The minibus journey that Alexei the Giant had arranged for us from Urumqi was the 61st hitchhike so far. It was long and difficult, through the dark and icy cold, over bumpy roads. Our hosts didn’t seem keen on talking to each other, let alone us, so after several attempts at communication we decided it wasn’t worth it. Michael took the opportunity to have one of the sleeping tablets that a friend had given to us in Bangkok so he was out of it for most of the time.
We were only crawling along up an steep icy hill with a bollard seperating us from the cliff to our left. The minibus was clearly strugging, judging my the screams of the engine and the swearing of the driver. Once one the crest of the hill we were on flatter ground.
There was a clunk from the bowls of our vehicle and I could hear the driver frantically pushing pedals, but nothing was happening. Whilst Michael was sound asleep, the rest of us held our breath as the mini bus started sliding, quite slowly, but totally out of control. We slid towards the bollard separating us from the cliff, and I as I contemplated how strong the barrier was I also wondered if I should have woken Michael, just in case.
As we approached the barrier, no faster than 7 km p/h, the two woman started shrieking and screaming, difficult sounds to take in such a confined space. We bounced off the bollard, and started sliding back towards the otherside, like a bowling ball. We bounced twice more between the barriers until the mini bus lost momentum and we stopped. The women had stopped screaming, and the men got out to inspect the problem.
I thought about getting out as well but seeing as my knowledge of cars amounts to a snake’s of stilts, I stayed put. Besides, it was well below freezing outside and snow looked sharp on the eyes.
Michael awoke for a few moments, lifted his head, chewing, and mumbled something like, “dam seal… thinks he’s so smart”