Friday, 16 May 2008

Road Trip - Nan'ao to Huizhou

So, you've heard about the driving - that gives you some idea of what it was like INSIDE the car, but what about when we stopped?

Well, It took us about an hour to get from Shenzen to Nan ao - the beach where they landed in China.

You can clearly see the small island of Ping Chau (West island) about 500m off the coast which is actually still in Hong Kong waters and you can day trip there at weekends. I might try to do this when I get back to HK. It's a protected national park so should be pretty undisturbed.

Nan ao is now a major holiday destination for Chinese nationals. There are hundreds of hotel rooms available and it's now spread out over several bays and artificial beaches, which made it very difficult to guess which one they landed on... The harbour there has always been in the same place, but again, that was newly built and it was very difficult to find anything that resembled the 'old town'.

We stopped for brunch at one of the many fish restaurants there and enjoyed the fresh catch - all alive in bowls outside, so you just choose, point at and weigh want you want - delicious! Dad, you'd love it.

Then it was back up the coast to Wong Mei Chi/Wong Mei Hoi where they stayed for the night. No barns here now, but quite a few hotels - again another built up area.

We did manage to find the temple (we think) they slept in on the second night - it has been there 500 years and is the only one in the area... Then it was back on the back roads to the next town. Throughout the whole route, I was amazed to see just how built up everything was. At no point did I feel remote, or away from civilisation. The roads were always lined with industrial units, houses, offices or shops and it was non-stop like this all the way which is more than a little disappointing.

Probably the only thing that hasn't changed are the hills (give or take the tunnels bored through them for the roads), and the terrain was similar to that of HK. They're not massively high (2000' max), but very steep sided and covered in thick vegetation. The paths on the hills were probably marginally better in those days due to a higher traffic becasue of fewer roads, but I still wouldn't want to walk up them with my life on my back! Tim, Alison, you're definitely going to have your work cut out of you're going cross-country...

After the temple, it was back in the 4x4, with stops at (map names) Wong Mei Chi, Dapeng, Pingshan, Tam Sui, Huiyang, Qiuchang, Xinxu and Zhenlong before reaching our final destination of Huizhou.

Even Donald and Duncan were having trouble with the dialect and I would say that in less than 150km, the accent begins to change.

We managed to find a couple of schools, official buildings and temples on the way, that are mentioned in various diaries, but with the towns as large as they are and the development that has occured since, we really needed one of the original team (or a local old person with a good memory!) to pinpoint locations...

We crossed the two rivers that grandad talks about and can see why they would've had to have got soaking wet. They're both a good 10m across at least.

We stopped in Huizhou for a late lunch and sent the driver (a northern chinese, who was shorter than the twins, but properly stocky and complete with a flat-top, you wouldn't pick a fight with) on his way to find the 'American Mission', the hospital and the old pier.

He came back trumps. The old pier is now a modern viewpoint across the bay (as the only boats up river to Longchuan are now cargo boats) and the hospotal is a big modern affair around the corner from that.

As we approached the 'Church of Huizhou' on the pedestrianised strip, a lady was letting herself in. We got chatting and she invited us in. For those of you with a vested interest in visiting this place, the address is (bear with me here!) Huizhuo Shi, Huizhin District, 6 Chong San West Road.

We couldn't believe our luck. Upstairs was the retired priest, a 95 year old Chinaman, who remembers the escape party coming in! He was around 27 at the time and helped to provide, food, shelter and medical care to the men, to my grandad! Absolutely amazing, great to meet him and Duncan and I have printed off some photos as a memento and gift to him with a message.

L to R, Duncan Chan, Rev. So Kum Young, Donald Chan, Me, Rev. Wong Yuk Wa (current minister) and Shirley Chan (F).

After a quick look around Huizhou, it was back to Shenzen to say goodbye to Donald (who's off to the UK!) and then back to Duncan's for a late bowl of soup and a welcome bed!

A top day, and I wish I could've communicated with him more. Tim, Alison, let's hope he's got another 7 months left in him and I hope you get to meet him too (look out for the photos we presented him). As Colin was based there for a while, he may have a better recollection of him...

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