FREEWAY, ROAD, MUD-TRACK

Trip Start Apr 04, 2008
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Trip End Mar 31, 2009


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Friday, April 4, 2008

Kunming to Hekou, China, April 4.

There were some big mountains before getting to the Vietnam border, and we got there two hours late, so I spent the night in Hekou (Chinese side) and crossed the border in the morning. But it wasn't the mountains that made us late. It was the stalled trucks and impatient drivers who in typical Chinese log-jam traffic fashion turned the 2-lane mountain road into a 4-laner.

Roads in Yunnan province have varying degrees of quality. The freeway out of Kunming lasted about 80 kilometers of the 471 km trip. The freeways (toll-ways, actually) you could probably travel on at 90 mph if slow moving trucks wouldn't ready-or-not move into the passing lane to overtake even slower moving trucks.

Then a country road took us down the plateau and up into the mountains. The two-lane road was mostly up to speed, except for the "shudder-bumps," little invisible ripples in the road, which like clear air turbulence that's impossible to see, would, on occasion, shake the whole bus. If Volvo cars ride anything like Volvo buses, they're over-rated. But they do well in traffic jams. 

Finally the road disappeard and a muddy-bumpy-in-the-midst-of-reconstruction-sort-of-road brought us down to the border-control station about 25 km from the border. 

End of story, beginning of prosaics [sic]:
 
Our big Volvo went through Mengzi--which is being rebuilt outside of "town" where they've cleared so much farm land that it looks like the start of an airport under construction. A new apartment house complex and convention center stand shiny and bright and empty in a vast wasteland. Wierd.

Past Mengzi in southeast Yunnan you go over some impressive mountains, not as impressive as the mountains in northwest Yunnan that start to crowd Tibet, but impressive just the same. One valley was some two or three thousand feet deep and ten miles long. Houses built next to the road had a view of the entire valley.

We got to the border as the trains were scheduled to depart from Lao Cai to Hanoi, so I'll stay the night in Hekou and cross the border in the morning.
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