17th October – Xian to Wuxi

24 Oct

We set off in the morning and took the freeway to Ankang. Soon after leaving Xian we went into the mountains and the freeway just carved a route straight through! There was just one tunnel after another, and if was not a tunnel it was a raised section of road, often up to 1 km in length. The tunnels got longer and longer and one was over 18 km! Only the Chinese would build a road here. The most amazing thing is that the whole of the country is criss crossed with freeways, and many must be the same in terms of the difficulty in building them, as it seems that most of the country is mountains. It is civil engineering on a massive scale.

We had decided to leave the freeway at Ankang and try the provincial roads that just wind their way through the  mountains, often clinging to the sides, with vertical rock above. The scenery was lovely and it was much easier to stop and take pictures.



Most of the rivers have dams to provide water for the local villages. The bigger ones have hydro schemes.



Because the roads are cut into the rockface they require constant repair and clearing from rock slides. Every so often you have to wait to get past a blockage.



As we travelled I could understand why the guide had recommended taking the big roads. Delays could last days if there was bad weather and as most self driving groups shoot through China due to the guiding costs, there is probably little opportunity to use these roads. A journey that takes a few hrs on the freeway would take us more than two days! It is worth it though …

One advantage is that you get to see people close up, and they are happy to have their picture taken as long as you show them. Baskets are used for everything.



Only slight problem is finding places to stop for the night as land is either very steep or, if flat, is used for crops, even the tiniest piece. Even the verges are often used to grow food. There are a lot of mouths to feed here! We started looking for houses with a flat drive and asked them if we could park on it. Spring the guide often slept in the house.



Lots of people keep a pig to fatten up. In another market later on we found good size, young pigs for 16 yuan (160 p). This was our host’s pig.



Older Chinese people are prepared well in advance. Another thing stored at the back was granny and grandads coffin. I asked what the nice boxes were thinking that they were some kind of storage boxes …. in a way they are! The old lady explained that they like to know where there are going next. She had also picked a spot on the hill for the tomb.




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