Quilting the hillsides

Trip Start Nov 15, 2005
Trip End Aug 15, 2008

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Flag of China  ,
Sunday, January 27, 2008

An uncomfortable few hours on a bus of smokers and vomiters, with the least amount of leg room I have ever (painfully) experienced, then a few more on a rather grotty, yet thankfully almost empty sleeper bus, brought us to Dongchuan, the nearest town to where we were heading. Though Xichang obviously saw few tourists, judging by the reactions we received here, Dongchuan is a place that sees no laowei (foreign) visitors at all. We were the focus of an awful lot of attention on the bus entering town, which wasn't entirely a bad thing, as one helpful young man took a good hour out of his evening to help us find a reasonable hotel, with no reward in mind beyond a signature on his jacket. The stares we received when walking about town trying to find food were somewhat more incredulous than the usual bored curiosity of city dwellers; some were staring so hard, I felt certain their eyes would pop out of their heads. Worse was the group that found it fascinating to sit and watch us eat. Well, if you're being stared at as if you're in a zoo, what else to do but start acting like a monkey? My efforts weren't nearly so proficient as Greg's, contorted with hysterics and vague embarrassment as I was. Depressingly, this seemed to have little effect on our audience. Maybe we really are no more than monkeys to them.

Our bad weather of Xichang proved fortunate for our visit to Dongchuan. The day we were up at the 'Red Soil place', famed amongst local photographers and imaginatively named for its brilliant red soil, though apparently unknown to the outside world, we had quite magnificent, lightly clouded blue skies. By the time we were leaving, the area was coated in a rapidly darkening grey blanket.
The climb through terraced hillsides to reach the Red Soil place was impressive in itself, but the scenery at our destination was unlike any other I have seen before. At 2500m, the gently sloping hillsides are terraced, not for rice, but for grain and other vegetables, all planted in rich, burnt umber soil, creating a patchwork quilt of greens, yellows, oranges and reds covering the hillsides for miles around, surrounded by high, snowy peaks far in the distance. Although getting up for sunrise is rarely my idea of a good time, seeing the colours of the valleys far below slowly coming to life was worth freezing at 6 in the morning. Just.

Getting direct to Kunming from here was more by chance than anything else. We had arranged to be taken back to Dongchuan at 1.30, and then hoped to pick up a bus from there. By 3, we were still waiting, and decided to give them a ring. We were informed that the drivers were still having lunch, hadn't got the bus ready yet, and would be around about 5 or 6. Helpful people. Feeling peckish, Greg decided to take a short walk to the nearest shop to pick up some snacks:
"Do you want me to get you anything?"
"Bring me back a bus to Kunming!"
"I wish I could!"
10 minutes later, he returned with a bus to Kunming. I was impressed. 
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joanne in st paul on

I am trying to check in on my son, Joe, who is traveling solo in perhaps this region. We usually hear from him, but have not in a month. He is most likely carrying a guitar and singing in the bars. American, 6' tall, thin, 31 years old. Great sense of humor, avid and knowledgable traveler of China..knows the language, the geography and hot food. Has been teaching there for a few years. I will try to post a photo if I can figure out how--any sighting would be greatly appreciated.

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