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The Great Truck Wall of China

July 1, 2015 1 Comment

We are in the middle of a long drive from Xian to Beijing. We have to cover about 1450kms in 4 days, so there is a lot of driving. When planning the trip Alan asked if we could drive some roads less travelled. The tour company certainly obliged. We have stayed in some really nice towns that I don’t think have seen a foreigner pass through since Japan invaded the place in the late 1930s.

We are virtually mobbed in the street by up to a dozen people at a time asking questions and usually wanting photos with us (every Chinaman has a mobile phone!!).

We even got interviewed today by some local TV current affairs crew today who stumbled over us at the hotel we were staying at last night. They filmed us walking around an ancient temple complex. Al did an interview. I’m not sure how he kept a straight face, such was the BS he sprouted.

Great Wall of China

The “other” Great Wall of China

Apart from the fun and games in the towns the driving is dull and tedious on the local roads. You can rarely get into top gear for any length of time. Today is day 2 of the marathon. Yesterday was easily the most boring day I have experienced here. Despite seeing a really ancient temple and a stop on the Yellow River where Al, Lyn and Barry had a swim, today was shaping up to be even more tiresome and arduous until, that is, we hit the Great Truck Wall of China.

We honestly hit a 20km traffic jam of wall to wall trucks going in both directions. I believe there were over a thousand huge trucks averaging 35 tonnes loaded at virtually a standstill.

We pushed our way up to where we thought the problem was and couldn’t believe what we saw. A local road crew in a 1 ton tip truck were doing some repair work on the road and had simply parked over the patch of bitumen they were digging up to repair. They were completely blocking the road. There were some heated truck drivers yelling at them but they remained unmoved. Al in his usual style tried to mediate a solution but when he asked who was in charge both our jaws dropped when our guide told us it was impolite to ask that question. China can really do your bloody head in at times. Somehow Al manage to get them to move the tip truck and traffic was able to move again… for about 20 metres.

Chinese truckies are by far the best drivers on the roads that we have encountered but some of them are impatient boneheads.

The road we were on was a good 2 lane provincial road. Some trucks had tried to force their way up a non-existent middle lane to get through, and only succeeded in blocking both lanes completely. After all the crap we had to go through to move the road crew, we immediately came to another complete impasse. But for reasons that totally elude me, no one was doing a thing about unjumbling the mess. The drivers seemed content to sit and wait for it to sort itself out. It’s midnight as I type and I reckon some are still sitting there now. I asked our guide about it later but never got an answer that made sense. It might have something to do with losing face but I’m not really sure.

Well Al and I didn’t care about face or any such cultural crap. We wanted to get things moving. The two of us took it on ourselves to start pushing monstrous great trucks backwards a few feet, forwards a few feet, sideways a few inches to open up some space to allow the trucks jamming up the middle of the road to get back into the proper lanes. Remarkably the truckies obeyed our instructions.

The biggest (and most dangerous problem) was that when a gap did open up several trucks went for it at once. The most chilling sentence spoken on this trip was Al yelling at me “don’t let that truck move!”.

The only way to achieve that was to stand in front of it (and hope the driver didn’t hate foreigners).

Our system worked beautifully… thankfully.

We had to use it on no less than 6 occasions in a five kilometre stretch of madness. We both had to stand in front of a lot of big impatient trucks for us to get our two vehicles through that 20 kilometres of mayhem but we did it. It did rapidly turn one of the most boring days of the trip into one of the most memorable. We both felt as though we had achieved something worthwhile from our efforts.

Our efforts were not unappreciated by the drivers either. Many clapped, smiled, cheered, or gave us a thumbs up from their cabins as they got mobile again. Al even said one tried to kiss him!!

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  1. Vic Watts says:

    Well done Hendo
    Shades of Tiananmin Square (whoops – I think I mentioned the war)

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