After breakfast we check out of the NanAo hotel and head north for a morning of Communist history. First we visit the wartime command center of the East River Column guerrillas, housed in a handsome former Catholic mission in the village of Tuyang. We're honored to have had the son of their commander traveling with us since the Shenzhen welcome dinner. The Communist East River guerrillas were highly organized and did a lot of work to prepare the escape route for our party and later breakouts from Hong Kong POW camps. We learn more about their role as we go along, and enjoy viewing an exhibition in the old headquarters. Then it's on to another display on the same theme - the East River Column Museum in the town of Ping Shan. There's a good topographical model of their territory, but no guided tour and no English language signs to explain the exhibits.
It's another chilly day, and the low point for me comes when we're expected to have a picnic lunch with cold drinks (exactly the same inedible sandwich as the day before) on the buses in the carpark of the museum. I blow up at our mainland Chinese organizers, and though no local restaurant can apparently be found, we're offered a welcome cup of hot tea back in the museum. We drive on, unfortunately by-passing much of the escape route on modern highways, to an old Hakka walled village, Dashanxia. This is a gem, and was the very spot where the escapers spent a comfortable night, being generously fed by the local people, on December 28th. They were by this time within the lines of the Chinese army, safely beyond Japanese-held territory.
The countryside is still mountainous. The village is the second-largest walled village remaining in Guangdong province, some buildings are being restored but others are sorely in need of rescue.
We reach the city of Huizhou, Waichow to our fathers, in the late afternoon. We're being lodged at the West Lake Hotel - historically speaking, the wrong Huizhou hotel, as Tim reminds us, but it's quite luxurious compared to the NanAo Hotel and has lovely views of the West Lake. Here we prepare for a farewell dinner, which HERO will host for local officials and the representatives of the East River Column Society who've traveled with us. Philip Snow again provides invaluable help with writing and translating a speech for Rich: a task complicated by
several late additions of dignitaries to be thanked in the remarks. We're hoping for a more informal, buffet dinner but speeches are de rigueur nonetheless. We add a Scottish touch by having the Kennedy family pipe in the VIPs. To our delight, the chief Chinese guest is a smart woman from the Huizhou Foreign Affairs office, who's fluent in English.
It's a convivial evening, and everyone's wistful that our adventure is nearly over - though we won't miss 'fried bumblings' for breakfast! It's a fantastic group of people, all have entered into the spirit of the journey - reading their relatives' letters and diaries to each other on the bus rides, and sharing memories from their own families. It's extraordinary to put faces to the names I've known for years, and to make many new friends.