Road Stories #42: Being spied on in Jingning & visiting Xian a historical capital of China

Shepherd woman next to the motorway, China - header

Being spied on in Jingning

Crouched down on the grass I felt like John Rambo without the knife in my teeth. Won’t this bastard just fuck off?

We had found our camping ground in the town of Jingning with the aid of a lovely driver who evidently thought we were mad.

Hitchhiking to Xian, ChinaThat day we had already hitched rides with a guy who picked us up after we had crept through a hole in the barbed wire fence guarding the highway. After him, a guy adorned with gold but who still initially wanted money. He dropped us off on a flyover of a ring road (thanks, mate) and we were very lucky that our next driver was willing to endanger himself and other drivers in order to pick us up. He was a young guy who was extremely proud of his watch(!) but we did manage to exchange a CD with him. It must be said, however, that he didn’t look overly thrilled about becoming the owner of an album by The Police (but in fairness, would you?).

Back in Jingning, darkness had fallen and we were safely ensconced inside our tent which we had pitched in an abandoned allotment of some kind, surrounded by tall grass, close to the toll road. Just as we were about to drift off, Ania grabbed my arm.

‘Somebody’s there!’

I threw on some clothes, grabbed the head torch and burst outside. I shone the light into the darkness and… nothing. I clambered back in the tent, determined to go to sleep cursing Ania‘s jumpiness when this time I heard it. Movement.

Out of the tent again a threw light into the shadows. A crouching figure scuttled away through the long grass.

‘Hello’ I shouted in Chinese.

But the figure had fled. Pointless. What the hell was he doing? What did he hope to achieve?

Panic over, we got back in the tent again more deserving of sleep than ever. Then the rustling again. This time we weren’t scared but angry. Obscenities were shouted as we scoured the grass in search of our stalker. Once again, he had disappeared into the impenetrable black. This time I decided to wait in the grass hoping to catch our cheeky friend out. Alas, it was in vain, he either knew I was waiting or he had gone, hopefully this time for good.

Ania swore she heard the creeping rustle once again later but by that time my weary head could take no more and I was very much asleep.

Shepherd woman next to the motorway, China

Shepherd woman next to the motorway

The hitchhike to Xian

Jon with the Feeder

Jon with the Feeder

The hitchhike to Xian really couldn’t have gone better. Firstly, a guy who we nicknamed ‘The Feeder’. I think he liked his hitchhikers fat because he just wouldn’t stop with the food. He drove us via some kind of attraction which had something to do with the Long March but as all we could see was a wooden gate and there was no information, it didn’t mean a lot to us. He then drove us past a cake shop, to make sure we were sugared-up before the next stretch of our journey.

The next and final lift took us all the way to Xian. A family returning from a holiday to Dunhuang slotted us in to their packed minivan and drove us all the way to our host’s house in Xian. They hadn’t originally planned to go into Xian and it meant a timely detour for them as they went through the centre of town but they were just lovely, lovely people.

Family that drove us to Xian

Visiting Xian

Xian is one of China’s most important cities and was once the capital of this great land. In truth we weren’t expecting too much, given our aversion to mega cities but we must say we were pleasantly surprised. The reason many tourists come here is to visit what we, in the West, we call the Terracotta Army. Built as a funeral decoration for the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang between 210-209 BC, the thousands of carved figures were made with the purpose of defending him in the afterlife.

Cycling along the city walls in Xi'anWe had heard horror stories about the amount of people we would encounter there but in truth it wasn’t so bad and it was definitely worth the effort to see this unique and captivating site.

The warriors were not our personal highlight in Xian, however; cycling around the city walls that surround the old town were. Ok, the path was bumpy, the sky grey from pollution but it was still nice to oversee the town and the treasures within, all while doing a little exercise.

Visiting one of the China’s ancient capitals was nicer than we had expected but China is huge and we had covered but a small part. Onwards…

Terracotta Army, Xian, China

Terracotta Army, Xian

written by: Jon

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