Day 4 – 10/16/2011

Qingdao – Nanjing

Bridges and towers, cities and streets – the newer, the better; the grander, the more prized. Impressive structures are inherent to modern China. It seems that every few kilometers, enormous new residential areas or freshly laid highways emerge from the ground. Today, the Audi Q3 Trans China Tour heads south from Quingdao along the Yellow Sea and toward Nanjing – largely along brand new highways, but also partially through the backwoods. And that’s where we find the fishermen with turtles...

Pictures day 4

A superlative, of course, right at the beginning of today’s stage – the six-lane Quingdao-Haiwan Bridge spans the Jiaozhou Bay and joins the old town of Quingdao with the city of Huangdao. The sum of all its different sections adds up to 42.58 kilometers, making it the world’s longest car bridge over water. By way of comparison – the Öresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden measures just 7.8 kilometers. 450,000 tons of steel and 2.3 million cubic meters of concrete are the main ingredients in this mammoth bridge that was opened in July 2011. More than 10,000 workers were allegedly involved during the just four years that it took to build it.

And yet, it gives the visitor pause for thought – this is not about connecting an isolated island or replacing a ferry. No, this new and surely extremely expensive bridge shortens the existing land route by just 30 kilometers. An enormous amount of work and a lot of money for an apparently modest saving of driving distance, even if journeys can sometimes be incredibly long here. However, China is currently investing extremely large sums of money in the transport infrastructure of this massive land.

The Audi Q3 Trans China Tour rolls southward on this third stage for a total of 635 kilometers to Nanjing. We are right over in the east, close to the China Sea. And we are in one of the country’s primary economic centers, Jiangsu Province. The 1,000 kilometer coastline, the fertile soil and its proximity to Shanghai in the south have made Jiangsu, nicknamed “fish and rice land” one of the wealthiest and most attractive provinces in the country. In a threesome with its neighboring provinces of Shanghai and Zhejiang, this traditional trading region is responsible for around one third of all Chinese exports. In this very densely populated area – Jiangsu is home to 13 standalone cities that all easily exceed the million mark – the economy is based on heavy industry, chemicals, mining and high technology.

Video day 4

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You can’t see much from the highway – which, of course, is brand new and sparsely driven. Rice fields flank the road, small rivers, rolling hills. Highways are one of the central issues of infrastructure development here; they are being built at an enormous rate. At 75,000 kilometers, the high-speed road network is already longer than that in Germany. By 2015, it will exceed the length of American highways.

And these roads are in immaculate condition. The central reservation looks like a carefully maintained Zen garden, with accurately cut trees and shrubs, neatly ordered in size, form and color. Maintenance crews are a regular sight, behind the crash barrier and in front of it, too…  so stay alert, as ever!

But it really is pleasant to drive here on the G3 highway. Due to the speed limit of 120 km/h, the 211 hp TFSI engine in the Audi Q3 is operating in a highly efficient mode. The smooth suspension and the comfortable seats let the kilometers slip by effortlessly. But distractions on the small paths left and right provide some diversion – here, the freshly gathered rice crop is laid out on the road to dry; there, along the edge of a lake, shrimp fishers offer freshly caught turtles for sale. They are considered a delicacy. None of the Q3 drivers take them up on their offers.

And suddenly the road is at an end. One participant reaches a barrier on a small connecting road. Behind it, heavy equipment is working on dam construction. Turn around? No, a narrow track presents itself as a “detour”, leading through the construction site, across tiny farms and through a flock of hens. For the Audi Q3 with quattro drive this is obviously not a problem and, after all that freshly laid road, quite a pleasant change.

Tomorrow, the Audi Q3 Trans China Tour heads from Nanjing to one of the world’s glittering metropolises, Shanghai. 435 exciting kilometers lie ahead.

Day 4

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