We had booked a flight from Chengdu, Sichuan to Lijiang, Yunnan, before the earthquake hit, but now, whether you have a ticket or not makes very little difference, there are just not enough flights. Not to mention that all train stations are closed until further notice and that busses are just totally overbooked!
We went to the airport although fellow travelers warned us it was chaotic, a mild understatement, as it turned out! People were literally camping out here. There must have been thousands, eating, sleeping, playing cards, talking amongst each other but above all screaming at the helpless airline employees. Nobody had any information as when or if a certain plane was departing. When we were finally told, after three hours of running around, that our plane was cancelled, we almost felt relieved. Except a handful of western tourists, all others were Chinese, who showed little mercy with the staff overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of passengers who wanted to leave.
We had to take public buses all the way back to our hostel because taxis were all occupied. Later we heard that one thousand of them were taken to help out in the disaster area. Drivers of private vehicles – cars and scooters – soon saw the demand and offered their services. We never hesitated to accept this in Latin America but here we did not know what it involved.
Soon a young Chinese saw us desperately looking for transport and guided us to a bus stop. He explained excitedly how his strong belief and God had saved him from the terrible earthquake. With a quick “God bless you all”, he sent us off on a bus heading to our hostel.
After trying a whole afternoon to leave Chengdu, we were back at our beloved Sim’s Cozy Garden Guesthouse, even though at this point, we were not especially pleased to be back again… Here we were questioned about the situation at the airport, but what could we say? There were planes leaving, at least a few, but it was impossible to say to where and when.
Later in the evening, we both gave a telephone interview with the Austrian ORF, arranged by Heidi’s friend Bettina Roither. Well, together with the BBC, it was our third interview in two days…
Aftershocks could still be felt throughout the day. Two definitively did not go unnoticed, one almost creating a panic at the airport and a really violent one later at night. But somehow, we all got used to it and did not even leave the hostel.