We were flushed out like sewage onto the station forecourt in the steaming afternoon sun, stinking. The place was awash with people; hawkers, beggars, the misplaced, the lost. What were we? The impractically luggaged. Everyone seemed to be glaring at us, many asked for money or tried to sell us something right there in the searing heat. A women approached us with a tiny baby. She spoke gravely and gestured to the baby's mouth.
"I've eaten, thanks" I said.
We tried frantically to find the bus station with a connection to Yangshuo, the "backpacker's paradise" that we were aiming for. There seemed to be several bus stations, none with clearly delineated boundaries. We tried asking a few passers-by, they looked bewildered, we grew in bewilderment. We split up to share the work, one of us waiting with the bags, the other eloping light and bouncy towards signs and exits. One sign had me walking round in a giant circle; another pointed directly into a cupboard. We were close to breaking point.
We put on our backpacks again and staggered out into the sunshine. Amid a crowded shopping area we corned an official-looking chap in uniform and hat and pointed desperately to Chinese words in our guidebook, gaping the pathetic syllables, eyes wide and glazed. His answer, "Yang-shu-o no bus". We looked tearful, some others stopped to join in the drama, exchanging words with the official. Something was written down on a scrap of paper and passed around. A name, "N..... bus station" was whispered, "Yang-shu-o". Hope. Here was a glimmering gift of hope in the form of an illegibly scrawled series of Chinese characters, we felt renewed and vigorous. How to get there.
"How to we get there?" we gesticulated. The word 'taxi' may or may not have been mentioned, but this was good enough for us as we raced down the stairs toward the underground parking lot. Now we had a plan. We waited patiently for a taxi amid the glaring and the shouting, and thrust our paper before the driver's face, our own faces brimming with nervous anticipation. He nodded, or grunted, which we took as affirmation, and we heaved the swelling bags into the boot and jumped in. I noticed a group of Chinese behind us pointing and laughing. Let them laugh, I thought. Let them have their fun.
We had been led to believe that there existed, within walking distance of Shenzhen station, a second bus depot which would have our bus. We hadn't dreamed this, the guide had been quite clear; so now as we zoomed down a highway passing trucks heaped with rubbish we began to feel a little anxious. Where exactly were we going? After twenty minutes or so we pulled up to a large, clean-looking building with buses circling around it. Was this walking distance to some? Little did we know this we to be the least disturbing aspect of our journey; oh ye Gods!