The condition of the road from JH to B Mountain has been an issue of importance for us the past few years, and we’re all quite happy to see slow improvements in recent months. But as the crews are preparing to finish the last couple of steps of construction, entire sections of the road are shut down to traffic. Detours and delays in the mountains can be frustrating, nerve-wracking, and spectacularly scenic.
On the return drive to JH with B, S, Adam, and Lydia, we were stopped behind a line of vehicles for close to an hour without any idea as to why we weren’t moving. Once we got started again, we realized they had been putting the black top on a section of finished road. And here we were, now driving on the hot tar.
A day later, as I was driving back up the Mountain with a group of German friends, a man in camouflage stepped out in front of the truck and directed me into a small, rutted dirt path off the main road. Although I should know everyone wears it around here and it doesn’t really mean anything, seeing the camo caused my heart to beat a little faster. I wondered if the man was border control, about to tell me we couldn’t enter this area, or if it was a guerilla. We don’t have guerillas on this side of the border, but your mind can think these things.
I pulled over and rolled down the window to ask the man in the most confident and assertive voice I could muster, “What’s going on?”
He spat out something in a dialect I didn’t understand. I stared at him blankly for a second, then asked rather pathetically, “Can you speak Mandarin?”
He waved me on impatiently, “Just drive straight ahead!”
I realized at that point that he was with the road crew and was diverting traffic to this side road, but I wasn’t completely confident about blindly driving down an unknown road in the mountains, especially this late in the afternoon with the sunlight slipping away. We stopped a half kilometer down the road to ask some D minority ladies working in their rice fields if this road would take us to B Mountain, and they assured us it would.
About the same time, the bus for B Mountain came flying past. Always top heavy with boxes on the roof and standing room only for the passengers inside, the bus was a beautiful sight to me this particular afternoon. I put the truck in gear and stayed on his tail the rest of the trip. His passing me at that moment was truly providential—there were two forks in the road that would have caused me quite a bit of angst if I hadn’t been able to follow the bus I knew was headed for the same destination as me.
Returning from that visit back to JH, we were sent on a detour up a steep, one lane road through a village of the L minority people. Of course, I came head-to-head with an oncoming freight truck on this narrow road, with no room to pass. As the smaller vehicle, I had to give way. Two of the German girls hopped out of our truck and directed me as close as they could to the edge of the dirt road, also moving large rocks from in front of the tires. Any further and we risked sliding down the mountainside. The driver of the freight truck gave us a thumbs up and began inching forward past me. He was so close to us, I couldn’t bear to look. The few seconds it took for him to pass seemed to last an eternity, but he made it without a scratch. My passengers got back in the cab, and I turned the wheels back on to the road proper, hugging the wall of mountain beside us the rest of the way down to the main road in the valley.
Next in the “Back-to-Back Trips” series: ”The Sound of Music“