So we are on a cold, uncomfortable, and smoke filled bus. The bus station said it will be a 17 hour ride. There is a little baby that is scared of me. Oh, and the worst blizzard in China’s recent history is on the way.
Hours 1-5: By time we got out of the city of Wuhan it was already snowing pretty hard and it was dark. By the speed of the bus, you would have thought it was a bright sunny day in the summer. We were on a normal highway for about the first 3 hours. Then we turned down a smaller road that was a little rougher. Kind of like turning down a country road. It pretty much remained like this the rest of the trip.
About the 5th hour we stopped to take a break and to get some food. It was around 10PM. I noticed that we have been going up hill over the last hour but did not think to much about it. However when we got to the rest stop I decided to go to the WC (bathroom) before I got back on the bus. Not to go into to much detail, I will just say I was doing #1. The toilet was nothing but a hole in the ground. Something I have grown use to in the country areas of China. The only difference about this hole is that I never heard anything hit a bottom. I thought that was a little strange. So after I finished I decided to walk around the building to see what was going on. Why did I not hear a noise. Well, I could not walk around the building because it was built over a cliff!! As I noticed the cliff, I also heard water. About a 100 feet below was a stream, and that was where “it” went. This also brought to my attention how high we have gotten over the last hour. Here is the only photo we took. The windows always had moisture on them so it was not the best for pictures
Hour 6-13: It was really dark, still snowing, and getting colder. Earlier, every time I looked at the baby it would cry, and it was nice that the baby had finally gone asleep. I was looking out the window when I noticed a light very far away, and way below us. A realization hit me, I WAS VERY HIGH ON A MOUNTAIN!!! I mean hundreds of feet up!!! And next to the road was a straight down cliff to where the cars in the valley were. If you know me, then you know how scared I am of heights. I suddenly found myself hanging on to things for safety and looking for ways to get off this bus if something happens. We were high for a long time. Eventually, I fell asleep.
Around the 13th hour I was awaken to a sudden slamming of the brakes. The sun had started to come up so I could see what was going on. We were still on top of some mountains, there was an accident in front of us, and instead of any kind of guardrail along the road there were nothing but small poles with a little cable connecting to each one. Oh yeah, and a straight down cliff. Then the scariest thing ever happened. The bus started to slide on the snow and ice towards the edge of the cliff. The next thing I know there were men jumping off the bus and placing whatever they can under the tires to wedge them. It stopped the bus. Whew!!! After that they decided to put the snow chains on. Something I thought would have gone on long ago.
Hour 13-17: It took a while to get through the accident. A bus had slid into the mountain edge and stopped traffic both ways. After we got through we started to go down the mountain. I was assuming that we were getting close to Chongqing. We got low enough where they could take off the snow chains. However, I still did not see any signs of a big city. So I started to ask around to see if anyone knew any English when we got to a rest stop. I finally found one man who could speak just a little. I asked him how close we were and all he could say was something about 6. We were suppose to be there at around 10 AM, and it was 10 AM when I asked him this. So I figured he meant 6 PM that night, or in 6 hours. Both were not answers I wanted to hear. Now our 17 hour trip has turned into 23-25 hour trip. After our break we got back on the bus, and it started to happen again. We were going back UP into the mountains!!!! Before we knew it we were back at the top of the mountains. Back to straight down cliffs, snow on the road, and a driver that thought he was in a NASCAR race. I have never gone so fast on snow in my life. We finally got high enough to where the bus started to slide backwards down the mountain, so we got the snow chains out again.
Hour 17-?: Over the day I finally got the little baby to warm up to me. I could get him to smile a little at me, but that was about it. Then grandma did something with the kid that haunts my dreams to this day. He had to go #2 and needed a place to go since they do not use diapers here. Normally parents will put them over grass or a trash can to go, but we did not have either. So, grandma opened some newspaper and laid it out on the floor. That is where little man went. Right next to me!!!!! It gets worse. Grandma then just covered it with more newspaper and left it there. Right next to me!!! A few hours later when we stopped to take a break everyone started to walk on the newspaper and track it down the aisle. It was sick!!!! So on top of everything that has already happened, I now had “that” next to me on the floor.
It was getting dark and we were still on top of the mountain. It was a sign that we were still not close. Right before it got dark the bus stopped again. There was nothing around but everyone got off. I was tired and cold and did not move. I was in a very dark place at this point and had checked out mentally hours ago. I was not moving until we got there, whenever that would be. I shortly found out why everyone got off. Our bus started to cross an old wooden bridge that I would have not felt good walking across. I figured out why everyone got off. They were not even brave enough to stay on the bus. These are the same people that seemed at ease the whole time in the mountains, but this bridge scared them enough to get off, and here I was on the bus. Oh, by the way, the drop under the bridge was several hundred feet down.
