28 March 2017

Jianshui to Duoyishu

Photography

A Family Dinner

28th Morning Rain

Walking the Terraces

It should be a quick day for you to read, but a long one for us. We left Jianshui fairly early to go out to the famous rice paddies. There is one direct bus out, but plenty of smaller ones to the town before, Nansha. Then we could catch another small one to Xinjie.

The first half went well, we got our tickets and off we went. Up into the mountains. Passing through the rest of the city, then winding our way up through an industrial area with ruined factories, and a few others belching out smoke. Then we were mostly free of buildings. Further up into the mountains and the rain set in. Then the fog came. The view turned into forested mountain slopes with the occasional quarry thrown in. The road was tight, windy and full of potholes. Sitting right in the back we were bouncing around like a roller-coaster. Although it did give us a good view of the skill of the driver as he wove in and around trucks laden with bricks, coal and limestone rocks going in each direction. At times there were even centimetres to spare!

Towards the top we encountered bamboo forests shrouded in mist and then we were over the top. The decent was pretty much a repeat of before, then the lake came into view. There were plenty of what look to be fish farms set out along the water, floating with the aid of rusty 44gallon drums with little shacks in the middle. Nansha appeared after the dam wall and we were at our first stop. First three hours over. Another three to go to get to Xinjie. Trying to buy a ticket here was impossible. So was the bathroom. I will leave it to your imagination, as nothing was left to mine when I walked in! With the help of a friendly person, we managed to catch a mini-van that does the trip whenever it has enough passengers, and off we went. For some reason he also got into our van. We were not expecting that. Setting off into the fog we started working our way up the hill. At least it didn’t take us three hours as we had assumed. It was well over an hour though due to the fog and road conditions. Narrow, winding and with only a bit of traffic was actually quite lucky.

Then we were at Xinjie. Dropped off in a tunnel to escape the rain that was now falling we were bustled over to another van to take us the last leg of the way to Duoyishu. We are not usually happy about this as you don’t know the price. Negotiations started fairly high, but we weren’t falling for it as we had paid 15 each from Nansha to Xinjie, and were not going above that. The driver chimed in that it was 29km, and then wanted 20 each. Nope. A Frenchman in the vehicle then chimed in saying that this price wasn’t for him either (apparently he hadn’t negotiated the price before just blindly jumping in.) so we settled on 15 each. It was roughly the same distance after all.

If we had thought the fog was bad before, it got worse. Visibility was between 5-10 metres, and no-one turns on their lights. Hazard lights maybe. So it was with great regularity that cars, bikes and trucks appeared out of nowhere with very little notice. Honking the horn became a constant. Not just the “hi, I am here” “I see you” or “i am going to overtake you” honks that are standard, but the “its a corner” honk and “I cant see anything so if you are there honk back” honk.

Unceremoniously dumped on the side of the road in the rain, we were told that Duoyishu was down a side track. Well, we had to take her word for it, and 99% of the time the Chinese have been right about it, so out we got and started walking. The first hostel we checked had a soft bed! It was a Youth hostel, but the room smelt manky and mouldy, so we continued on down into the town. A few different places didn’t seem open, or even exist, so on down into town. Stopping in at the Timeless hostel, we decided not to stay here (everyone else seems to want to though, as it has a great rating on trip advisor) as it was too expensive, had no atmosphere, and well, we just didn’t click with it. So down to the main square, covered in fog and no view. A few of the other places we couldn’t find, and so we started walking the side streets. Finally we found a place we were happy with and settled in. Yes, a hard bed, but half the price at 80 yuan. The room wasn’t bad at all and the people seem friendly.

The weather wasn’t with us, as we went back out. The rain stopped but the fog was wandering around the streets with us. First going one direction then the other. It seemed lost. Even if there were only a couple of different streets.

