Slowly the smog cleared and became fog as we left the Beijing South Railway Station by speed train at 09:05 the 19th of March. Outside the city, small clusters of skyscrapers whizzed by. Little by little, the fields and hills turned greener. Eleven hours later at a speed of up to 300km/h, we arrived at Guilin Station just after dark.
The next morning we were floating down Lí River in a large boat, filled with middle-aged tourists from all over China. We embarked carrying our oversized backpacks with the main goal of getting to Yangshou. The others however, were there for the view. Understandable, as the view was indeed splendid. Cruising downstream the landscape quickly changed. From a flat and lush forest, sudden and enormous peaks rose beside the river. The peaks kept coming as we floated past, each more impressive than the last. The seemingly endless green mountains create an impressive scenery around Yangshuo.
Arriving in town, we quickly realized that this is a weird place. In the morning, everthing seems quiet and normal. Few people wake up before ten, and so we are often Lucy's first customers for breakfast. When Lucy's mother sees us in the street outside "Lucy's Place" around eight, she rushes to open the front doors and hurry us inside. We have the Fitness Breakfast: Toast, fruit müesli, yogurt, fresh orange juice and coffee.
On our rest days, we sit here while the town wakes up. The quiet streets turn into a giant, busy tourist trap as the day progresses. At every turn promoters want you to eat at their restaurant, tries to take you bamboo rafting, or along for a scooter ride. As evening grows closer, the town goes completely crazy. The main streets fill up with strange, luminous gadgets, loud music at every corner, neon signs, live music at all the restaurants, people pounding candy while wearing costumes and all sorts of strange attractions designed to make people spend money.
Pinches once commented that the town seems like Heoi from "Shadowrun:Hong Kong" on acid.
One evning, while we were walking around after dinner looking at all the gaudy stuff, a group of school children ran up to us in the noisy street. We didn't understand what they wanted at first, but a teacher explained that the kids wanted to say something to us. When we agreed all the kids surrounded us and said "HELLO!". They must have been a group of 15 kids around 12 years old, all wearing matching yellow caps and shirts.
"Nice to meet you"
"How are you?"
"My name is Nora"
"What is your name?"
One of the girls was too embarressed to say a whole sentence after she started, and the teacher tried to remind her of the rest. "Yes say it again, 'My name is Nora'." She just scowled at him.
Crimps got so excited about the whole thing that he completely forgot that he had a camera and a recorder, so the memories will have to stay undocumented.
Of course, the main reason we're staying in Yanghshuo is not the touristy streets, but the climbing. During the boat trip down the Lí River we got really excited every time we saw a cliff or a rock face on one of the peaks, and the actual climbing did not dissapoint. The good thing about Yansghuo is that everything is reachable by scooter, you can always find something in the shade, and you can always find something dry. We've been climbing a lot in caves and overhangs because of the temperatures (too hot for us frosty norwegians) and the occasional rain.
The climbing itself is very different from what we're used to in Norway. Everything is limestone, and it feels strangely slippery compared to granite or gneiss. After a couple of days we got used to it, and we were finally able to trust our feet again, yay! In the caves we find a lot of tufas, big pockets, small pockets, scoops and breaks.
Pinches' climbing endurance is pretty bad, so she's made finding weird rest positions her favourite past-time. Crimps can usually just power through, make it look easy, and come down with a "I'm so pumped!!".
From Lucy's Place, Yangshou, China.