I know a little bit about my nature. I let go of things too easily in an attempt to keep hold of them. Took all those “let your caged birds fly” verses seriously as a kid I guess. So when it comes time to find something I want to see or do, I give up at the first obstacle. “Oh well, probably not that great anyway” is the thought pattern. And sometimes this reverse psychology works on the universe. Like yesterday in travelling to the Chang Jiang [the Yangtse/Yangzi/Yangtze River - the river Wanzhou is on, much further upstream].
The Lonely Planet said there was a #67 bus that went to the Da Qiao Gongyuan [Big Bridge Park] from a terminus on Jiangsu Lu. So I hiked up Ninghai Lu for a long way, though not too terribly long in the scheme of Chinese roads/marches, and arrived at Jiangsu Lu’s southwest end. I could tell by the sign - those little directions on the blue placards are great. Then I followed the road to its other end at an architectural college. I passed the terminus but all it held were good old #8 buses, the bus that doesn’t run in Taiwan (or so our former-Red-Guard language teacher once said).
So I wept and gnashed my teeth, put on sackcloth and rubbed my face in ashes. How would I ever arrive at the first bridge built by the Chinese without Russian help? The bridge that created a direct rail line between Beijing and Shanghai? I pondered a taxi but the thought of the driver asking questions I couldn’t answer made me ever so fearful. Which end of the big bridge? The park? What did I really want and was there any possibility he’d understand? (I say he because unlike Wanzhou the cabbies here seem overwhelmingly male.)
I stopped for a snack and a lavender flavoured milk tea which made me vaguely nauseous. Otside the Suguo [a Nanjing chain convenience store] two men were singing karaoke style. They had their own mics and an amp and a sign I couldn’t read. Outside with all the bikes they serenaded the street. More folk songs than pop. The one in blue sat and looked down, concentrating. The one in grey was more expansive.
Making my way out of the back streets I was on back to the big roads with their informative signs. As I passed a Mai Deng Lao [McDonald’s] and a Xinhua book store whose gel ink selection was rather poor I checked a bus stop and found buses heading to Da Qiao Nan Lu [Big Bridge South Road]. My defeat wasn’t complete! I got on a bus and followed its map enough to realize it wouldn’t get me to the actual bridge, but I was on my way. I changed buses and waited next to a monk who was on his way somewhere out of town judging by his suitcase. His yellow robes and cell phone would have made a nicely cliched picture. And I was so close, too. I stood when I got on the next bus. And when it hit the elevated road that ran towards the bridge I ducked and twisted to see everything I could.
We crossed railway tracks and passed high over a park. I wasn’t sure where I’d be able to get off so I was sucking everything I could straight onto my retinas. I disembarked on top of the north end of the bridge where the revolutionary statues are. The workers and soldiers striding forward across the bridge holding their tools, weapons and books of Mao Zedong Thought high. Under the statue was a staircase which I descended. Six or maybe eight storeys worth of old slippery tiled stairs, not bare cement, but a very doctor’s office or old hospital kind of thing. There was one elevator and there were locked doors at every landing. Down at the bottom I crossed the parking lot/small expanse of pavement no vehicles used for parking to the other supporting pillar and climbed. I could hear women talking above me but couldn’t tell how many, or if they were climbing or descending. I caught up with them as we all reached the top and emerged from under more revolutionaries only to see there was a traffic signal I could have used to cross the road up there. Crossing the road had been my major motivation for using those stairwells. I regret nothing.
So I crossed the bridge walking high above the river I used to live sort of next to. Here it’s still muddy but also much wider. The lanes for the ships to each side. The rumbling you could feel up on the bridge when a massive boat loaded with sulphur or nothing passed from the upstream flatness down towards the city. On the maps the islands look much larger than they did from the bridge. The river around them looks separate, like it should have separate labels on the map, but above it there’s no illusion of that. I could see the distant downtown landmarks I navigate with, including the CN Towerish thing and the building near Gulou that’s being built.
While crossing the bridge I realized my logistical difficulty in this trip. I was out of small change for the bus. So I steeled myself for a long walk down the elevated road till I could buy a bottle of water and be transported homewards. It was a fine walk. I got to stop traffic for ten whole seconds.bridge bus chang jiang da qiao flickr gulou lonely planet nanjing the hangman