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Published: April 14th 2017
China with my Xiong di...Paradise road to Maiji Shan.
After Robin returned to China following his visit to our Sydney home, Robin's offer "I will drive you" haunted my dreams.
So I entered uncharted territory and contacted him in email exchanges: "Robin, you said you would drive me to Maiji Shan. Were you serious?" "Yes. I will drive you. You come and I pay." "How about in two weeks...and I pay?" "I will meet you at Xian Airport and we will then decide who pays."
My guts squirmed...imagination screamed...excitement turned from gas to solid.
Never done this before.
I got on a plane to China to travel with Robin.
Stepping out to pursue a dream from a black & white photo in a 1950s China book...photo to reality...talk about stepping out.
Sydney to Guangzhou by Airbus...a blonde woman about my age 3 seats away.
I say "Hi"
and we get to chatting...non stop for the next 9 hours!
An Iranian Australian on her way to check the factory of her fashion label...her daughter at home working for her and her son preferring
to play golf and party...two lonely souls on a plane...promising to keep in touch.
Overnight hotel stopover organised by the airline before the next flight to Xian...name checked off...groups milling around...pointing...me heading off with a group down corridors on & on.
Something inside saying, "This does not feel right, where are we going?"
Checking with one of the group if their next stop was Xian...looking at me...someone saying "Xiamen"
or something like that...suddenly running for hundreds of metres from whence I had come...an official saying everyone had gone to their hotels...freakout...lost before I get there...Noooo!!!
Somehow I get on a bus with a Melbourne girl on her way to Xinjiang and find my hotel...dinner of goose and Pearl River Beer..the feeling of being alone hitting me like never before.
About one month ago it was me greeting Robin at Sydney Airport and now Robin's biggest smile greeting me at Xian Airport.
It was Spring...green leaves bursting from trees lining the roads...grass so green...so unlike the austerity of Winter...but I could still not see blue sky.
Yum Cha...massage...banquet fit for a king...Deluxe room at the Bell Tower Hotel with best views...Executive
Suite at the ANA Hotel booked for later...incredible deductions in price...feeling very much like a VIP...all arranged by Robin...massive smile on his face.
Then on Day 3 we head off on our road trip to the mythical Maiji Shan.
Me saying should we not try and book ahead?
Robin saying we will work it out when we get there...time for me to travel...the Chinese way!
But who pays?
I was prepared to pay all expenses as long as Robin was free, but Robin insisted he pay for everything in Xian other than hotels, and we agreed I pay for everything elsewhere.
Business done...time to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Brisk early morning air..into his sister Jian Nan's new Mazda 6...can't believe this is happening...but we're off.
Xian's Coffee Street for breakfast...cobbled streets...upmarket trendy bars...photo of Audrey Hepburn by the moon gate..clear Robin intended we would eat well.
The traffic was heavy until we hit the Expressway...flying North-West past green fields some with gravestones...cliffs pocked with cave dwellings...tastes of the caves carved out of the dirt in which 100 million Chinese live.
I was on an incredible high so I
brought out some of my CDs for some music as we zipped along...Robin sort of liking Chris Izaak's "Wicked Game"
but during Crosby Stills & Nash's "Deja Vu"
he hit the eject button and suggested: "How about some Chinese music?"
Thence the rest of our travels it was Chinese music...music that would take me to heavenly places and beyond.
This was a time the Chinese were new to Western music tastes...early Beatles, music from the 1960s and 70s filtering in...music we listened to 40 years back.
He fiddles with the CD player...turns it up...lilting melodies like wafts of breeze...from the grasslands of Mongolia...the sweetest voice..."Heaven" or "Paradise" by Teng Ge
...emotions welling up...wind in my hair...tears of joy...oh such joy...the music that would define our trip...the song that I would later sing at the top of my voice in an exultation of ecstasy.
Click the arrow on my video and be transported.
Even stopping for petrol fascinated me...truck stops where grizzled drivers with matted hair chatting and eating...a taste in the air of remoteness, industry and approaching mountains.
Through gates into the north-west Shaanxi city of Baoji then out again...turning
off later over a crevasse on a narrow railway bridge into the tiny village of Pingtao for lunch.
I was certainly a curiosity...locals gathering as we ate lamb & potatoes and supped the local Landmark beer...buying a belt that the maker fashioned from fresh hide with a buckle of a wolf...punching holes with an ancient machine...Robin in charge...me just going along.
Then as we left the mood changed.
The narrow railway bridge blocked...traffic jammed in both directions...collision of a van and a small truck...awaiting the Police to determine liability.
Stuck in the middle of nowhere...pacing...vehicles every angle...Maiji Shan by evening looking most unlikely.
So I decided it was time this Westerner took charge!
Strode past the line of vehicles through the crowd that had gathered and pointed this way and that...directing the van to here...the truck to there...drivers objecting and locals yelling...then obeying the directions of this International Policeman that had taken charge...all with no Chinese!
The traffic then moving...every driver thumbs up...eyes connecting...smiles thanking me.
And the biggest smile was Robin's.
I feel it was there I earned the name that Robin has called me thereafter..."Lao Ge"...wise older brother.
And Robin I call my "Xiong di"...younger brother.
Yep...from then on we travelled not as guide and customer...but as brothers.
And that is how it continues to the present day.
Over the Shaanxi/Gansu Province border...entering a land of mountains and tunnels...criss-crossed railway bridges perched over gorges and trains zipping into black holes...mountains barren but terraced with dry fields like lacework...Robin bipping the horn as we approach each narrow turn.
The old Silk Road passed through these gorges...me wondering how ancient traders got through.
I paid toll after toll...guess they have to pay for the tunnels somehow...only the occasional Police checkpoint...Chinese music wafting in the mountain air as we hummed along.
Then well before the city of Tianshui a left hand turn to Maiji Hill...both Robin & I entering new territory...narrow roads winding...a gate Arboteum Hotel...not in my Lonely Planet Guide...a resort of Swiss style chalets around a brand new hotel.
In 2006 Arboteum purchased the two hotels at Maiji Hill and made it into one.
Time to book in.
Sounds easy but was not.
The Governor of Gansu Province and his retinue had booked the place
Turned out three rooms were not occupied but with a bit of Robin magic we secure two!
It is 6pm and the restaurant closes at 8...just enough time to catch a glimpse of the object of my dreams...Maiji Shan.
8 minutes later on a tree-lined path the perfume of peach or cherry blossoms...pink blossoms to my right...and beyond...a mountain of loess earth rising like a sentinel...carved niches up its side..a temple in its hair atop...niches like eyes and massive Buddhas smiling at us...the light fading and chill in the air indicating a closer visit should be another day.
So we head back for dinner at 7:30 and stay to 9.
The sound of music wafting from above...I'll be back as I head up the stairs...entering a large room...a band...couples waltzing......women in evening gowns...no one paying me any attention...me moving with the music in front of the stage.
Suddenly hands on each shoulder...massive muscled men on each side escorting me out of there. To be continued...
Relax & Enjoy
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