The Road to Yuanyang: Part 4
I shouldn’t be too hard on the Xinjie bus station hotel room. That it had a Western toilet is by all accounts a miracle. Still, despite traveling for 24 hours, I could not bring myself to shower there, making a mental note to apologize to my fellow bus passengers the following day.
In the morning I walked out of the bus station to find I had miraculously been transported to a completely different village. The street was full of people. Vendors lined the sidewalk selling all types of colorful fruits and vegetables. Women strode down the road dressed in traditional attire, not to satiate Western tourists’ illusions (I was the only one in a 100-mile radius) but because that’s what they wore. Their pointy hats, colorful dress, and diminutive stature (and the fact I had entered the town by falling from above) made me feel like I was in The Wizard of Oz.
The girl at the bus station, whom I’ll call Glynda, gave me instructions on how to get to the other Xinjie. I would have to take a four hour bus ride to Yuanyang-Nansha, and catch another bus there to Xinjie.
She introduced me to a lanky, jovial bus attendant. (Scarecrow?) Scarecrow and I chatted via the miracle of mobile phone translation apps as led me on a twenty-minute walk through the market. I assumed the buses didn’t park at the station on Sunday because of the market. He introduced me to the mode of transport known as the Wanda Coach.
It turns out I had only been on luxury buses before. This was the real thing. The one peasants used to transport their foods to market, at least on Sundays. The bus carried more goods than people—bananas mostly.
The bus driver was a hard-talking, chain-smoking man in his late 30s/early 40s. At one point the bus stopped for no apparent reason except so Scarecrow and the bus driver (aka Tin Man) could enjoy a smoke and chat with some locals they knew in a remote village. Suddenly water poured down the windows and inside the bus, since some of the windows were open. It was like it was raining just on the bus. It wasn’t until later I noticed all these little buses have water tanks on top. Some sort of coolant system? That was the cue to go, the driver quickly started up the bus and we were on our way again.
Four hours later, when we arrived in Nansha, I was ready to deboard the bus. Scarecrow told me for 10 extra yuan they would drive me to Xinjie. I don’t know if that was the intended stop, or now that they had one passenger, they would advertise the route to others. Scarecrow walked around the streets of Nansha drumming up other passengers with goods to sell in Xinjie.
Finally, the bus crawled its way up the mountainside to the now practically mythical (in my mind) Xinjie bus station. Alas, there it was, atop a hill, a block from the town’s central square, just as LP had predicted. Yes, “grubby”, as they described, but a veritable paradise to my eyes.
All I had to do now was get to the guesthouse.
Swiss girl had said that after each bus arrived a driver would show up at the station who spoke two words of English: “Sunny Guesthouse! Sunny Guesthouse!” I called the guesthouse again to say, I’m really at the bus station now in the real Xinjie, please pick me up. I even tried saying it in Chinese, except because I’m tone deaf I could have said “Your mother is a horse.” And who knows what he said back to me. Possibly, “We closed down five years ago,” but I was hopeful he said, “Great! We are sending someone to pick you up!”
The driver never showed. But I did meet a nice Israeli couple departing Yuanyang who had just stayed at Sunny’s. They said Sunny’s doesn’t pick up anymore but that for 15rmb a taxi will take you up the mountain.
Every driver we spoke to quoted ten times that amount. After a half-hour of haggling we talked one down to 50rmb. Still a ripoff, but I wanted to put my stuff down. I wanted to get up in time to see the sunset. I wanted to be anywhere but in transit.
The ride up the hill took over an hour, partly because it was busy market day, and partly because anytime a passenger got out the driver would slow to crawl until he had picked up another, ensuring that all seats were full all the time and that traffic was blocked in both directions.
Finally he pulled the van over to the side of the road and pointed for me to go down a long, long driveway. I found myself in a small village: Duoyishu. Villagers were busy working on what I assumed to be additional guesthouses as Duoyishu shifted from a rice-based to tourism-based economy. Eventually a sign in English pointed out the general direction of the “Sunshine Inn”, which I guess was the old name for the guesthouse. Finding it would have been impossible were it not for an old man who was nice enough to lead the way. Arriving at Sunny’s, I felt I had reached the edge of the world.