Spent two charming days in Shanghai with our ex-pat Kiwi friends Kirsty & Paul. Went to a jazz club on our first evening until the late hours, drank too much and had one hell of a great evening. Spent the mornings wondering around the French concession eating street food, good strong coffee and pastries. So very relieved to have handed over my shot film for safe keeping. For the first time I was able to log in and open my blog page, well at least the home page at any rate. Relieved and pleased to see Garrett's doing a great job of uploading it.
Sonja and I drove the 1,200 or so kilometres north to Beijing to deliver the car back to it's rightful owners whilst Greg booked a sleeper berth on a train heading back to Xian to meet a cute young thing he met on the flight over to Guangshou.
We made good time until the afternoon of the 2nd day. Three lanes turned to two, then it became a case of weaving through lanes of fast moving trucks who were in turn weaving through lanes of fast moving trucks. Young drivers of these huge rigs have little sense of lane placement, pulling out unexpectedly doing in excess of 110 kph. Came to another standstill by 2 in the afternoon. Another opportunity to read and curl up in the back seat and sleep. By 4 in the afternoon we were moving again. By 5 heavy fog had rolled in. Then it was a 20kph crawl with virtually no visibility other than the vehicles taillights ahead which made it even more tenuous as some heavy trucks just don't have taillights. Finally by midnight we pulled off the road and found a hotel to bed down for the night.
Post note: This same day, due to heavy fog in Anshun, Guizhou province, a total of 36 vehicles were involved in a series of pileups on a 1 kilometre stretch of expressway leaving nine people dead.
In 2011, 62,387 people were killed in more than 210,000 road accidents in China, according to traffic authorities. Clearly the road system in China is not working as it should.
Arriving at the toll gates at 10am we waited a while for the fog to clear and gates to open, finally gave up. Chatted to a couple of Chinese business men, oil barrens. Friendly, good humoured, wealthy deal striking Christians anxiously trying to get back to the Beijing airport for their departing flight back home to Houston, Texas. Sonja and I tried entering a few other toll gates but gave up trying, all were closed. Instead I got busy photographing hot house growers in the atmospheric fog, many of them gave us gifts of vegetables accompanied with a smile. We then rocked up to a toll gate waiting amongst the other motorists for a further four and a half hours before we were finally let back on to the motorway, and back to Beijing to my favourite little hostel within cooee of Chairman Mao and Tianamen Square.
So good to have the rental car attendant pull out of the parking lot and drive the car away…
Consequently those last 124 kilometres in to Beijing took a total of 31 hours to drive.