We took a lot of crazy rides while we were in China in 2007. There was a minivan in the desert where the door slid closed when we accelerated and then opened from the momentum of making a stop. Then there was the shuttle bus bringing us down the mountain from the ‘interesting’ (decrepit) part of the Great Wall that swung and swayed and bounced like the best roller coaster. We were in the back, which got maximum sway and to us it was an E-ticket ride. The Chinese couple next to us looked nervous until they saw how much fun we were having and joined in, whooping and hollering.
But the craziest ride we took had to be the moto-taxi in Lanzhou when we were headed to the bus station to buy tickets for the next day.
As cities go, Lanzhou is typical. For most travelers it’s nothing more than a transit town for those heading to, or coming from, Xiahe where the Labrang Monastery resides. Here, in this unassuming city, we had already discovered the best lamb sandwich ever. It was made by a Muslim man with a street cart who skewered the thick bread on a knife to warm while he cooked fresh skewers on the grill. The flames kissed the tender meat while casting deep, dramatic shadows across his face. Brilliant in atmosphere, and flavor. Maybe this city had more to it than we thought.
The next day, we took the city bus to the bus station only to discover we were in the wrong place. There was a different bus station from which to get our onward tickets for Xiahe. It wasn’t far, but too far and confusing to walk. So we grabbed a moto-taxi.
The picture above shows the type of vehicle, but not the driver whom this story is about.
Anyway, the ride started out great. It was obvious from the way he wove through traffic that this guy knew what he was doing. Tim and I both ride motorcycles so we appreciated his skills. We noticed too, that the bike had a very old-fashioned shifter, so the driver had to lift his leg to grab the lever for every shift – in heavy traffic no less.
Then he made a maneuver that was wild even for these two-wheelers, he went up the freeway ramp going to wrong way. The WRONG WAY. Now, I’ve been in the insane chaos of a Paris traffic circle, and in a taxi in Cairo where the lines in the road seem to mean nothing and when everyone rushes forward it seems like a miracle no one crashes into each other; but I’ve never had a driver intentionally go the wrong way on the freeway. And he was completely calm the whole time. Our thoughts were more along the line of, “What the heck is he doing?”
Well, it turned out to be a ploy to get to the entrance we really needed, as we got off where everyone else was getting on and then flipped around to another entrance to get on proper. Sure a few cars honked at us as we scooted by on the shoulder, but most seemed to take it in stride, as if this wasn’t uncommon, though I’m sure it couldn’t have been legal.
When we got going the right way and realized what had just happened, and the skill with which the driver executed the maneuver, Tim and I busted up laughing. People in the cars next to us watched as these crazy tourists laughed and joked our way down the freeway. If people stared long enough, we waved. There were a couple of kids in a minivan that got a total kick out of us.
When we arrived at the proper bus station we tipped our driver well, for the fun ride and in
admiration of his abilities. He declined to take a photo, but we will always remember him. A true biker and kindred spirit. This is one of the craziest ride we’ve be on – so far.