2019 Yangtze River Delta Open of International Classic Cars
We had the pleasure to take part in the above mentioned FIVA world Rally in China the last two weeks of September. It was an international event of around 50 cars in total, the oldest a Wolseley from 1912 to Porsches form the Seventies, about 15 cars from Hong Kong, most of the others European with South Africa and Australia thrown in.
The Rally started in the outskirts of Shanghai (unbelievable how big that city is and how clean and quiet thanks to E- scooters and mostly Hybrid cars). After a two-day preparation of the cars and drivers – technical check of the cars by the China police and the FIVA inspectors, all of them very serious and important, arranging for Chinese number plates for the cars and Chinese driving licences for the participants plus GPS control on each car: Big brother is watching you! – we took off.
The start of the event being characterised by some kind of culture clash between a very Chinese organisation and a group of 50 individualist car crews try to arrange their own sightseeing! It took us a full day of driving to leave Shanghai behind us on our way to our first leg at Suzhou City in the Jiangsu Province, north of Shanghai through really flat country, in effect the entire delta is one huge plain. Driving was mostly on national roads but not to be misled: Even those have minimum two lanes in each direction, going up to 4 or 5 lanes! Many of them dead straight to the horizon, turning left or right at the traffic light there and again to the horizon……
The next day we continued our way to Wuxi, north of Shanghai on very good roads. We were lucky with the weather as we had 28 degrees Celsius most of the time if not more on some days. After an impressive welcome with the mayor of Wuxi and other important officials we were shuttled to our hotel where we had a wonderful supper Chines style. It was fantastic!
On the third day we started bright and early and after a farewell parade we set off to Dongtai, still up North. On our way we were stopped by the local police on the motorway and our Chinese paperwork was checked – as we spoke no Chines and the officer no English it took a while – a while means in China at lest an hour, we learned the officer took out his cell and used the translation Chinese to English and told us: “ welcome to China, have a safe trip!” What a lovely surprise this was!
From Dongtai we left the next morning to Changgzou going South again for about 300 km. In doing so we had to cross the Yangtse River again: A second enormous bridge, 6 lanes in each direction, fierce winds (a little Austin 7 was in severe trouble up there using all the lanes to avoid being blown off the bridge) and incredible freight shipping traffic on the river, the ships were literally queuing up! In that town we had the opportunity to explore the city and we went to the food market, here you could buy fresh frogs, fish, turtle and all sort of wonderful fresh vegetable.
After a farewell parade the next morning we set off South to the town of Ningguo in the province of Anhui and had the pleasure to stay in the most wonderful hotel in a beautiful mountain area. After a day in a hot car it was a pleasure to go swimming in the pool of the hotel. The food was more than delicious, and we were all very happy that we could stay at the hotel for dinner.
Our rally took us the next days via Xuancheng to Anji in the Zhejiang Province and the roads were just wonderful to drive on! You had to watch the trucks as they were heavily overloaded and were driving just in the middle of the motorway. They seem not to like to use their indicators when they change lanes so there we had to watch out – helpful that we had some previous Balkans driving experience in order to maintain our position on the road! We had the opportunity to stop at Qianqui Village in the She National park and had a wonderful time on the boat tour on the lake.
The last leg was our way back to Shanghai where we arrived safe and in time for a great welcome at the International Auto show in Shanghai.
What an adventure it was to drive on Chinese roads, with a Chinese road book of utmost perfection and not many readable signs around us or anybody who would speak our language. Having said that people were super nice and tried to help when we got lost – now we know about the huge advantage of a proper translation app – everyone has a cell phone and some funny communication arose when locals and guests showed the vis-a-vis the phone with the translated text!
It was a fantastic experience to be part of this event, especially driving in a pre-war car, that won a special price for the most beautiful car on the Rally. Well, I could not agree more!!!