Bilbo and Hewhaw in Shenzhen
There in front was one of our vehicles riding high above the Shenzhen 5pm traffic on the back of a yellow truck. We were following behind with our driver and guide, grateful not to be driving in the chaos of the traffic. Rule number one seems to be that you have to change lanes as frequently as possible in order to gain that small, but often fruitless advantage over your fellow drivers.
It was our guide Steven who asked about the chicken. Reasonable question. Who would put a sticker on the back of the car with a chicken on it? ‘That’s not a chicken,’ we all exclaimed. ‘It’s a kiwi.’ And there followed an explanation of our national bird. ‘Like the panda,’ Steven said and we agreed though we were all trying to imagine the thoughts that must be going through his mind about these people who took a flightless bird as their national icon.
We had spent two rather frustrating days in Shenzhen trying to secure our two Nissan vehicles which had arrived on 8 March, nearly 3 weeks previously. Driving licences, eye sight tests, customs papers for the cars, temporary number plates – the bureaucracy seemed endless and difficult to understand. Steven spoke reasonable English, and he and the driver who was Steven’s manager, were very helpful, but we often didn’t know what was taking place and what would happen next.
Nevertheless, Shenzhen is an amazing place and between dealing with the cars, we had time for some sightseeing. We had arrived in Hong Kong on 26 March and spent two days recovering from jet lag and the exhaustion of getting away on our travels. We spent Sunday with friends John and Ann McPherson, NZers working in HK who kindly spent a day with us and showed us some of the sights of HK. Then we were picked up at our HK hotel and driven to Shenzhen, through HK and Chinese immigration to our next hotel and the long process of securing the cars.
One morning Steven took us to the Shenzhen Museum, a beautiful large edifice that would be the envy of any NZ museum curator. The temporary presentation was very appropriate for us – findings along the Silk Road in the days before it became an important trading thoroughfare. Because of the dry desert conditions, items of clothing, household goods and mummies had been very well preserved. The permanent displays concerned the history of Shenzhen and the economic miracle that has taken place there in the last 30 years. In 1977 Deng Xiaoping visited Shenzhen, concerned at the number of Chinese escapees to HK. His words had a tremendous impact on the future of the area. ‘It is not a question of control effectiveness; it is a question of our policy.’ By 1979 changes were in the wind and Shenzhen became a special economic zone with rights to sell land and operate in the share market. Today Shenzhen is a rather beautiful city with a modern varied landscape and lots of trees and gardens.
To return to the vehicles on the back of trucks – Martin and Maurice were unable to drive them because we couldn’t get the right licence plates for them – apparently a computer failure. The Nissans are now in the hotel car park and the guys are away working on the licence plates, while Anne and I drink coffee and write blogs.