In the Clouds
Sunday 23 April
Luoping – Xingyi – Guanling
Motoring long the vast freeway infrastructure is amazing. Long concrete bridges spanning deep and wide valleys and long tunnels burrow through the limestone rock, bringing the tops of the karst landforms up close to us. Karst land forms are dissolved limestone deposits with sinkholes and caves in abundance – tomorrow we visit the biggest limestone cave network in China.
We are up quite high about 1800mt to 2000mts and the freeways snake their way between the mountain plateau, tiny villages of white rendered two or three storey houses with red/brown terracotta tiles cling to merge plots of land. In some places we were touching the cloud base and mist swirled around the cars. We are dirving from Yunnan province to Guanling province and the towards the Yangtze river and flatter land but that won’t happen for a few more days.
We visited the Xingyi gorges with its waterfall but the most impressive sight was the glass elevator which you could use to transport you down and up at least 8-9 storeys to the bottom of the gorge. Otherwise you can walk down and up along the steep narrow steps. They are building a new bridge over the gorge and a super highway and the height of the cranes working on the concrete supports and pylons are staggeringly tall.
Next stop was the Huangguoshu Waterfalls. Part one, the falls cascaded over rounded boulders and you could spend quite some time wandering around a circuit admiring the lake, rapids and gardens. It is famous for being one of the place the famous Monkey King passed through on his way from India to China. We all know it by its name of Monkey Magic a famous TV series in the 80’s, and adventure of Monkey, Pigsy, Fishman, talking Horse and the monk ontheir road to enlightenment. There were a few statutes commemorating their journey. Part two involved the major waterfall at nearly 80 mts drop the way down leads you through a beautiful landscape of ponds and ancient bonsai trees and plants. The descent is equivalent to walking down 50 flights of stairs. – there are steps everywhere here in China.
The water is a beautiful emerald green as it tumbles over the limestone rocks – it is said to be the Nigara Falls of China – and the largest falls in China. The very steep ascent can be walked or you can take 2 enormously long and steep escalators to a station from which you need to walk up at least another kilometre to the car park.
People everywhere we go are bery welcoming and friendly and eager to hear about our trip and cars.
Monday 24 April
Guanliong – Zhijin Caves – Jinsha
We have taken many provincial roads and have been confronted by slow moving transports, pot holes and animals so travelling on the super freeway is a faster way of reaching a destination. Once again we motored through the limestone mountain tops- feeling if we were on top of the world.
We arrived at the famous Zhijin Caves- the biggest network in China caves possibly the world, After driving through the roughest unmade road and vista of huge front end loaders and hundreds of people building a new road ( by hand with women lugging baskets of rocks in the misty rain,) we found ourselves walking about 1 kilometre up hill to the mouth of the caves. We were greeted with a long slippery windy descent into the bowels of the earth. The Halls, Rooms, Palaces of limestone formations were breathtaking- possibly the biggest and best we have ever seen.
One Hall was at least three times the size of the MCG and had the most amazing columns which reached up to the ceiling and were nearly 40 mts in diameter. Some rock formations looked like jelly fish and haven’t been seen anywhere else in the world. The wonderful part is that some of this cave system, the stalagmites and stalamites etc are still growing. The coloured electric lights were spectacular and highlighted the formations, casting shadows across pools of water so still you would swear they were mirrors. The walk from one end of the cave system to the other is about 6kms and there were thousands of steps leading right up to ceiling height through tunnels into other rooms and halls.
If you are into caves this is a MUST SEE even if you have to fly to Kunming to get there. The photos I took don’t do justice to the sheer size and beauty of the caves.
Driving into Jinsha we were surprised to see the after effects of the coal burning electic power stations. The cars, roads and buildings were coated with thick black dust which clung onto everything. Huge coal trucks were digging up the roads creating massive potholes. Mixed with the misty rain it turned the roads into greasy streams of black mud which did coat our cars. Fortunately, after buying petrol we were all treated to a box of tissues and a free car wash with a powerful hose. Pity that tomorrow the cars will be dirty again as we drive to Chongqing.