You know, last time I checked, intercity buses did not come with 4-Wheel Drive… Though after two days on (in the eloquent words of Lonely Planet), “ass killing roads” on the Sichuan-Tibet Highway, I suggest that the Chinese government may want to work on developing them!
My journey began yesterday in Litang, where I had a free morning after declining to pay money to go witness a “Sky Burial” (the traditional Tibetan burial…the body is cut into small pieces, bones mashed up into a bread-like thing, and then all left for the vultures to feed on…pleasant, right?).
The bus to Xiangcheng, my next destination, was due to leave at 2:00pm, though it fittingly never arrived! Myself and two Chinese ended up chartering a minivan for the 5 hour journey at nearly double the per person rate of the bus, but at the very least we were on our way!
Xiangcheng ended up being quite a bit larger and far more modern of a town than I had expected it to be! Set on a steep hillside and surrounded by traditional Tibetan home in the lower valley, the town didn’t have all that much to offer, and, as such, I was sort of hot to move on.
Yunnan Bound on “Ass Killing Roads”
My bus to Yunnan province left at the completely ungodly hour of 6:00am this morning, and while I expected the journey to take 7 hours, it took closer to 10! You see, when I say “ass killing roads,” I really mean it, as the vast majority of this road as it traversed mountain peaks was not currently paved, making for an extraordinarily bumpy ride as we made our way through the muddy road.
As we climbed higher and higher, freshly fallen snow began to cover the road, making it nearly impossible to tell where it was! Fortunately, our experienced driver seemed to know what he was doing!
Stuck in the Snow…
When we hit the mountain pass, the bus suddenly stopped, unable to move any further as it was now stuck in what had to have been at least 2 feet of snow! (Some of the snow embankments on the side of the road were in fact taller than I am, and I’m 5’6”!)
So here we were, quite literally in the middle of nowhere (in totally frigid temperatures) stuck in the snow! But, nobody panicked and freeing the bus became a group effort. The driver had come prepared with several shovels and pick-axes (apparently this was not a terribly rare occurrence) and quite a few of the men got to work digging the bus out!
Trying to get moving again was a rather frightening experience, as the bus began to move sideways off the road. But after an hour of work, we were suddenly moving again!
Now, I don’t think that buses are designed to travel on dirt roads or a few feet of snow! But we trudged on! And the good news is that we arrived, just later than anticipated! But now that I’ve arrived back in the land of foreign tourists, I have absolutely no desire to see another bus again, at least for a few days!