Monday May 16, 2016

While you spent the weekend at home, mowing lawns and taking kids/grandkids to their rugby or netball games, we spent Saturday in this three-decker flat-bottomed boat, puttering downstream on a smallish river in the right-hand bottom corner of China. The Li (Lee) River it was, and still is – a gentle waterway, winding, twisting and u-turning its way along banks rimmed with bamboo forests, sugar-cane stands, cinnamon groves and patchwork paddy-fields.

There were boats everywhere, all shapes and sizes, behind us, in front of us, and almost underneath us … water-buffaloes resting on the edge of the occasional village … mums squatting on their haunches scrubbing clothes in the shallows … sampans ferrying locals from here to there and back again … and fishermen balancing on skinny bamboo rafts, tossing nets in search of a bony fish for supper.

But looming darkly, everywhere we looked were the towering stand-alone mountains that have, for yonks, made this region famous. They erupt from otherwise flat land, sprouting abruptly even in the downtown streets of Guilin, where we boarded our river-boat. And they stood guard like an army at every bend along the misty river, luring us onto the top-deck with our cameras.

No one knows exactly how long ago these vast limestone lumps were eroded. But, for countless centuries, this fanciful landscape has been attracting fanciful names – like ‘Five Tigers Catch A Goat Hill’ and ‘Boy Worships Buddha Peak’ and ‘Nine Horses Cliff’.

Nine horses? You’re kidding! I could only see two … and even that was a stretch. But of course, I’m not Chinese …

Our cruise ended in the bustling markets of a popular touristy town, Yangshuo, and another encounter with the ‘hello-people’ (hawkers). And, that evening, we took in an outdoor celebration of colour, culture and art – ‘Impressions’ – that saw 600 locals performing in a vast natural ‘auditorium’, set on the river amongst more of those limestone pinnacles. “Fantastic!” was the general consensus  …

Come Sunday it rained. And kept on raining. But, armed with coats and umbrellas, we braved the downpour and puddles, enjoying a delightful couple of hours in a rumpty little café in Xingping (a 900-year-old fishing village) on our way back to Guilin and the airport.

STILL TO COME: The ancient city of Suzhou is next on our list, famous for its silk, scenery and tranquil traditional gardens. And nearby is Shanghai, a glittering modern showpiece, and China’s largest and most prosperous city. So stay tuned …

PEOPLE-NEWS: Several more of our world-famous Quacky Yellow Ducks have been claimed …

  • Les walked off with our “Search Party” Award after stepping out of the loo, taking the wrong escalator down to the next floor, and discovering to his dismay that our group had vanished. Much to the relief of his wife, wayward Les was soon rescued.
  • Tony won our “Take Your Seats” Award for getting in the ‘small bottoms’ group instead of the ‘big bottoms’ group when we split up to find our respective less-expensive/more expensive seats at the ‘Impressions’ show.
  • Juliet received our “Super-Glue” Award after over-applying mosquito repellent to her legs and gluing her shoes to the soles of her feet. She was later overheard suggesting that hubby Steve might need to “chisel them off”!
  • Grant (our ever-helpful National Chinese Guide) was nominated for our “Pee-Pee” Award. While handing our complimentary bottles on our coach, he twice announced, “I’m passing water …” (Too much information, Grant!)

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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