Chengdu to Dali – Part One

01:11, July 3rd 2017 

We’ve just arrived back to Chen’s apartment coming from a birthday dinner at a hostel and are making a very late, unprepared attempt at packing for our adventure, which shall commence later today! Hurrah! I’m feeling very optimistic about life right now, ready for the weird and wacky times to come.

Chen sits on her bed and sighs unsure of what to bring and how much of it bring. Underwear? Socks? Heavy jacket? Knife? Wait… What!? “Chen, why do you want to bring a knife?” “I don’t know man.” “OK.” *Takes knife out of bag* Anyway, I should get back to packing, onwards and upwards! (Well, really south)

11:26

Success! After standing at an entrance to a highway for about 30 minutes with outstretched arms and thumbs, we have been picked up by two big men in a big red Ford pickup truck, containing big bags of big small bananas! (Which they were generous enough to share!)

The morning has started off a little bit slower that we anticipated but alas, we have momentum. We are currently on the way to Ya’an, a city encapsulated by mountains. Big. Beautiful. Blissful. Mountains. I had actually visited Ya’an a few months prior with Sam and Liz which was the first time I hitchhiked in China.

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“I’d love some potato’s and milk right now”
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The fellow havin’ a puff was the driver

13:24 

We made it to Ya’an! The two men turned out to be very kind. They tried to help Chen and I out by stopping at a gas station and looking for people who were heading to Dali or at least, further than Ya’an. It didn’t work out, but a very sweet thing to do. After dropping us by another highway entrance, the driver gave us his business card and waved us off. He owns a stone/marble business here in Ya’an.

We are now sitting outside a restaurant, a couple minutes walk from the highway, with three people who claim to be walking to Lhasa, hmmmm! Good luck with that! We’ve ordered some food to fuel our bodies (and especially thumbs). I’m hopeful that we can get out of Ya’an pretty fast as we still have a long way to go to reach our destination – Xichang.

14:45

After many failed attempts of being picked up by the entrance to the highway, we finally got a lift – a little different than expected. Two men came over to Chen and I and told us (in Chinese – ting bu dong) that we are in the wrong place, that most of the cars passing by are going to Chengdu. SIDE NOTE: By the highway there were a couple of men running into traffic trying to get cars to pull over. Apparently, this is their business and they get paid by fellow hitchhikers to stop cars and ask people to take them to their destination. Cheeky fuckers! END SIDE NOTE. One of the two men (talking to us) shouted for a tuk-tuk. They spoke briefly, then Chen and I were whisked away in this older mans red wagon. We travelled for about five minutes unsure of where we were going. To our surprise, he turned down this tiny passage where on our left was a tall wall and on our right was an assortment of vegetables planted on a steeply, ascending bank. The plan was now to climb this slope which led to the highway and from there, begin to hitch again. At first I felt a bit sceptical because I thought that the cars would be travelling so fast, that they won’t care to stop for two strange lookin’ motha’ fucka’s, but, I was wrong. We were picked up within two minutes by a gent in a dark brown people carrier. Fantastic! Now, as we travel approximately 77KM with this man, I feel much more positive about highway hitchin’.

18:57

We’ve arrived in Xichang! After being dropped off on the highway by the gent in the dark brown people carrier, we hitched a ride with a couple heading home (two towns over). They played English music on the cars stereo system and the husband made lot’s of jokes (usually deprecating his wife – in a loving way of course). When approaching their town we asked to be dropped off on the highway, but they wouldn’t do it in fear of the police seeing us on the security cameras, so they drove through the the toll and let us out on the other side.

Whilst waiting on the bridge (by the toll) I started singing “Fuck tha’ Police” by NWA and Chen was getting slightly agitated due to “mayo cigarette!” Luckily, after about 15 minutes a man in a lovely, sporty Nissan picked us up and guess what? He was heading to Xichang. He played EDM loud, didn’t talk much and drove extremely fast, weaving in and out of traffic hitting 180km/h. It was like being in one of the fast and furious films. He kindly supplied Chen and I with cigarettes and water. I fell asleep for most of the journey and when I woke up, we were in Xichang. Now, it’s time to eat. It’s too late in the evening to continue travelling, so we shall rest up here for the night – where? I don’t know.

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Seducing cars with a mesmerizing hitchhiker dance

 

20:40

We’ve eaten and have now just stumbled across an ‘Yi minority’ traditional dance. It’s around a huge, blazing fire in a park square. It’s so awesome, I feel unbelievably happy to be here. Chen and I even joined in with the dancing for a few songs. It feels ceremonial (because it is) and there is a great sense of community in the air. Everyone is smiling and having a good time – I know I certainly am!

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