Day 89; October 15th; 19,260km to 19,689km; Chengdu-Chongqing (and days 90-92 in Chongqing)
Well, at least it was supposed to be a hop, a skip, and a jump away to get from Chengdu to Chongqing. The two cities being the largest by far in the area (Chongqing actually being one of the provincial level municipalities like Beijing and Shanghai) are connected by numerous expressways. We planned to just try and make our way on the most direct one so as to get to Chongqing as easily as possible and start preparations for the CIMA motorcycle exhibition that would start in a couple of days. We still hadn’t prepared our photos for our presentation let alone write and memorize a presentation in Chinese, so there was a lot to do before 11am on the 17th!
Unfortunately, despite Chongqing being the only city that officially fully lets motorcycles into their city center, this extra proliferation of the two wheeled machines also makes the authorities less amenable to letting bikes (even large displacement ones like our own) onto the expressway.
We got a late start in the morning as we happily took some pictures with the staff from the Wangjiang Hotel. Unexpectedly, the president of the hotel actually came out for a quick hello and to snap some photos for their PR materials too. After that was all done, it wasn’t until about 11 that we were on the road.
Here Comes The
We got a good distance behind us on the expressway before getting kicked off. It was raining and we were pretty thoroughly soaked, but at least we were near halfway when we stopped for lunch at a rest stop. In the parking lot, some middle aged highway patrol cops with an inferiority complex tried to tell us we weren’t allowed on the highway. We pretended we didn’t speak Chinese, told them we were going to Chongqing with a smile, and then went in to eat. The “officers” were not willing to give in so easily. When a police car rolled up near our bike, it was clear they had called in the reinforcements.
We spent a long time in the cafeteria after we had eaten, the police trying to explain to us we couldn’t be on the highway and us explaining it was more dangerous on the mud covered national road in the rain with all the trucks and scooters. They had a friend or another police officer that could speak some English that they kept calling to help translate. When the person on the phone translated to the officers on the scene what I had said about the highway being safer and it was said out loud “他说高速更安全” He says the highway is safer , everyone in the room, and there was a crowd that had formed at this point, just let out a yelp of laughter. See the thing is that most people seem to be under the impression that the highway is somehow more dangerous for motorcycles than the smaller roads. This obviously takes no consideration at all of all the construction, mud, rogue trucks and busses, hidden driveways, wandering and noiseless scooters, and all the other dangers that lurk around the corners of the smaller roads in China. For most, higher speeds=too dangerous for a motorcycle regardless of driving conditions overall. Thus, to the crowd and the police officers, claiming that I wanted to stay on the highway because it was safer might as well have been a joke.
So we got our police escort off of the highway after maybe half an hour of discussion. They were even nice enough to write some directions on a piece of paper in Chinese. So… completely useless particularly if you consider that as far as they knew we didn’t even speak the language. With a shrug of our shoulders and a laugh at the absurdity of it all, we got out our GPS and recalculated our route.
The road started out nice enough, even in the rain. Some nice curvy roads, not many other vehicles, and well paved. Soon though we hit construction. These types of stretches are enough to deal with when it’s all dry, but in the rain with nearly 100kg of luggage and two people on the bike, the mud and potholes become exponentially more treacherous. Then when you consider that the road had been converted into a one lane traffic jam, with trucks coming directly at us from the other direction, it’s not even fun anymore.
After 20km of that, I decided I’d had enough and we would get back on the expressway. Getting past the toll entrances is usually a painless process but it’s the tolls on the highway when you enter a new territory or highway section where the longer barriers at the toll make it harder to pass, that and the wandering attendants chasing after you are harder to ignore. 40km out of Chongqing now we reached one of these. This time I was too frustrated to pretend I couldn’t speak any Chinese, so I acted like I knew some so as to express my annoyance with the fact that they were forcing us from a safe situation to a dangerous one in the name of our safety. It was even more annoying that just as they were putting us in a difficult spot and telling us we were wrong about the highway, at the same time they were pulling out their phones to take our pictures.
Well we got our second police escort of the day just outside of the city. This time they didn’t give us Chinese instructions but did say we could just follow the signs for Chongqing in English. We saw only one such sign… at the intersection with the expressway entrance where they dropped us off.
It wasn’t until just after dusk that we pulled into the outskirts of the city proper. Covered in mud and rain, my pants entirely soaked, we were just a couple kilometers away from the hotel when Amy’s phone, our GPS with the instructions to our hotel, died.
We were just getting out the chargers when we heard a yell from the traffic out on the street, “Bai ge! Ai ni!” Someone was yelling our names in Chinese! We must have been close to the hotel that CFMoto had arranged for us and some of the people from the company had spotted us. I got a call through my headphones from one of the managers who said he had just driven past us and the hotel was straight ahead.
We arrived to a group of CFMoto people, many we had met but some new too, all hadn’t seen us since we were clean shaven, well dressed, and probably a little less “fragrant” during our factory visit to Hangzhou in May. It was nice to have arrived to some familiar faces as they helped us unpack and check-in (a tedious affair on the best of days) before heading off to dinner.
The next three days in Chongqing was a bit of a blur of activity. Lots of group dinners, baijiu drinking, and preparation for the expo. We had to prepare our full presentation the night before the opening day, only getting to see the presentation for the first time while on the bus to the event. We had two presentations to give on the opening day and the day after we did a radio interview. You can read all about the event, the KTM partnership with CFMoto, and our radio interview in the post we did on the 12th Annual CIMA Motorcycle Expo.
The experience was fun but definitely exhausting. After so long on the road now, the rest days can be nice but it’s hard to ignore the itch you get to get back to the solitude of the road, to see new places and overcome new challenges. Luckily, we’ve still got another 10,000km where we can put off the city life!
Next leg of the journey… China’s southern provinces.