Day 13 – Qufu - Jinan - 1 July 08 (0km walk, 150km by bus)
Today it was time to say goodbye to our China walking guides…Paul “Earthwalker”, who has walked an amazing number of kilometres around the planet spreading the environmental message, Yuji, “Earthman” with a mission to continue Paul’s legacy and Konomi, the unsung heroine of the “Greening the Olympics” walk from Hong Kong to Beijing. At the start of the journey in September 2007 Konomi took it upon herself to learn to write Putonghua to communicate to the local Chinese along the way. She has done a superb job communicating in writing and now with an ever increasing amount of verbal communication. She is the quiet strength behind her man who remains unfazed when faced with challenges in the daily planning routine that is a large part of the journey. Our thanks go to all three companions and especially to Konomi for her strength of character and caring nature.
We taxied to the bus station and found out that the busses ran approx every half hour (unlike the trains which run once a day in spite of being told the day before that they run every half an hour). We had just missed the express so rather than wait 40mins we decided to catch the slower bus. All of about 1min into our journey the bus stopped for its first new passengers!!! The bus driver proceeded to get off the bus and sit at a table outside a local restaurant. The “new” passengers turned out to be the bus drivers 2IC and “conductor”. After about 5mins they all piled back on to the bus with plastic bags of food which Mr 2IC and Mr Conductor proceeded to share. At the next stop Mr 2IC and bus driver swapped so that Mr Bus Driver could eat his food.
Mr Bus Driver duly got back into the drivers seat and set off down the highway. We were fortunate that he was not a hooting tooting type…however his main vice was hoiking out the window. We were sitting right behind him in the front row so our view was often marred by the residue spit slowly drying in streams on the window. We were also horrified when at the end of the lunch session the driver proceeded to biff the plastic bag of lunch rubbish out the window in the middle of the highway. It is no wonder that as we walked through the countryside the piles of rubbish seemed ever increasing.
We eventually arrived in the middle of Jinan city at a large intercity bus station. It was easy enough to find someone at the bus station who spoke some English to help us understand how to get to where we wanted to go in the city. Two lovely ladies were very helpful in directing us to a taxi and informing the taxi driver where we wanted to go. Having bought a city map we were able to track the journey (in spite of the map only being in Chinese).
The taxi driver delivered us to the Crown Plaza…which was supposed to be next door to the hotel we were aiming for, however that hotel no longer existed. The Crown Plaza reception team were very keen to check us in but sadly our budget did not extend to their establishment on this occasion. The staff were however extremely helpful in recommending three alternatives within walking distance and we ended up staying at the first one on the list.
We set off on foot to explore the city and adjacent parks. Wandered through a street market just as they were setting up for the evenings trade and through the piazza where families were out enjoying kite flying in the early evening. At the edge of another park we stumbled upon a lady and man in their white coats doing outdoor massage for people heading home from work. We both enjoyed half hour neck/back massages for the princely sum of 10Yuan each…about NZD$4!!
After our massage we wandered off to find food and stumbled across a local outdoor food market alongside a small canal. First we discovered some wonderful garlic and vege dumplings thrown on a cast iron plate then transferred into a coal oven and baked. They were delicious and tasted like a cross between naan and chapattis.
We decided to order some vege food from one of the restaurants and found an empty table to eat at. There were three guys sitting eating and drinking copious quantities of beer at the next table. They invited us to join them so we moved on across and had a hilarious time eating, drinking and trying to communicate, us with no Putonghua and them with no English. We eventually managed to escape but not before they had refilled the half pint beer glasses, in Merrin’s case too many times and insisted on paying for our meal. We really do love to have these up close and personal experiences when we travel.