Friday, May 12, 2006

6 accidents in 6 days

Before we went on this overland, we realized there was some risk involved with going. We knew some of the roads weren't going to be great and we were going to be going over some high passes. We were putting a lot of faith in our driver and his land cruiser. We accepted these risks as you just can't come to Tibet and not do an overland. That was the best way to see Tibet ... not to mention going to EBC!

Soon enough, this risk became a reality. We had a real close call just a couple hours into our trip as we were heading to Yamdrok Lake. To get there, we had to climb this mountain to get to a 5000m pass. As we were turning a blind corner fairly high up, our driver, for whatever reason, was on the oncoming lane making the turn. All of a sudden this mack truck appears right in front of us coming down the mountain. Our driver had to swerve quickly to the outside lane in order to avoid a collision. It was too close for comfort but I'm happy to say he smartened up quite a bit afterwards and actually turned out to be quite a good driver.

Unfortunately, a few others weren't quite as lucky as we were. On the second day of our overland as we were going through a smaller mountain pass, we came upon an accident. Similar situtation, a land cruiser and a mack truck collided on a blind turn.

Luckily everyone was ok and both cars stayed on the road instead of ending up on the river bed about 150m below. This accident caused quite the jam though as noone could get through. Everyone was out and about surveying the scene.

We weren't sure what was going to happen as we weren't close to any cities and we weren't sure how long before the cops got there. One land cruiser tried to go around the truck which was insane because it was on the edge of the road. He couldn't make it though. All of a sudden we see these guys tearing up the concrete barriers to make room! I couldn't believe they were doing that. Why couldn't they just move the cruiser and the truck over a little and everyone can get by? We heard different things like the truck couldn't start or they had to wait till the cops got there. So here they are, tearing up 3 concrete barriers.

I'm thinking, there is no way I'm getting in our cruiser if it decides to go by the truck on the edge of this road. I'll wait until he's gone through and then get in. After about an hour, they successfully demolished the safety barriers (swell) and started the truck! What the hell. Why did they just spend an hour demolishing the barriers when they could have just moved the damn truck. Still don't understand to this day. But they moved the truck to the edge of the road instead and pushed the cruiser off to the side.

We were off! You would think everyone would have learned from this experience but nope, all the cruisers go speeding off down the mountain because we were all running late now *sigh*.

The couple days to follow, we saw 3 different cruisers on the back of trucks because they got into accidents. The worse was on the last day when we saw a cruiser on its side with smashed windows and all. There were cops and a group of people off to the side and we saw foreigners on the ground. Not a good sign. I hope they were okay. It was a straight stretch of road too so it was strange how this cruiser flipped. We're thinking the driver was an idiot and tried to pass and swerved in too fast.

Shortly afterwards, we were again on a low mountain pass and saw an 18 wheeler down in the river bed about 100m below. That was nuts. The truck was smashed. I'm not sure if the driver survived or not but I would guess not.

That was enough for me. I was so glad we were heading back and we're here safe and sound. While on our overland, I was considering the overland to Chengdu instead of flying (which we are now doing). This overland would go through the Sichuan-Tibet highway which is known to be some of the world's highest, most dangerous and most beautiful roads. After seeing 6 accidents in just 6 days on these roads, we were done. We're taking the good ol' airplane outta here on Sunday.


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