We needed to find a place to eat. It was getting on, and we hadn’t eaten anything all day,so we were walking all through the village (it really isn’t that big a place) and settled on the Red Flags Guest house. I know, a bit weird eating at a different place to where we were staying, but spread the wealth. Going in, we started trying to talk to someone that we assumed worked/owned the guest house, and asked if it was possible to get dinner. (The translate program is quite handy,even if it does have a lot of limitations) It was but it would take a while, as the owner/chef was asleep. So we talked for a bit. It turns out that he was a professional photographer staying here for around ten days taking photos of the region. The ones we saw of the Hani Villagers and an ancient road were stunning. A big difference to what we can produce. There was a break in the weather, so we all went up to the main square to get some photos of the rice terraces before the fog came rolling back in. The photographer (we never did end up getting his name) disappeared down the hill to get his photos.

Back to the Guest house in the hopes that dinner was about to be ready. (The guy had woken up prior and agreed to make us dinner!) It wasn’t. Someone came up and said that the restaurant was downstairs, and food would be ready in about half an hour. So we wandered down to the edge of the village. If you haven’t guessed already by the references to up and down, the village is on a fairly steep hill. From the road, it winds down a central lane and then ends up in the rice terraces. We have seen a few of the terraces now through the fog, but only for about 100m or so. A lot of people were walking around now, coming back from the fields, and taking their ducks back to be tucked in for the night, or their water buffalo or even their pigs. It is a rural town after all. Back again to the guest house, and we were invited down to the restaurant. YAY, we were about to be fed!!!! We were about to be fed! Ok, so it took another while, but eventually they came out with a big plate of food, we thought it must have been for someone else, that hadn’t arrived yet, however we were gestured over to the table to join the two. The younger girl, and the owner of the guest house. The meal was fantastic. But I have to admit a bit weird. We were all eating together then the others were onto their phones while we continued eating. Even so, it was a great meal, and we were happy to have it. The chef had disappeared by now and we had to track him down to pay for dinner. The younger girl seemed to be his niece. Back upstairs the photographer invited us to go with him to see the sunrise in the morning. There was something mentioned about tickets, and we had no idea what they were talking about. After a bit of backwards and forwards, we found out that they were surprised we hadn’t been dropped off at the tourist board to get tickets, as it is a UNESCO area, and it was mandatory to get tickets to go into the several viewing areas around the mountain. However they thought they would work out a way to get us in.

Then it was time to head back to our own beds and call it a night.

The next morning (5.45 am) it was dark, but a few stars were out as we walked down to meet the photographer, and hopefully see sunrise. Duoyishu is known for its sunrises as the viewing platform looks east and you can get the early morning reflections on the pools of water in the terraces. Not that we had seen much yet.

We got there a bit too early and sat outside waiting for the others to rise. By the time they did, the fog had started wandering around the streets again. They decided that it wouldn’t be viable to go up to the viewing platform as there would be nothing to see. So it was decided that we would meet again at ten. Back to the hotel for a catnap then a bit later we were up again. The weather had cleared and it was looking good. We finally got a few photos of the rice terraces from the main square, and had a bit of a look around the village in a decent light. Finding out that the Hani worshiped the mountain, water, and spirits. Then it was time to meet up with the photographer. Unfortunately, we think he had already left, as there was no-one at the guesthouse. We waited for a bit, but assumed he left when the fog had lifted.

So we made our way out into the terraces. It was pretty good, walking down past terraces, and we could see all the way down into the valley. On our way, we were overtaken by a man and his water buffalo, but that just added some excitement to the trip. Making our way to a point where we could see the valley floor and the terraces stretching up on either side was fantastic, and you can see how this place became renowned. Then it was a steep climb back up the mountain. It is amazing how easy it is to go down hill, but the uphill walk always seems to take forever.

We walked around the mountainside to the next village, watching the men smoking their extremely long pipes (bongs), and getting different views of the terraces. Only later did we find out that there are several different viewing points over the mountain. Ours for sunrise, another for sunset, and others just for the view. That is what the tickets were for!

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