After the bridge we started to go down again, it was the last of the high mountain roads. It was probably around 6PM by then. We should be there soon!!!
Hour 25-?: We stopped for dinner. I found the guy who knew a little English and asked him again about the time. He said about 6-8. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!! Again, I had to assume it was 6-8 more hours, or 6-8 in the morning. We ate dinner and continued on. The rest of the trip was not that eventful. We went though several small villages and let people off the bus. I was far off in my dark place. We were able to get in touch with the guy who was in charge of our boat trip and told him about getting in sometime over that night and he got us a really good place to stay. Finally around 3 in the morning, 34 hours later, we reached Chongqing. Our hotel was warm and amazing, and even though it was 3 in the morning and I have been traveling for 34 hours, I took the hottest most amazing shower ever.
The rest of the trip was great, even though it was very cold. Since this trip I have not traveled on any long distance buses in China. I have been on a few more sleeper buses, but only in hot places, where there are no mountains, and outside of China.
Before I get to the final part of my story, I believe it is key to create the setting for you so that you can truly understand the final blog.
So, last thing I mentioned was that we decided to purchase sleeper bus tickets. And like I said, I thought a sleeper bus was an awesome idea... I stand corrected.
Side note: 2007 was a unusual year of weather for China. They had a blizzard and cold front that made it as far south as northern Vietnam. The temperatures dropped very low and caused problems all over China. Power outages, train crashes, and loss of lives all happened from this front. We were about to get on the bus the day the front started to make its way into our area of China.
When we purchased out tickets we asked about the time it would take to get to Chongqing. The time they gave us was about 17 hours. We left at around 5pm. That would put us in Chongqing around 11-12am the next morning. Keep this in mind!
Now to the setting of the bus. I will start off saying that the sleeper bus setup is nothing like I thought it would be. I expected this nice area for you to stretch out. That there would be plenty of room to sit-up and move around. I pictured a step up from a regular bus. Less people, and more room. Well, it was the complete opposite!! Instead there were 3 lines of beds. One down each side, and one up the middle. So, you might think, “hey, you still have plenty of room to sit-up.” Wrong!!! It was bunk beds! I was amazed that so many beds could fit in one bus.
Everyone knows that I am a rather large person. Both big and tall. So, I have learned over time that I never get the opportunity to travel comfortably. I have learned to just deal with it. What you may not know about me is that my feet are extremely claustrophobic. I cannot stand to have my feet pinned down or restricted in any way. Sleeping bags are not an option, and I cannot stand when people tuck sheets under mattresses at the foot of the bed. Well, the setup on this bus was my worst nightmare. Not only were the beds small but you tucked your feet under the bed in front of you. So, where my upper body laid was angled up, this allows for the feet of the person behind me to stretch under your upper body part of the bed. I had two problems with this. One, I was not putting my feet into that small area for 17 hours. Two, I was to long to do it even if I wanted too. Instead, I had to stratal the bed. One foot in one aisle, and the other foot in the other aisle. It was not comfortable at all.
Here are a few photos for you
You may have noticed that I still have all my winter stuff on in these pictures. One normally takes things off and gets comfortable on long rides. Well, one normally is not sitting on a bus in 5 degree weather, with no heat on the bus. That’s right, NO HEAT!!! It was COLD!!! And, if you look at the picture again you will see a blanket on me. Yeah, it only is big enough to cover just a small portion of my body. It really did no good. Three more things real quick. In addition to the uncomfortable bed and no heat, we had to deal with smoking. People still do it here with no consideration for other people. So, we had about half the people on the bus smoking all the time. It left a constant haze in the air. Every time Emily opened the window to let some smoke out people would fuss at her for letting cold air in. I vote cold air over lung cancer any day, but that is just me. Then we had two Chinese movies playing on the TV over and over again. They came across as an early 80’s movie in America. A lot of smoking, gun fights, regular fights and half naked women. Kind of like any Steven Segal movie. Just bad acting all around. Then the third thing. A little kid was in the bed next to me with his grandmother, and this kid was scared to death of me. So, anytime I turned that way the kid would just start screaming in terror, even if I was just looking out the window he would start. So, I had to look forward or the opposite way.
For the final part of this adventure it will be important for you to remember all of this stuff. Especially the kid, the time to get there (17 hours) and the weather (cold and starting to snow).