Monday, May 26, 2014

A Day Climbing in Yangshuo

There are three major climbing developments in China: Getu (though relatively vacant), Dali, and Yangshuo. During my study-abroad I visited Yangshuo for spring break, but in about a week's time there were only a couple rainless hours. Low clouds and rain are not a bad thing in Yangshuo. I was told that many Chinese people actually prefer the clouds for when they glide over the stuccoed mountains, heaven and earth connect, an ancient Chinese painting takes form. This time around I only had a day, and it was for climbing. 
Yangshuo has been called the climbing mecca of Asia. Yangshuo itself is now a developed tourist hub, but smaller than it's parent city Guilin. Both cities reside in Guangxi Province, which borders Vietnam and the South China Sea.  Like much of the food in south central China, sour flavoring is common with some type of rice based product. This area of China is considered subtropical, meaning the humidity can get so thick you feel as if you were swimming through the air. This climate can sap your energy in an hour if you are not used to it. Regardless of the humidity, Yangshuo is probably one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It is unimaginatively beautiful. I will be back again. Yangshuo is a travel must. 

Van from our hostel to the crag

When we arrived it was +80F with around 100% humidity


 Path to the crag. The mountains look like there is a dragon sleeping beneath them

I can't imagine that this roof does anything to keep the wood dry, too humid

She told Gabby that we were going the wrong way. I don't know how Gabby can understand the peasants. Simply magic.

 Approaching Moon Hill and peasants working the fields

 Borrowed paper guidebook. Lost. 

 Yangshuo is filled with sleeping dragons

 The spider that bit Peter Parker

 Time for climbing. In between the crags on Moon Hill there are many caves that have multiple levels making them look like ancient temples or sacrificial lairs

 Gabby destroying the first route of the day

 Libby's belaying dedication is unrivaled

 Me following

Marisa following 

Yangshuo's dense limestone 'hills' make it an ideal climbing destination. About a hundred million years ago this area was all underwater (saltwater), slowly wearing away layers of limestone. After all of the bedrock corroded we were left with this amazing karst topo. Underground currents carved out countless caves into these mountains. 

Not a moment without dripping sweat. Infinite mosquito bites

 More climbing

Water buffalo

Yangshuo definitely has what it takes to be a climbing mecca 

 When most people imagine rural China, or 'China,' I think they are imagining Yangshuo. Even though China's major cities are changing faster than anybody can process, much of the rural areas are still in tact and moving, at tranquil speeds as tradition demands, but moving. I think the old, timeless image of China is preserved in rural Yangshuo. 

 Leaving Moon Hill at dusk


Despite the hundreds of collected mosquito bites, torrential sweat, and extremely stressful traveling I am confident in saying that I would do it all over again. Every moment climbing was worth it. Great company as usual. All in all a great trip. 

If you ever plan on traveling to China, again, Yangshuo is a must. Many travelers rent bikes and ride around the countryside. For as touristy as Yangshuo is, the place gets very rural very quickly (last time I was there I rode bikes). You can ride down the dirt roads and stop to talk with peasants. They will most likely invite you in for tea or something to eat. 

Peace and leave no trace, seriously

Tinted van window filter only in low light :)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Day: Qinglong Waterfall and Cave

To celebrate May Day, one of my students invited me to join some of his classmates on a trip to Wanzhou's Qinglong Waterfall (actually, he is not officially a student of mine, but a student that comes to most English related events). When I left my apartment at 8am I thought the plan was to take a public bus to Qinglong, have lunch, and then go back to campus. 

As things usually go here, I don't ever really know what is going on. After the students showed up an hour late, I discovered that we would be taking a private van (essentially, a dented tin can with wheels), and there would not be three, but seven students and myself. A half day stint ended up being a 13 hour trip. Even though I am entirely opposed to China's Disney World tourism development framework and hate participating in it, I had a great day with the students. As our van hobbled along backroads in south Wanzhou County, with a student's cramped elbow making frequent jabs into my ribs, sun and clouds, I realized that this was probably one of the best days I've had in China. This only reinforces the idea that quality travel is not about the activity or destination necessarily, it is about the people you are traveling with. 

Qinglong Waterfall:
They are all art students at my college. Even though they did not get to choose their major, you can tell that they all enjoy their field. And, yes, I think art students in China, like in the U.S. have something different about them. Yes, they smoke too. Those boys must have smoked at least six packs together 

Floorie and I. She is one of my Tourism English majors. If the cosmos shift in our favor then I will teach her class for the two years of my service. There isn't a dull soul in her class. When I asked them what they wanted or wanted to be after graduation some said: super model, Lady CEO of hotel chain, children, to protect China's natural environment, a house for entire family, and super hero. She came along for the trip (And, I think one of the boys is trying to romance her . . . shhhh)

A park sign claims Lu An Bridge was built a century and a half ago. I am not convinced of An Lu's age 

Qinglong is advertised to be the 'No.1 Waterfall in Asia.' By this I think they mean the widest waterfall in Asia. As grand as it is, there is rumor that Qinglong is man-made 

Boys scoop and toss pooled water

It took me so long to figure out how to balance the light behind the waterfall and the light coming off the waterfall with reduced shutter speed, all of the students except John and Floorie moved on. We ended up losing them

In a little underground cavern behind the waterfall Floorie tried on John's glasses. At this point I got the idea that I could possibly be the buffer. . . 

Little Buddhist temple

We wrote our wishes and dreams on red cloth

This shot had so much potential. Alas, I created an atrocity. I couldn't figure out how to manage the green/orange, white waterfall, whipping tendrils, and moving people 

John and Floorie

On the mountain walkway. This was Floorie's third time at the waterfall. To practice for her major she gave John and I a guided tour in English. It took me a while to realize, but John and Floorie only speak to each other in Chinese when necessary. 

To the Cave:
After leaving the waterfall we drove back to Wanzhou city. It took us two hours to find lunch because one of the students, who is from Yunnan (which is uncommon at our school), is muslim (also uncommon) and can only eat at certain restaurants. Since it was May Day many of those restaurants were closed. One of the students sarcastically said to me that he is trouble because eating with him is so difficult. It seemed like these long and draining food searches were pretty common for them. Even though it took us two hours to find food that he could eat nobody complained once. Their respect for him and his beliefs should be emulated. 

The cave is about an hour drive south from Wuqiao. Due to some highly inefficient road closing technique, that took me 30 minutes to figure out, we had to walk part of the way to the cave. I had never heard of this cave until we were on our way there. Far east CQ is gorgeous. 

Children playing with mountain water snakes

We had to wear hardhats. This safety measure is necessary. Many of the passes inside the cave are extremely narrow with sharp stalactites hanging overhead. Even Chinese people have trouble fitting through the passes. Many of the passes are so small I am sure a western cave developer would bar them. 

Perhaps it is my poor photography skills, but I have never been able to take a good photo in a cave. 

This stalagmite must be at least 30ft. tall.

One interesting thing about the cave is that everything is dripping water. The ceiling is dripping, the walls are waterlogged, and the streams converge. The auditory effect is full and you really feel like you are below a river. 

As Wanzhou tradition demands, we finished our day with the local specialty, spicy roasted fish. 

A lot happened on this day trip. I got to hangout with Chinese art students, observe full respect of a religious minority, play with light, drive down mountain backroads in rural China in a cramped metal coffin, go underground, and witness a romance in the making. Best of all, by the end of the trip almost all of the students were speaking the little English that they know and were asking me to name things for them in English so they could use the words in sentences (they also managed to remember all the swear words they have learned).