Rolly-poly was the name we gave to the unsuspecting hedgehog ambling along the cement road in search of food (or to be more exact, Katie officially named it and we deferred to her naming pronouncement). He belonged here on Ghost Island (Lingshan Dao), but we did not. The ferry had deserted us, and we were stranded on the island for the night.
It was October Holiday, a weeklong holiday in China, and my friends and I had decided to visit Ghost Island for the day. There was Shane and Caty, a newly married couple who hailed from Maryland, Katie, a university teacher at my former school, and myself. We arrived at Jimiya Harbor around 8am and planned to leave for the island at 8:30am. But there was one small problem: about 100 other people with the same exact idea had arrived before us. So we were consigned to waiting in line.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. This was the norm for holidays in China. If you traveled to any place famous during the holiday (like the Great Wall), you experienced the mass horde syndrome where it’s easier to watch people than to see the actual landmark you came to see. Or as they say in Chinese, people mountain, people sea. At any rate, I thought Jimiya would be less well-known, but I was wrong.
After a 3 hour wait, we boarded the ferry for Ghost Island and arrived just in time for lunch. We decided on a restaurant with an outdoor deck on its second floor. I’ve never been good at choosing dishes from a menu, but when they’re all handwritten on a whiteboard in Chinese characters, that makes it infinitely more challenging. At any rate, we managed to order sweet potato sticks glazed in sugar, clams, a pork and vegetable dish, and fried slabs of pork. It was an indulgent lunch.
After our feast, I wanted to scale at least one of the smaller mountains on the island, but there wasn’t enough time. So we walked along a village path around the perimeter of a vegetable patch, up several terraces, and into a dried-out creek bed that seemed to lead up the mountain. The only minor obstacles were spiky, gnarled thorn trees and spiders that strung their webs across the tree branches. We opted for a less arduous route.
So we walked down to the road and entered a narrow alley that squeezed between brick courtyard homes until it led us to the coastline. It was strewn with rocks and had one section where it seemed like the rock had been hand carved into these jagged layers, almost like a dragon’s skin that had been worn down by time and petrified. There were striations and whorls in the rock layers that rose above the waterline. Nature is its own masterpiece.
Soon enough, it was time to head back to the ferry, and so we walked down to the dock where there was, once again, a mass of people waiting to return to Huangdao. Soon the ferries began arriving, and the line gradually moved forward. We were getting closer and closer to the gate until our turn came for the ferry. But this ferry was taking a while.
Eventually a college student told us that no more ferries would be coming that day. He asked us if we needed help finding a place to stay overnight. We decided to wait a bit longer. There were young people, elderly, and families with children still waiting for the ferry. Surely one would come, we thought.
It was a long wait. One person told us a number to call, and we dialed it. A woman answered and told us help would come soon. That was somewhat reassuring but also vaguely disquieting. What kind of help would this be? And more importantly, how soon would help arrive? A Chinese man grew impatient and borrowed our phone. He said that old people, us foreigners, and families with children were all stranded here. The company needed to send a ferry immediately. The woman at the other end of the line agreed and said help was on its way. That line sounded all too familiar.