As the crews arrived at the glorious Shangri-la Hotel Chengdu, situated by the famous Anshun Bridge that spans the Jin River, they were reunited with old friends and new, people they would be spending the next month with on this incredible journey for the Trans Himalayan Adventure.
Melvyn and the team from CARS Europe were in charge of bringing the cars from the customs warehouse while the Rally Round team packed the navigator bags with everything needed.
As the crews were reunited with their cars, there were the usual issues with flat batteries and fuel evaporating. Five litres of fuel and a jump start later, sweep mechanics Dick Last and Karim DeMynn had the cars ready and running, giving the crews time to explore before the welcome dinner later in the evening.
Chengdu, with a population of 16.5million is one of the fastest growing cities in China. The main city centre which now boasts high rise apartments and designer shopping malls, was still farmland just 25 years ago.
Many headed to the People’s Park, a stunning mixture of gardens where each area showcases a different way of life, from the ladies exercising together using dance, one for elderly musicians and an area known as couples’ corner.
Couples’ Corner is where generally young ladies – and sometimes men – write their CVs and advertise for a spouse on a sheet of A4. They even say which profession they would prefer to meet and there is a definite feeling of panic from them and their parents when they reach the ripe old age of 30. Once the interested party has made contact, the parents of the love match meet up to make sure they approve.
The park is also used by hundreds of grandparents on daily childcare duties and is very social with wonderful tea houses where you have a large flask and stay as long as you like.
Thursday was a day of paperwork with everyone on a coach at 7.30am prepared for a day of having their patience tested rather than their driving skills. First it was to the Xipu Campus Hospital for a physical exam that consisted of an eye test and a photograph taken that was sent directly to the police station, which would be our next port of call. With a new high speed system installed, what could go wrong. When the ‘computer said no’, the competitors retreated to a local open air café for liquid refreshments until it rebooted. Once all processed, it was back to the café for lunch before we headed to the police station for the next part of our legalities.
Arriving at the police station where the Chinese driving licences would be issued, the rally was ushered into a classroom where we were warmly welcomed by the Captain and his team. One by one, each competitor received their temporary Chinese driving licence to a round of applause. Much quicker than anticipated, we were all soon dismissed but not until there had been a group photo with all the officials.
Huge thanks to the team at Navo Tours, the agents supporting Rally Round on the Trans Himalayan Adventure. Because of their help and diligence, everyone was back at the hotel just after 3pm with a few hours to relax before this evening’s festivities at a traditional Sichuan tea house.
Tomorrow is scrutineering and time to get packed up. The start line is ever nearer…