Sep
15

BAIYU – GANZI

By

The Road & Track Edition

I am safe and sound and back in Ganzi. If there were alcohol here in my motel room, I would be writing this totally liquefied. But good thing there isn’t any because I might go on and on making nonsensical Star Trek references about maneuvering wormholes at warp speed!

Setting off from Baiyu, a monk sees us off on our long drive.

What was a 270km, 6-hour drive took us 10 ½ hours. We left Baiyu at 9:00 this morning. The drive to Ganzi is another one of those circuitous affairs that spooks you whenever you come up on a hairpin turn, not knowing if the oncoming motor bike, car, van, or overloaded transport truck would be on the outside or inside of the same turn.

What was that… the brake cable coming loose?

A wooden suspension bridge along the way.

The day was a picture-perfect day with big puffy white clouds and deep blue skies. The driving conditions were perfect, however the road and obstacles were not in our favour.

This would be an excellent time to talk about the vehicle in which I have been cocooned for many days. It is a white Chang An Xing Guang 4500 van, only one month old. In North America, we are used to the not-so-mini mini vans squirted out by the likes of Ford, Nissan, Chrysler, GMC and others. Those are bigish boxes with bells and whistles and even entertainment! However, the Chang An 4500 I am getting very cozy with is not what you would think of a van. Yes, it is van shaped. It is about the same height as your average soccer-mom van, but the wheelbase is more like a Mini Cooper.

Su's van taking a MUCH needed rest at the top of yet another mountain pass!

Hey… is that a shimmy in the front wheel?

At the bridge of the Chang An 4500 is Mr. Su. A quiet, unassuming man with nerves of steel from his 20 years of serious trucking on just the sort of roads we traveled today. Su is Tibetan and grew up in Yajiang. He prefers his Han name of Su over his Tibeatn name of Zhaxi Nima.  If you come to these parts, I would have no problem recommending him as your driver. A man in his mid 40’s with a lovely wife and a cute-as-a-button 1 ½ year old daughter – so you can trust he’s not a speed freak or careless driver. This might partially explain why we took 4 ½ hours more to complete today’s leg.

If you plan on coming out this way and need an excellent driver, his mobile number is 135 08 294198. Keep in mind, you will need a Mandarin speaker to make arrangements on the phone for you as he does not speak English.

But the real reason may very well be that sitting behind Su was a 51 year old nervous wreck who spent most of the mountain assents and decents clutching the overhead grab handle and clenching his eyes shut! Su would quietly chuckle and take extra care in the corners for me, which meant slowing his normal comfortable mountain speeds. I was very appreciative of his thoughtfulness. He would also break into song from time to time. I don’t know if he was just feeling the love of the road or if it was an attempt to calm me. In any case, it didn’t work! To me it was multi-tasking, something I could not imagine when there was a 1,000-metre drop to oblivion and no safety barriers.

A red giant of a transport truck slowly creeps up a short stretch of mountains side.

Hey… what’s that noise? Did you hear it too?

The odd time, I would crack open an eye and bravely peer out to the open side of the cliff and instantly regret the bravado. Yup! Still chicken shit! I would try to erase the offending image with thoughts of a nice gentle paddle in Algonquin Park or sitting by a campfire. But it didn’t work.

Rather, my father came to my mind, he has always been fearful of heights despite a career spent traveling in airplanes. The image that kept coming was of he and my mother trying to cross the Kicking Horse pass. Dad was so out of control that he just stopped on the road and got out of the car, totally a basket case. I believe the family legend next had an RCMP office drive the pas for him while dad cowered on the floor in the back seat! So, perhaps I’m turning into him! Oh god! I need therapy!

Now, I am sure that was a rock that made us sway like that.

How far we have come! We still have far to go!

The wiggly road that climbed to 4,600 metres would offer much to maneuver around, errant boulders right in the middle of the road, and herds of yak out for a stoll. And they do that! They never move at any other pace than a stroll. Also, idiots trying to show off in their Toyota Land Cruisers, leaving the atmosphere thick with their dust as they squeeze past us.

On the final decent, I thanked all that was holy because in front of us, on of those lumbering red giants of the Chinese roads was gingerly slinking down ahead of us at a very comfortable 3 kilometres per hour. I breathed a sigh of great relief. But nope! Su, squeezed past him and all I could see is the left-lurching truck as we passed on his port side.

Finally back in Ganzi, I felt Pope-like and almost had the urge to kiss the ground. I now feel smug, having made that trip, and one I shall not forget.

No… its none of those tings, it’s the dilithium chamber melting the core and the port nasals going critical!

Good thing I am of sound mind so I can bring you these events of the day as they happened and can now recommend someone else take this incredible drive!

In between mountain passes, the land gives way to vast grasslands where nomadic Tibetans still move their herds of yak from valley to valley

Categories : SICHUAN

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