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3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

China: Spring Break: A Walk

It's been a while since I got to this and I've forgotten which number
this part should have.
Still, it doesn't matter.

Here's the story of our next day walking in and around Yangshuo.

Before I left for my Spring Break, I scoured the internet for a decent
map of Yangshuo and the surrounding areas and failed to find one. In
Yangshuo I tried again but the best I could do was a photograph of a
map that is on a plaque on the corner of West Street and a printed
leaflet from the hostel with a map that was fully four centimetres
Still, nothing ventured and all that.
There was a cycling route marked that we thought we could walk,
especially as it had the advantage of being on roads and paths that
would not be as busy the main roads we had walked on last time.
It took us about twenty minutes to go wrong.
The maps both indicated a turn to the right at about the point we had
reached and sure enough there was a right turn. It took us up through
a village. There were a couple of children playing and a few wild
looking dogs. As we walked between the red buildings an old man passed
us, his lined face turning to observe us curiously before continuing
on his way. The road became narrower and we became more and more
convinced that we were wrong. Eventually, as it became clear that this
road was turning into a dirt track that led out towards a couple of
Karsts, we stopped and looked around.
After some discussion we turned and headed back towards the road.
It was the first of many inadvertent diversions.

The walk took us by turns through villages and countryside. It was a
dull day but dry and the walking conditions were good. The villages
varied from tiny groups of houses, reflected in the water of the pools
that surrounded them to larger, more modern – though less interesting
– towns. At the point where we actually needed to turn tight the path
started to run alongside the river, just as it did on the inadequate
map. The river however seemed to have been diverted into an arrow
straight concrete lined ditch, though we could see what appeared to be
the main channel in the distance across the fields.

As lunchtime approached we passed through a more substantial town
where there were covered stalls running down to the main river channel
and piles of bamboo boats which the locals continually tried to
persuade us to try. We waved them away politely and continued on but
now the path veered away from the river and after a short time seemed
to go into a park, while a narrower branch went along a dirt track to
the right.
We paused to eat lunch in the park and pondered our onward route. I
was for trying to find out if there was a road that went all through
the park but eventually we chose to follow the other path. As in our
earlier exploration it narrowed, and narrowed as it entered the
village until we could see no obvious way to proceed and turned once
more upon our heels.

Back at the town we walked down towards the river. There were a number
of ramshackle huts in which people sat eating or talking. In some of
them card games and dice games were going on and as we walked we were
occasionally approached by more people offering bamboo raft rides but
none of them were very persistent.
As the track we were supposed to be following was marked as a bicycle
route and the track we were actually following was a foot wide and
muddy and stony, we were reasonable sure we were wrong but the
direction seemed to be right and we were still following the river.
Ultimately it led out onto a wide sandy road and we continued on this.
There was a bridge across the river to a reasonably large town but we
were sure that our route was all on this side so we ignored it and
carried on.
This part of the walk was a good deal less interesting. The road was
wide but it was sandy and though there was now only an intermittent
spotting of rain, the previous days had made it muddy and unpleasant.
It had quickly veered once again from the river and started to slope
uphill. As we entered the outskirts of another especially unlovely
town we were convinced that we had got lost again. Our choices were
to go back to the last fork, about forty minutes away or continue in
the hope of reaching somewhere that would lead us home.
We decided to go on to the far edge of the town in the hope of seeing
something that would give us a clue as to were we are. Providence
provided. Half way through another path led off to the right and at
the corner a signpost in English declared that we could follow it to
the JiuXian hotel. As our map indicated that the town we were in
should be JiuXian we carried on with a slightly more optimistic sense.

The path became more steep but the road quality also improved and by
the time we came to another village we felt sure we were actually on
the correct route. We weren't.

Somewhere along the way we had missed a right hand turn that would
have led us out onto the main Yangshuo to Guilin road at a point where
it was about a twenty minute walk back into Yangshuo. Our route
meandered on and on and on and did eventually lead to that same road
but at a point that was more like two and a half hours from Yangshuo.
We turned reluctantly onto the main road and started walking. That
last couple of hours wasn't pleasant. Walking along the side of a busy
road never is, but in China where most drivers ignore what we could
consider normal rules of the road, it is especially fraught. We were
in what must be intended as a cycle lane which means that it is used
by cycles, motorcycles, tractors, some cars and quite a lot of busses.
Drivers overtake on either side whatever traffic may be on the road
and take what look to me like suicidal risks. Or if you are walking,
homicidal risks.
The views were still marvellous but we were paying too much attention
to not getting run over to really appreciate them.

Eventually we saw the toll booth in the distance that either indicated
that we were now only about forty minutes from Yangshuo or that we had
been going in the wrong direction.
John inquired and it was good news. We were indeed going the right way.

An hour later we settled into a café for a nice pot of tea and some
cake. Our walk had taken about eight hours and now that we were safely
back we could relax and think about how much we had enjoyed it – in
spite of spending so much of it unsure of where we were.
We killed a couple hours more before heading into the Red Star café
for some Mexican food (everything can be found in Yangshuo, if you
look for it) and then a couple more beers before heading back to our