I've posted about the Toffee Man at Houshan, but the story of how we got there deserves some space. Another Aussie teacher and I were invited by a group of high school students to go on their outing one Sunday, not long after I arrived in China, and we duly met them at the West Gate and caught a bus into town. I thought I knew the right bus out to Houshan as I had been before, but one of the students spoke to the bus driver (why, I don't know!) and for some reason that I will never know the bus driver told him it was the wrong bus. So we walked through the city streets to another bus stop, and again there were conversations with bus drivers and other on how to get to Houshan. We eventually got on a bus - that clearly was the wrong bus so we got off after travelling some kilometers, and waited by the side of a busy road as they phoned another student who they thought could help.
Eventually taking long strides and panting for breath this student arrived and we followed him through a village, through the drying vegetables on the side of the road to another bus stop and there we waited. No bus came, but Large (yes, that was the student with long legs!) raced off in another direction. More phone calls were made. Then a tiny van appeared and Large leapt out of the vehicle and herded us in. There were two little wooden seats for the Aussie teachers, but the other students crouched and sat squatting in the back of the van. It appears it was Large's uncle, a government official, and this was a government van.
It was quite a hair raising ride as every time we went around the corner, the students all fell over into one laughing heap as we two teachers looked on in amazement wondering what our safety officers in Australia would make of this.
Eventually we reached the roadway entrance to the park, and we all climbed out the of the vehicle and walked into the park.
I had been in the park some two years earlier, but in that time it had taken on a new life. There were more new gardens and it was now very commercial with the weirdest things. There was a freak show with two headed children, and other strange mistakes of nature. It was a very busy park, and we followed the students through the park like a small flock of sheep.
We wandered through the park exploring different places, and we saw the entertainers. We climbed the mountain - I'd done it before, cement steps taking us higher and higher up the mountain towards the inevitable Buddhist temple.
The views back over the farms was worth the trip with the yellow flowers of the rapeseed visible for miles.
On and on we went until we reached the temple. We spent some time atop the mountain taking photos before we made our way back down, this time coming a lot closer to the peach blossom.
We had lunch in a tiny room which was part of a very strange restaurant. It was just so small, and so, well crappy I suppose. No one in their right mind would enter such a place to eat, but we did. Food was OK - just. Filled us as we were all hungry from our running around all day and climbing the mountain.
The boys wanted to play on with some of the strange sideshows, but the girls had had enough so we caught the bus home. Yes, it was THE bus that should have taken us on a very quick trip earlier in the day to Houshan. Still, it wouldn't have been near as much fun as our journey there turned out to be.