March 07, 2011

The World's Most Dangerous Road

While navigating through the information superhighway, I chanced upon on a listing of the world's most dangerous roads. My eyes scanned the list and widened as it reached the top. First position belonged to a road carved into the cliff side to reach the ancient village of Guoliangcun. The tiny outpost in Henan was only a combined overnight train ride, short bus ride, medium distance taxi ride, and shorter golf cart ride away from Beijing.

My travel partner and I arrived at dawn in the city of Xinxiang via train. We walked to the location of the bus stop, only to discover it was under excavation. The erstwhile grounds of the bus depot were to be transformed into a world class shopping facility. Several early rising locals watched us with bemused expressions as we tried to hail down whatever buses passed our way on the street in front. We wanted to get to the nearest town at the base of the world's most dangerous road. After several failed attempts to find a bus heading for Huixian, we entered a sinister looking taxi. I said the name of where I wanted to go to the taxi driver repeatedly until he started driving.

After several stalled attempts at conversion, the driver realized that I could not speak Chinese. Logically, he handed me a pen and piece of paper so I could write in Chinese where I wanted to go. I snarled with frustration, the paper combusting into flames under my fiery breathe. On the way to Huixian we picked up three separate individuals, diverting our route to drop each at their desired destinations. One of these fellow passengers muttered the same bus stop name that I had orated to the taxi driver. This elicited understanding, and the taxi driver repeated the same syllables that I had. Once we reached the deserted bus stop, we realized it would be a couple of hours before any minibuses that pass by the road to Guoliangcun would depart from the station.

We engaged in silent talks with our driver. He fashioned another piece of paper out of sheer willpower, upon which I drew one line and three dots. Dot 1 was where we started. Dot 2 was where we were. Dot 3 was where we wanted to go. We had already agreed to pay a certain amount for being ferried from Dot 1 (Xinxiang) to Dot 2 (Huixian). We then negotiated different pricing bundles based on extending the journey to Dot 3 (Guoliangcun), as well as returning to Dot 1 from Dot 3. After coming to an agreement we continued our journey towards the road of death.

“The greater the fear, the nearer the danger.” ~ Danish proverb