Saturday, 30 October 2010

Yining to Urumqi (China)

Some good news, the snow stopped overnight and it seems fractionally warmer too. Bolstered by the improved weather we set about defrosting the car and prepare to hit the road.

In an earlier blog I said the roads were perfect…..What I SHOULD have said is that the roads which have been completed, are perfect… It seems the government has renewed the vast majority of roads, but has left the trickiest stretches until last. Many stretches of mountain road are still under construction and the surface is pretty horrendous.

Todays route is 700km, the first 200km of which are great and we make some good progress. Shortly after things start to change as we head into the mountains. It also seems as though we’re catching up with the weather, it starts to snow once again and the temperature plummets to well below freezing.

Some of the narrow mountain roads are little more than rubble, icy rubble. As we climb higher and higher into the mountains, the roads are lined with disabled trucks struggling to get traction on the long icy inclines. The air is thick with the pungent smell of burning clutch plates, fortunately not ours!

I recall the day we chose the tyres for the car back in England - Well, actually I left the decision to Chris Marchant at Vintage Tyres ( I briefed Chris on the trip and asked his advice regards a semi off-road tyre. Chris recommended the Vredenstein 15” Snow Plus tyre. What? A snow tyre? We’re heading through deserts and jungles! OK, its primarily designed for snow, but Chris explained that it also has the perfect combination of being very capable both on and slightly off, road. Well, what a great choice this proved to be.

The Vredenstein has proved itself time and time again. We’ve thrown every type of terrain at these now, from sand through through to mud, snow, ice and everything in between. We’re yet to have so much as a reduction in tyre pressure, let alone a puncture.

As well as the suitable tyres, Jerry has the obvious advantage of having the weight of the engine over the rear wheels, which is also helping us to keep on moving when others can’t.

At the summit of the mountain the road skirts around the shoreline of a huge natural lake, the scenery is spectacularly good. The road surface is spectacularly bad. Its obviously been snowing heavily up here for sometime, the snow has been compacted, then melted and re-frozen to form a 4” thick layer of sheet ice. A red warning sign flashes “-15 “ I thought it sounded a bit excessive, right up until I pulled over to take a leak, at which point it felt more like -115 ! The heater is still holding up and is doing a great job of keeping us not only alive but even too hot at times. (Check out the picture gallery for a few snaps of the mountain roads)

The descent is also pretty hairy, halfway down the mountain the ice has melted and the roads have turned to mud. Deep mud. Cars and grossly overlaiden trucks are sliding about all over the place, but once again our tyres prove their worth and we make it through incident free. :)

After a long day of 12 hours driving we pull into town. By the time we hit the sack its 1am...

No comments:

Post a Comment