Yangshuo China

Trip Start Mar 23, 2010
Trip End Feb 15, 2011

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Where I stayed

Flag of China  , Guangxi Zhuang,
Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lee: I'm reliably informed that it's my turn on the blog. So, where were we? Oh yeah, Hong Kong. So there I was, with shin splints from doing some serious miles in the concrete jungle trying to keep up with the girls as they hunted shoes like Bear Grylls would hunt for tasty insects (more protein pound for pound than steak). I could walk uphill without pain, but downhill and I was in for some hobbling. Not so good in hilly Honkers. I must have looked pretty pathetic. It may have been this sorry sight which prompted JJ to suggest putting shopping on hiatus via a side-trip 500km NW to Yangshuo in China. 
What's Yangshuo? Well, it's a rural region in southern China. The nearest major city is Guilin. It's a bit of a domestic tourism destination. The Chinese come to dress up in ceremonial costume and float down the Li River, ride bicycles around the countryside and gawk at the huge limestone towers (karsts). And it was this limestone that John and I were keen to explore. For those who are geologically interested, the limestone karsts here are part of the same band of limestone that runs all the way down south west for roughly 2,000km to reach Railay in Thailand. This includes Cat Ba Island in Vietnam. So, three major stops on our Asia leg are attributable to this one massive band of limestone which spans several countries.
The plane touched down in Guilin and we got out to find extreme cold. Wow! A shock to the system after humid and steamy Hong Kong. I quite like arriving at places at night. It saves the "big reveal" until the next day. As we journeyed in our taxi from Guilin to our accommodation at Yangshuo Mountain Retreat you could sense rather than see the huge limestone karsts that were brooding just off the road in the rice paddies. No matter how hard I pressed my face against the glass in the taxi, I couldn't quite see the details I wanted to see.
We arrived at Yangshuo Mountain Retreat which was a deluxe, boutique hotel. Very, very nice indeed. I woke in the morning to a Ping message on my phone from JJ in the other room saying "Photo op out the window now". We pulled back the shades and ... well, wow. The quaint little river was burbling past as a local polled his way down the river on a bamboo raft. Sun was just beginning to illuminate a whole series of 200m high limestone towers which stretched on as far as the eye could see. I ran outside with my camera and the freezing cold was gripping. It was about five degrees, and overnight had been sub zero. I managed to reel off a few shots before bits of me started going numb and I was forced inside for banana pancakes, porridge and coffee by the fire.
We thought the best way to get to the crag would be to go into the town and get a taxi. However when we got to town we got slightly sidetracked. For about four hours. Town was awesome! It was a really cool little touristy centre. It was a bluebird day, bright sunshine, yet I was wearing four layers including down jacket, a beanie and gloves. The shops (I know, more shops!) were super cheap and we marvelled at the price of their "North Face" Gore-Tex jackets with Polartec inner jackets for $15 (rather than the $400 you might pay in Oz). We then got peckish and stopped at a tiny noodle bar which featured items on the menu such as (and I quote) "Cold food in sauce beef cucumber" and "Hot and sour potatoes wire". How could we go wrong? Well, as it turns out, we couldn't. The food was the cheapest and best we'd had in forever. JJ's bowl of fried green chillies was particularly memorable.

After lunch we made our way to the crag via taxi. We paid too much, but that was soon forgotten upon seeing White Mountain. It's an amazing sweep of overhanging limestone 60m high. The wall is in the sun all day in winter, so we were in luck. Sure, it might have been five degrees, but we were happily climbing in T-shirts and shorts. Perfect conditions. We had so much fun with the climbing here, the next day we set out on bicycles to reach the crag. It was about a 20km ride. I managed to score a bike with a baby carrier which served as a climbing gear pack holder. It was a good look. I navigated us there using iPhone GPS.

The next day there was saddle soreness in some quarters so we opted for a taxi. JJ was thoroughly unimpressed with the driver's skills and despite an obvious language barrier made him very aware of this. (Possibly) as a result, we were dropped well short of the crag and had to walk the rest of the way. We'd made a commitment to shoot some photos and video of US climbers Ethan Pringle and Keller Rinaudo. Ethan had, the day before, established the hardest climb in China on this wall and was keen to get some photos for the climbing magazines. So, along with doing our own climbing (which included a grade 30 for me!), we also did Ethan's photoshoot which went off without a hitch. I sold the photos to two US climbing magazines and the issues should be out any time now. To complete the day of multimedia studio action, I shot video of Keller on his very difficult project, on which he was repeatedly taking huge, ten metre falls. We also did a one take interview about the route, and I banged out an edit which ended up being huge on the web with over 7,000 views. You can watch it here. Maybe I have a future in a professional-climber film-crew entourage?

That night we went to see ... I don't even know how to describe this to you. Okay, it's a show. Or maybe a musical? On water, and some land. Think Seaworld. But bigger. There were well over 1,000 performers. Boats, floats and goats. Okay there weren't goats but there were water buffalo. And about 300 robots. Well, they were real people in choreographed light-up LED costumes. The guy who put this show together was the same guy who did the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympic Games. What was it about? Well, there were no subtitles and my Chinese is pretty rusty so I can't say for sure but I'm guessing it was some kind of love story. With robots.

The next day we were due to fly out in the early afternoon. JJ and I realised we hadn't yet been to the famous rock arch Moon Hill. So after breakfast we grabbed our bikes and headed out. 800 stone steps led up to the arch and with no time for a break and no guidebook we jumped straight on. JJ was up first and in no time he was flying through the air - a good wake-up! There was a famous route called Over The Moon (26) which climbs the underside of the arch to its zenith before breaking out and forging up the headwall. This route was incredible. When I was halfway up, there was a spot to rest on a massive stalactite. In front of my face was a large hole in the rock. In the hole was a bottle of Chinese vodka. Convenient! While I was contemplating this, Sam and Sandra arrived just in time to snap a few photos. I completed the 30m of climbing and we raced back down the steps and onto our bikes just in time to get home and into a taxi to the airport and make our flight.

Yangshuo was a whirlwind, be we packed so much in! I think we all fell in love with the place, I certainly did. It's somewhere that I am certain to return to in the future. There's more climbing to be had, and more fried chillies to eat :)
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Chris Beric on

sounds awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dad on

You make everywhere sounds so exciting that we just don't know where to go for the next holiday. China sure sounds great. Keep those girls away from the shopping excursions just incase it effects your climbing fitness. Love Dad

Mum and Steve on

Just WOW!

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