Aug 242011
 
The evil bus and the sadistic driver

The evil bus and the sadistic driver.

During my various adventures, I have had some challenging bus rides, from riding on the top of a bus while holding an elderly woman’s prized rooster in Ecuador to dealing with a drunk wielding a broken bottle on a Greyhound out of Vegas, but this recent ride from Chengdu to Litang takes the cake!

Rough dirt road - day 2 on bus

Rough dirt road.  Day 2 on the bus.

Usually this bus ride is broken up into two stages: Chengdu to Kangding (10 hours) and then Kangding to Litang (12 hours). While at the bus station, we noticed there was a bus driving straight through. Trying to maximize our time in the mountains, we opted for the marathon ride. I should have known we were in trouble when our bus came into view. It was by far the most beat up dilapidated looking bus in the entire station.

DEA36428 woman selling freshly roasted walnuts

Woman selling freshly roasted walnuts.

The only seats available were in the back of the bus, so Eric, Szu-ting and I piled in and made ourselves as comfortable as possible. Within two minutes of driving the AC stopped working and with only two small windows that could be opened, the temperatures inside the cabin quickly rose into the low 100′s. There was the usual cast of world bus characters on board, a screaming baby whose mother was so car sick she vomited non stop, chain smokers and even a poor girl who could not “hold it” resulting in a stream of urine running down the floor of the bus. The road to Kangding was in relatively good shape with only limited sections of dirt road, but construction often caused us to wait on the side of the road for an hour or more. Fortunately, entrepreneurial local people were selling baked corn on the cob and roasted walnuts which we sampled as we waited.

DEA36429 Dave at hour 18 on the bus

The author, Dave, at hour 18 on the bus.

One thing I have learned, from similar bus travels, is the most important safety item of a bus is not the tires, engine or even seat belts; it is the horn. The “morse code” like beeps our driver used was crucial to everyone’s survival. While passing three semis on a blind corner with a 2000-foot drop off below, the steady stream of honks alerted oncoming traffic to our presence.

DEA36430 waiting for road construction day one

Waiting for road construction – day 1.

As it turns out we did end up staying in Kangding for the night, but at least all of our expedition gear stayed locked in the bus overnight and at 5:30 am the next morning we were off again. The stretch of road to Litang was all dirt and most of it was under construction. At one point the driver, trying to make up time, floored it down a particularly bumpy stretch of potholes causing the vomiting woman and her 6 month old to go airborne almost hitting the ceiling. A fight nearly erupted between her irate husband and the driver. The end result was a slower speed, which the disks between my vertebrates really appreciated.

We arrived in Litang just in time for dinner, nursing sore necks from the constant charring of the bumpy road and headaches from the nearly 13,000 of elevation gain since leaving Chengdu.

DEA36431 Eric enjoying some fire roasted corn on the cob while waiting for construction

Eric enjoying some fire roasted corn on the cob while waiting for construction.

and some photos from the start of the trip….

DEA36168 Szu-ting weighing the bags

Szu-ting weighing the bags.

DEA36176 Szu-ting hoping they don't weigh our luggage in Seattle

Szu-ting hoping they don’t weigh our luggage in Seattle.

DEA36200 Almost to there

Almost to there.

DEA36224 Szu-ting waiting for our connecting flight in Tokyo

Szu-ting waiting for our connecting flight in Tokyo.

DEA36268 Szu-ting waiting at 2am in the Chengdu airport  for Erics flight to arrive

Szu-ting waiting at 2am, in the Chengdu airport, for Eric’s flight to arrive.

DEA36271 Eric and Szu-ting on the rooftop of our hotel in Chengdu

Eric and Szu-ting on the rooftop of our hotel in Chengdu.

Planet Grants It!

Dave Anderson was awarded  one of the Planet GRANTS It! $5000 grants.  To read about his trip, click HERE or visit his blog.  Dave will be sending PG updates any chance he gets – stay tuned as his adventures unfold.  All photos on this blog are property of Dave Anderson.

To make a donation to the Litang Social English Training Program, please click HERE.

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