On the surface, we were calm and contented. We looked as if we knew what we were doing, simply turning up at a central station and catching a train two hours down the road to Nanjing. It wasn’t snowing; it was even sunny, almost.
But deep down we knew it wasn’t going to be that easy. And it wasn’t. Nanjing was the only place trains weren’t going to, we soon figured out after being lost in translation for a while, and by way of a kindly man we found a bus departing for Nanjing just outside the station. We dismissed the fact that it was double the price we thought it was going to be, and jumped on, happy to be on the road again.
Our bus pulled out at 11.15. We reached our destination at ten o’clock. Not only were we starving and in desperate need for a loo, we were feeling, to put it mildly, a bit poorly. We were both a bit fluey already, and it didn’t help that everyone on the bus was feeling the same way. There’s hardly ever snow in southern China, and therefore everybody’s immune systems have gone into meltdown.
People were chucking, others simply spat on regular intervals, everybody coughed, yet nobody complained. In the surrounding vehicles, people had their engines turned off and were picnicking in the back seats. In others, kids walked by the side of the road until their families’ cars passed them, and after some visible panicking, they’d pick up their pace and jump back in. It was all very well and good, for a while, anyway.
Once we got in, we quickly learned that there really was no way out. The highways had been closed, the railway lines were snowed under, and the airport had been closed. We gave the embassy a quick call (they said, ‘all we know is what’s on TV, turn on CNN’) and booked the last two overpriced plane tickets to Xian before we changed our minds.
So now we’ve got a bit of time in Nanjing, and, after a little while, I realised that this isn’t such a bad thing at all. Nanjing, meaning ‘southern capital’, was capital of China during the Ming dynasty and then again for the Republic of China before the communists got a bit territorial. It’s a lovely city, full of wide boulevards, shady trees (which of course have lovely snow all over them and keep dumping their cargo on us) and pretty rivers (which strangely aren’t frozen). There are parks everywhere, which we have to tiptoe through due to fear of slipping over Jack Callaghan-style.
After skyscrapers and shopping, we’re now gettin’ all cultural. And hopefully healthy.