View from Moon Rock

View from Moon Rock
Originally uploaded by mgjefferies.
After we arrived in KunMing on the train from ErMeiShan, Barbara and Arthur went down to the train station to book out train trip to Gui Lin. But when they reached the station, there was a queue around the block and they said there were perhaps 8,000 people lined up to buy train tickets. It turns out that it was the first day of the university holidays and also it was impossible to book for the next leg of the journey. So we had to fly with Yunan Airlines to Gui Lin. Traveling by air was at least five times the price of a sleeper on the train.

We arrived at KunMing airport and to my despair had a brand new Boeing 737. I had quite been looking forward to my first flight in a Soviet era aircraft. We took off an all was well. About 45 minutes into the flight, we did a U turn. Most unexpected. And shortly later landed at GuiYang. They advised that due to fog, we were unable to land a GuiLin. About hour later, the fog had lifted a little, but by the time we got to GuiLin, it had descended again. So we flew back to GuiYang. The hostess came down and asked if anyone could read and speak Chinese. Barbara did. It turns out that they had learned by rote the English for the most common statements. But could not read out from their book the statement that we would have to stay the night in GuiYang. So Barbara made the announcement. I then told the Japanese man next to me, and he told the other Japanese on the flight what was happening.

GuiYang is listed in the guide book as being a place you would only ever visit if you had to change trains. At the airport we were greeted by the only brand new bus I saw in the whole time I was on this journey in China. We traveled past the small stone houses by the side of the road. When we reached our accommodation, the Chinese travelers on our flight remained on the bus. They explained that as foreigners we had paid more and the benefit of this was that we got the nice accommodation. The accommodation turned out to be a dormitory with about 20 people in each dorm in a room where there was heating installed but not turned on. I always wonder where they stayed.

On the second day we took off. This is where the picture comes in. GuiLin is surrounded by the same mountains as in YandShuo, in this picture. The airport was still covered in cloud. As the plane approached, we started to zig-zag in our flight path. Off the sides of the wings, through the fog you could see the large lime stone mountains as in this image. They are about 300 meters tall. It was a frightening experience. The visibility was somewhere between 50 and 100 meters. I cannot express how happy I was to see the very flat rice paddies as we got to within this distance of the ground. When we reached the end of the runway and turned onto the taxiway, the whole airplane broke out in applause and I have never been more relieved on a plane flight. Up until about three months earlier, GuiLin had been the site of the worst air disaster in Chinese Aviation history.

We then traveled by local bus to YangShuo and spent several days there, including climbing moon rock where this photo was taken.

One other little story. You can see YangShuo in the distance next to the river. We were walking around one of those mountains, when these Chinese men came running the other way. They waved at us not to go there so we followed them. Shortly later there was a loud explosion. Turns out there was a quarry down there and their version of an alarm system when dynamiting was to run down the path and shout and wave at the unwary.

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