Mr. Chen Weixiang and his wife Chen Ya came up to my hotel early this morning, picking me up and placing my personal luggage onto the trunk of his white High Lander ( 4x4w) and starting off for the long driving journey. Driving up to an overpass leading to G30 Expressway, we are soon leaving the city of Zhengzhou far behind.
Situated 136 km to the southwest of Chengdu, Ya’an (雅安) is the launching pad to further explore the West Sichuan Province. But Ya’an is about a 1330-km drive from Zhengzhou. Tonight we decide to put up at the city of Hanzhong (汉中) in Shaanxi Province, 753 km from Zhengzhou, approximately 9 hours driving. For the 753 km drive, we first go west from Zhengzhou to Xian for about 470km along G30 Lianhuo Expressway (连霍高速), then run south along G5 (京昆高速) from Xian to Hanzhong for the rest of the distance.
On the route from Zhengzhou to Xian ( G30 ).
Mr. Chen and I drive the white horse in turn. It is my first long-distance self-drive experience, a kind of challenge for me, used to drive slowly in the congested Beijing city. I’m excited with much expectation. It is a 4-lane expressway from Zhengzhou to Xian. The convenient service areas along the expressways make our self-drive trip much easier. They offer a range of services – toilet, dining, hot water, local products, gas station, auto repairs and more.
Sanmenxia (三门峡) Service Area is our first stop among plenty of service areas on our 6000km round trip to the West Sichuan Province. A huge signboard points to Sanmenxia Service Area reminding you to drive off the main road to the roadside stop area.
The city of Sanmenxia in Henan Province borders Shaanxi Province on the west. The picture below is the main building of Sanmenxia Service Area.
The buffet at Sanmenxia Service Area offers a wide range of food and dishes.
After Sanmenxia it is my turn to rev the white horse onto the expressway and roll it towards Xian. Pre- and post- my starting the engine, Mr. Chen takes one stereotyped picture of me to imprint the important moment on my memory.
A stereotyed photo of me by the white horse.
At Xian we branch off G30 Expressway and diverge to G5 Expressway down to the south running into the northern Sichuan Province. Between Xian and Hanzhong ( our today’s destination ) lies Qinling Mountain Range ( 秦岭 Qin Mountain ), a major mountain range located mainly in the southern province of Shaanxi, in China. Qinling Mountain is the most important climate dividing line between northern and southern China. The north side range is prone to cold weather while the south side enjoys a subtropical climate due to the physical barrier of the mountains with the rich and fertile landscape and a wealth of wildlife and vegetation.
I cannot supress my excitement over the physical touch on the mountain range which has been long lingering in my mind dating back to my high school when I was educated to learn the name of Qinling in China geography lessons for the first time. Qinling Mountain Range looks more vivid and interesting than what we’ve learned from our geography book. Numerous tunnels cut through the mountains in the range extending over 100 km! What a human feat! Salute to the road builders!
Driving through Qinling Mountain Range.
Running through numerous tunnels dug through the mountains extending over 100 km.
Take a break at Qinling Service Area 1311 meters at sea level.
When we get to the city of Hanzhong, it is getting dark. Hanzhong is a small, but clean and pretty city with Han River passing by, one of the tributaries of Yangzte River. Lying on the south side of Qinling Mountain Range, it has a rich and fertile landscape. Settled down in a nice hotel by the city square where local people sing and dance like other cities in China, we begin to look for something to eat.
Searching online, we get to know a back street north of the square, where we are supposed to find the local flavors or snacks. “Remianpi”(热面皮) is a local snack, literally meaning “Hot Flour Skin”. Putting a bowl of liqid flour onto a steamed grid, a thin skin of Remianpi is dipped with soy source with hot peppers and bean sprouts, sotft and delicious.
The making of hot flour skin
A bowl of hot flour skin
The night view of Hanzhong City.
Hanjiang River winds past the city of Hanzhong.
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