12-Feb-2002 -- This story continues from
MONDAY 11 FEBRUARY 2002. When I arrived at the Longyan train station, the ticket counter was closed. It being Chinese New Year's Eve, there were very few people around, however there was one small restaurant still open for business, so I went there and had some dinner. After that, there was nothing to do but wait.
The sound of firecrackers, which had been going on all day, increased dramatically as darkness fell, and there were fireworks displays everywhere. Eventually the ticket office reopened, just in time for me to exchange my ticket for the train leaving that night. The good old Chinese rail system proved as reliable as ever, with the train departing right on the scheduled time of 8:02 p.m.
My train arrived in Meizhou, back in Guangdong province, at 11:15 p.m. Having completed two confluences in Fujian province earlier the same day, I was extremely exhausted, and when I discovered the railway guesthouse, conveniently located at the end of the platform, I checked in without hesitation. The room was extremely clean, comfortable, and safe -- but not quiet! At midnight, the fireworks reached a crescendo, and it felt like being in the middle of a war zone, with both small arms fire and heavy munitions going off all around!
TUESDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2002. I slept well despite the noise, and when I awoke to my alarm at 6 a.m., the firecrackers were already starting up again. I eventually figured out how to switch on the hot water heater for the shower, although the English instructions weren't much help (picture #3).
Today was Chinese New Year's Day, and Meizhou was like the proverbial ghost town. Public transport was out of the question, so I had to take a taxi to the confluence. At 9:30 a.m., the taxi dropped me off on the main road at the point closest to the confluence, which was 1.1 kilometres away to the east.
I started by climbing a hill, then from the top of the hill I got my bearings. There was a valley to the north of the hill, running more or less east-west, so I climbed back down and proceeded up the valley along a narrow footpath. One-point-one kilometres turns out to be a long way when you're following a winding track through progressively more and more hilly countryside. Eventually though, after a lot of ups and downs and backs and forths, I managed to reach the confluence.
As usual, I discovered that the closest point to the main road is not necessarily the easiest way in. There was a reasonably well-travelled dirt road running past the confluence, not more than 50 metres away! On the other side of the dirt road was what can only be described as a mansion, sporting a large satellite dish, and a private car parked outside (picture #8). Farming in this area obviously paid dividends. I strolled over and gate-crashed their Chinese New Year celebrations, imbibed a badly needed cup of tea, gathered some intelligence on the best way out, then bade my farewells before outwearing my welcome.
As I walked south along the dirt road, in the direction the affluent farmers had told me to go, a passing motorcyclist kindly offered me a lift. Once we reached the main road, he insisted on taking me all the way to the nearest major town, Shejiang, from where he assured me I would have at least some chance of getting a bus back to Meizhou.
But there simply weren't any normally scheduled buses that day. After waiting for quite a while, an off-duty sleeper bus came by, and offered to take me, and another hopeful passenger, who was also waiting at the same spot, to Meizhou for a modest fee. He dropped us at the Meizhou bus station, from where I could begin the next leg of my journey, to