (or ‘bom boms’ as they call them here), motorbikes and bicycles all bumped along at 5 mph in a cloud of dust. You should have seen the state of us and TT when we arrived at our hotel.
Grubby doesn’t even begin to describe it.
However, its certainly not all bad. Yunnan is absolutely breathtaking, a magic place. Our roads may have been bad but they are flanked by awe-inspiring scenery; mountains wreathed in tea and rice terraces, banana plantations and pine-forests. If we weren't under such time pressure we would be delighted to be taking these roads and not the expressway, you see much more of the real China. We also have the endless amusement of people's reactions to not only westerners driving past, but westerners in a pink tuk tuk. Reactions range from bewilderment to hysterical screams and gaping mouths. We even had one lorry full of construction workers hollering 'I love you' at us!
Sam, on the hand, is finding the whole experience mortifyingly embarassing. His most frequent expression is 'Preease, save my face'. In other words, stop embarassing me. This is normally provoked by our mid-afternoon outbursts of hysteria, when we start singing (Ting Tong merrily on high is a current favourite) and generally behaving in a puerile manner. There have also been a few occasions when, erm, nature called and we simply had to pull over by the side of the road. Sam was appalled but when you gotta go... The fact that we are travelling in a tuk tuk is also a source of constant humiliation for him. In China everyone wants brand new SUVS, a tuk tuk is something reserved for poor rural areas, he can not understand our choice of vehicle. Even worse is travelling in a dirty tuk tuk and most mornings we find him, sponge in hand, fervently washing the layer of mud and dust
of TT. Poor Sam, I think he might be in a straight-jacket by the end of his two weeks with us.
So times are hard but all is OK and the adventure is truly in full swing. The last few days have been very, very tough but we never expected it to be easy. We're off to the stone forest at Shilin today and hopefully in the next day or two the CSITS will come up with a solution.
Happy Thursday everyone... Ants x