04-Aug-2003 -- Continued from 27°N 114°E.
Monday 4 August 2003 (continued) – I collected my bag from the Xianggan Hotel in Yongxin, then headed for the long-distance bus station, where I got a bus for Ji'an, the county capital, departing at 11:15 a.m. It was a very hot, dusty, bumpy ride. Despite all the jostling, I, like many other passengers, managed to fall asleep in the non-air-conditioned bus. At 1:30 p.m. I got off shortly before we reached Ji'an. The driver and ticket seller had assured me that from this point I could get a bus that would take me to Yonghe, which was the closest town to the confluence that I could find on my maps.
The confluence was 8.44 kilometres to the southeast. I waited by the side of the road for a good while. Keeping me company were two people: a guy waiting for a different bus from me, and a lady with a pushcart selling a variety of items including bottled water and so forth, as well as corncobs and other hot snacks. She was persistent in her sales pitch, and eventually I bought and ate a boiled egg.
I tried to solicit information about the supposed bus I was waiting for, but their answers were all somewhat vague, a sure sign they didn't really know, but at the same time didn't want to admit to the fact. After half an hour the pushcart lady had already moved onto greener pastures, and I was getting impatient. I flagged down a passing taxi, but he wanted way too much, so I let him go, then flagged down another. This time the price quoted was quite reasonable (half what the first taxi driver wanted), so I hopped into the comfortable air-conditioned vehicle and we were off.
The roads in the area didn't seem to match my maps at all, and we went first down one road, then another, then back down the first road again, before we eventually started to close in on the confluence. My driver was extremely patient, although I'm sure he thought I was a bit nuts. Finally I had him turn off and follow a network of dirt roads into the woods, instructing him which way to turn each time we came to an intersection, making him think I knew exactly where I was going.
When the confluence was just 1.2 kilometres southeast, and the roads had deteriorated into barely navigable tracks, I figured my taxi driver had well and truly earned his fare. I paid him off and got out, wondering if he'd ever find his way out of the maze of the forest again.
I headed off towards the confluence through fairly easy, slightly undulating terrain, which was entirely given over to an orderly pine plantation, with pretty ferns lining the forest floor. As I drew nearer, I passed through an old village, in which many of the buildings were unoccupied and had long since gone to rack and ruin. The sign over what had once been someone's front door read "Long live Chairman Mao". This particular area of Jiangxi Province was where Mao Zedong had kicked off his drive for Liberation, and popular support for him was still much in evidence.
After getting past some rather nasty-sounding dogs unscathed, I emerged from the other side of the semi-deserted village onto an expanse of rice paddies. The confluence was in a dried up rice paddy just near the edge of a small lake. It was 3:05 p.m. I snapped photos facing north, south, east and west, and noted down the elevation at 71 metres and the GPS accuracy at 8 metres. I then set the camera on self-timer for a personal victory shot.
I found a different way out, after coming across a brand new concrete path. I confirmed with a local that the path did in fact lead out to the main road, then proceeded to follow it. I emerged onto a completely different main road to the one that I'd been along with my taxi driver however. I waited on the quiet roadside for some time until eventually, at about 3:45 p.m., a small truck came along. The driver assured me that there were regular buses travelling this road, and that I should continue waiting by the side of the road. Sure enough, he'd no sooner driven off when a bus came along. This was the same bus I'd been waiting for earlier in the day in the company of the pushcart lady, now heading back in the opposite direction towards Ji'an.
The bus travelled just a kilometre or two down the road to the next small town, then stopped for a scheduled rest period of some 10 or 15 minutes. During this time, it started raining, and the rain soon became very heavy. Just like at 28°N 117°E, people were astounded, saying it was the first rain they'd had in 50 days. I began to wonder if I might not be some sort of rain god, bringing with me much-needed rain wherever I went. This downpour was apparently also very localised, because the next day back in Nanchang I heard people talking about "the freak deluge near Ji'an".
I arrived in Ji'an at 5 p.m., and immediately hopped onto a bus bound for Nanchang. It was a trawler bus, and we cruised the streets of Ji'an for an hour at an infuriatingly slow pace before finally getting underway. The bus didn't arrive in Nanchang until around 10:30 p.m. I checked into the Nanchang Hotel for one final time. Room 437 was not available, but I got 737 instead, which was identical in all respects, just three floors higher up.
I went out for dinner, the Internet bar, and a hairdresser. I tried a different one this time, but was equally disappointed. Back at the hotel, I packed up all my possessions, because my next sojourn would be my final one, to the south of Jiangxi Province, and from there I planned to head straight home to Hong Kong. It was after 2:30 a.m. when I finally got to sleep.
Story continues at 27°N 116°E.