Wednesday, January 26, 2011

LANZHOU to CHENGDU - Em's got Pee Problems

January 16, 2011
Eng: Lanzhou, Gansu, China to Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Chn: 兰州,甘肃省,中国 成都,四川省,中国
Written by Dan

   There’s not much to say about our bus ride from Lanzhou to Chengdu except that an 18-hour journey took 26-hours and we were only given about 4 bathroom breaks.

   After checking out a local arcade and playing a few rounds of Hot Shots basketball, we took off at 3:30pm and were initially very psyched about the cleanliness and space of this new bus as opposed to the first sleeper bus we took from Dunhuang to Xining. Below is a photo to attest to our happiness.

The cigarette claw game at the Lanzhou Arcade

Us in our fancy bus beds

   By a stroke of luck, I was able to snag the upper front bed where I had a huge window all  to myself. I was so excited about the potential pictures, but the glass was dirty and the weather was awful. Here is the only thing I was able to capture.

   While Em passed out again, I stole her “Life of Pi” and began to read. I was sick of reading the Lonely Planet and was dieing for some fiction, even though I had read Life of Pi before.

Just as I start getting into the story I hear, “rubbutt, RubBUTT!”. This is Em’s affectionate nickname for me that she pulls out in times of distress. For example, a few years back, while holding onto a rock climbing wall 3 meters off the ground determined she could not go on, she yelled out in terror “You got me Rubbuuuuttttttt?” – everyone in the gym looked at us in disgust/confusion.

This time, her distress was again pee-related. Although we were both at the front of the bus and within earshot of the driver, she asked me as if I was the authority “Are we gonna stop for a pee soon, I really gotta go!” Choosing not to go through the samething as on the bus from Xiahe to Lanzhou, I politely asked the driver when we were going to stop – in all fairness to Em it had been 4 hours since we left with no stop.

30 minutes later, I hear Emily sobbing. I look at her and her face spells accident. I yell at the driver “come on man you gotta stop! We have an emergency!” The driver simply points down the road and I take that to mean we are almost there. This guy, unlike our previous long-distance bus driver, does not like pee breaks by the side of the road. A few more minutes later at around 8pm we pull into a bus station and Emily races to the toilet. I expected to find a wet spot on her mattress but didn’t find anything. She says another minute and we would’ve been digging through the bags for new undies.

As we’re getting on the bus, I tell the driver that Em has pee problems and can’t wait so long in between breaks. I get a blank stare and a shrug in response. Another passenger jokes with the driver “special circumstances that one” while nodding and shaking his thumb back at Em. What! These people are the special ones! Who doesn’t have to pee every few hours?

8 hours later at 4:00am, we finally stop for dinner and our second pee break! What! Who are these people. The choices at 4:00am are rice porridge with buns and boiled eggs or spicy Sichuanese meat and veggies with rice. Not wanting to get stuck shitting ourselves as well between the once-every-8-hours pee breaks, we opt for the porridge. It was a good choice. We get on the bus again and fall back asleep.

When dawn breaks a few hours later, I notice we are not moving and the driver is not in his seat. I wipe the fog off the window to reveal that we are stuck in a long line of buses and trucks on two lane, two-way icy highway through the mountains. There is no divider between the vehicles going in opposite directions and there are women with food carts squeezing through between the cracks, delivering breakfast to tired drivers. I instantly remember recent news reports of vehicles being stuck for days on frozen roads due to the inability to melt the ice or inability for clean-up crews to clear the debris from collisions. I conclude that there must be a truck stuck in ice or a collision somewhere. Whatever the cause, I realize we are going to be here for a while.

The Endless Jam

The real cause turns out to be that because of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake which damaged the original highway, all sizes of vehicle are forced to squeeze through the windy old mountain road. When it’s snowing, raining, or freezing over, this road becomes very jammed. From the road everything looks fine in the area, but we know that this quake which claimed almost 70,000 lives has caused damage that will take decades to repair. Regrettably, we did not disembark and volunteer with the relief efforts. Sometimes you just want to travel and enjoy the beauty of the world. But if you feel like you want to donate to the ongoing relief, please check out the website:

With no choice and no control over the situation, we simply pass the time. I read the “Life of Pi” in it’s entirety in one sitting – a record for me. Emily watches “China’s Got Talent” reruns – the guy who dresses up in a pig costume and squeals is our favorite. Finally at 5:30pm, 26 hours after we left, we arrive in Chengdu. Never has standing felt so good.

1 comment:

  1. Haha had same situation like almost 20 years ago. The road had zero gravity experiences built in. The bus was something you don't see any more. All that has changed it appears, except the drivers' insensitivity to toilet stops..