I asked Paul
about it. He replied,
recall many buses doing the circle, not enough anyway.
More likely (something I thought of while over there) is
a system of "up in the morning, down in the afternoon".
Whether it was official or not I don't know but I did
note quite early in the visit that buses didn't go down,
at least when we were around that part of Guoliang.
We spent 3
nights there so did have time to get the feel of the
area. For most cars too, it seemed the same, as you
would expect I suppose...tourists come up in the
morning, go home in the afternoon. For such a narrow
road it was relatively incident free but I did see some
quite hilarious situations....I just don't believe the
Chinese are quite ready for cars yet!!!"
I can definitely
report there is two-way traffic. Go take a look at
David Goorney's excellent 6-minute
on youtube. There you will see 6 instances of cars
passing cars. They pass each other gingerly because
there isn't much space, but they do pass.
David, the tunnel is 1.3 kilometers long, 5 metres tall and
4 metres wide. For us Americans still accustomed to
our outmoded system, that would be 4/5ths of a mile, 15 feet
high and 13 feet wide.
I noticed that
David posted a second video where he photographed a
car ride down the tunnel.
As I took my
ride, it did seem like a couple spots were too narrow to
permit two-way traffic. But then out of nowhere some
idiot came up beeping violently behind's David's vehicle
demanding to pass. To my surprise, there was enough
room. The thing that bothered me is that this kind of
aggressive driving was dangerous for a tourist. Due to
all the curves, tourists are frequently hidden from sight.
If you see
either video, you will notice a lot of honking. Since
the road is full of curves, cars rounding the bends often
honk in case a vehicle is coming from the other direction.
Quite frankly, David's video made this road resemble rush
hour traffic. This picture gives the exact same impression.
In a way, the
traffic is a sad development. Hundreds of tourists are
always walking this tunnel on foot. They are forced to dodge
cars and listen to the annoying echoes of the honking as
they climb up or down the famous tunnel.
Too bad they
can't rope the tunnel off for hikers only. Given the
rate of progress, it is probably only a matter of time
before they have ski-lift style gondolas. Perhaps then
they can restrict the movement of vehicles to early morning
and late afternoon.
As it stands,
the tourists are at the mercy of the drivers. Five years ago
I called this spot the most dangerous road in China.
At this point, I take that back.
In my opinion,
the only danger now is some poor tourist getting flattened
by a car. It really is ironic. Guoliang came
into existence because it was so remote. Now its
problem is too many people and too many cars.
One very nice
they have done is to fill in the "windows" with rock
barriers for pedestrian safety and to enhance the
attractiveness of the openings.
Back when they
first excavated the tunnel in 1972-1977, they created these
windows as a way to shove the loose rock and gravel down to
the valley below.
From what they
say, it took 13 villagers six long years to complete this
project. Mind you, these were villagers, not professional
villagers all came from the tiny village at the far side of
mountain. They never dreamed this road would become a
The geography of
this particular area fascinates me.
Correct me if I
am wrong, but I believe Guoliang is the name of
At the time, the
people just want to have an easier way to access to the
outside world. In 1972, China was in the depth of culture
revolution, resource were scarce, so this tunnel was never
an engineering project, just people blasting and hacking
their way through rocks.