Thursday, January 19, 2012

Heart of the River

I suppose it is the year of the dragon...
 So remember Broke Bike Island? Kevin and I were looking around on Google maps, and we just so happened to discover that the island that we were on when Brandon’s bike broke was not in fact that island in the middle of the Yangze. Fail. So yesterday we decided to go and find the real Broke Bike Island, or as it is really called 江心洲 or Heart of the River.

Pan left: gardens, pan right: trash heap

We took the subway to the closest stop to the river (because we weren’t biking) and attempted to find our way. We knew we needed to go South and West, so we began walking in those directions, attempting to follow the streets, which were ever increasingly turning in to highway. We passed some trash heaps next to gardens and handfuls of shanty towns. We were walking down one of the roads that hugged the highway clover and trying to figure out a way around the clover (people weren’t allowed up there) when we saw a small road leading into the middle of the clover from across the highway. So we crossed the 6 lanes of traffic, pausing on the well-worn dirt that many people had traveled before.

Pedestrians straight up the center
And then we were on a path that led straight through the middle of the highway, looking up to see the car paths on either side, to the side to see two motor paths that curved around to meet us at the top. The bridge was large, spanning the length of the short side of the Yangze River, and kept going when we got off, turning into a tunnel that would keep going under the rest of the river to the other side. One we had crossed the river and gotten off the highway path, we found a road that we thought might lead to the other side of the island and started walking.

Short side of the river
There weren't that many large roads in the area. There was the one leading to the tunnel and another crossing it, leading to a bus stop (that we had not previously known about). We wandered for a little and then found a road that went west. It was running parallel to construction to build a subway stop, I guess the Nanjing subway is expanding out west as well. 

Decoration or calligraphy practice?

As we were walking, we noticed more and more that the island seemed a bit post apocalyptic. Many of the houses where people had obviously been living had been demolished, we assumed to make way for the subway. It was weird. All around were piles of brick and plaster, in addition to shoes and pants and furniture. There were still some people living in these areas as well, as we discovered when we stumbled into an old woman's back yard and she kindly pointed the way back to the road.

We stumbled over bunches of debris, some daring to go in and explore, others not for fear of cave ins. Almost to the big part of he river, we were blocked by a final challenge: a row of water-fields. After walking along the wall for a while we came upon a few stone steps that led to a path right in between the two water fields. Seeing no other way to get to the river, we decided to cross. After all, if we were accidentally trespassing, we were just some silly foreigners wanting to see the river, right?
The maybe-ok path

We followed the path, which as it turned out was a perfect path leading to the Yangze. It cut straight across the field and curved south, leading past several ships that were loading/unloading and ones that were setting sail. 

Chicken farms!!

After taking in the Yangze for a bit we turned back and tried to find our way back to the highway entrance. Along the way we saw a Chinese free range chicken farm and decided that the dirt path leading along the farm was the right way to cut back along the island. We ended up in a nice old lady's back yard and she pointed the way back to the main road. When we got back to the main road we decided not to walk back along the highway and instead took the bus back to Nanjing. 

Long side of the river

soaked through

Oh, did I mention, it was raining the whole day. By the time we got to the bus our shells were soaked through and we were shivering a little. But it was a fun adventure in the rain, and we'll have to go explore the island again when it's not quite so wet.


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