23 March 2017

Shilin (Stone Forest)

Today was all about Karst. Anna says “They are stones, look at the photos”

Tourguides have to dress up in traditional gear. Some really don’t seem to like it..

The UNESCO site of Shilin. It is one of the largest karst landscapes in China at around 500 square kilometres. Those of you that have read the past blogs on UNESCO sites know I like to bitch about them. They serve a great purpose, but drive me nuts. This was no different. Take out the fact that it took over an hour to cross the city to the east bus station and then another two hours to travel the roughly 90kms to the site. The real fun started when we got there. It had the UNESCO price tag (of course) but then you had to pay an extra 25 yuan to take a “battery bus” to the site. The bus itself drops you roughly a kilometre away from the ticket office, which is a further 3.5kms from the gates! OK, Bitching over.

The Karst landscape is formed by limestone and softer rocks. The soft rocks dissolve or wear away over time leaving limestone pinnacles sticking up all over the place. This one is a bit different as basalt is thrown into the mix as well. The hills are made up of winding paths through, around and over the pinnacles in a chaotic mix of open spaces and high rocks. Over the centuries, monks have carved steps and inscriptions into the rocks which have been expanded on to accommodate tourists.

There is a fantastic lake and grass area which would be great for family picnics or to laze around after a long walk, and a road around the main attractions that the battery buses follow.

We hit out straight away for the minor section, and wound our way through the rocks. Some of these are named by people with better imaginations than us, as you had “the woman waiting for her husband” “phoenix checking its plumage” and “deep and narrow gorge” That last one should have been labelled “Bloody steep and narrow staircase down, and painful climb back up the other side.” As you can guess, there was a lot of ups and downs. After spending a few hours wandering around, through, under and over these rocks we came across the road again.

Thinking we had paid for a ticket to drive round we may as well do so. There were about three sections of the park that we had skipped, and thought we could at least see them from the road before we returned to Kunming. Catching the battery bus was easy (Well, extended golf cart rather than bus) and it drove us back past the sections we had done to the exit.

Everyone got off except us. We had at least two hours before the last bus left for Kunming, so thought we would do the entire loop. It couldn’t take longer than that could it? This confused our driver no end, especially with our gestures of big circles. Giving up on us, she drove us to the start of the loop and pointed to join another bus. We thought they just drove round and round in circles, but her shift must have been up.

Jumping on another one, we set off after a few more passengers had joined us. This is supposed to be hop on and hop off over about five different sections of the park. So about 2 minutes in we reached an area we had passed on our walk, then there was the shepherds area that we had missed, then suddenly we were back to where we had gotten on the first bus! No wonder the last driver thought we were nuts! We had traveled most of the park ourselves on foot, and been driven back from the furthest point. Why would we want to go around again? All up the trip took just over 5 minutes, and no-one even got off the bus (not that they were given a chance to).

Sometimes we are the tourist attraction. (Or just Andrews hair)

Unfortunately we found out that there is another scenic area about 25km from here, but we decided that the 6 hour round trip to come all the way back out here was not worth it, but it did look interesting, with caves and waterfalls and all sorts of neon lights. All that, and we got stuck with some limestone rocks. Still it was well worth the trip out.

One thing we are learning is how long it takes to get from place to place. It was almost a full day excursion doing this trip, and is only about 100km each way!

We checked out other hotels as well. Hoping for a better bead, and no view of the toilet. We found one with a better bathroom, with a solid wall, but the bed is still rock hard! The people were friendly, and with the help of a few different translator apps we got through it! Booked in for tomorrow night.

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