Yesterday was a glorious, stunning day. About as clear as the skies get in China, bright sunshine, and milder temps. Bill and I had planned to use the nice forecast to the fullest, and boy did we. We got up early and took a boat up the river to Yangdi. You'd think after hassling us for a week straight the touts would have been more excited about us finally saying yes, but seeing as we foreigners look the same to everyone, they just treated us as one more duped tourist duo. You'd think there'd be a little more fanfare after being swatted away for a week. Fat chance.
The ride up to Yangdi is gorgeous. It's a two hour ride up the Li River, and it's a cooooooold haul. We were freezing, even with the sunshine and bundled in as many layers as we owned.
COLD. We knew we'd warm up as soon as we were off the water, and as pretty as it was, I COULDN'T WAIT to get off that boat.
As with everything in China, all romantic visions fly out the window once you actually step foot in a place. Yangdi is a tiny little village with absolutely nothing to recommend it. It's pretty much only on the map because it's an easy enough turn-off from the road, and buses dump tourists here to take boats down to XingPing
. We walked along the main street (keep in mind I use the terms "main" and "street" loosely) to see if there was anything worthwhile, with bewildered blank stares wondering what the hell we were doing so far from the river answering us: nope.
Doing the laundry.
The river is SWARMING with touts, all hustling these little sacks of pathetic looking oranges for approximately three times what they would ordinarily be. I didn't buy any oranges in XingPing because Bill had told me they were selling oranges "all along the way" (really only there in Yangdi, as it turns out); he did this hike in the crappier weather last week and wanted to do it again with better conditions for photographs. So I'm there trying to barter them down to a reasonable price, being screamed at and touched and grabbed and a whole manner of oranges literally being shoved into my face (I had to duck repeatedly) and then finally smacked and punched for good measure a few times over. Smacked and punched. I kid you not. Those little old ladies are FIERCE.
It was comical, except I was too busy being smacked and punched and clubbed in the face with oranges to laugh. Bill killed any and all clout I may have had by handing out as much money as they wanted for anything, and then of course left all his purchases in the first ferry crossing we took. Dude, you're killing me. "I'm not very good at bargaining." Ya think? Here, I got Trump genes in me. Let me show you how it's done. (No, not that Trump.)
The first ferry crossing was another ordeal in itself. The boat dropped us off on the left bank of the river. Funny thing is, the path starts on the right. So you have to hire another
boat to take you across. (And of course it's so close it makes it even more irksome.
) According to the guidebook (and Bill's report from last week), the ferries are supposed to be no more than four yuan apiece. These guys were asking sixteen. EACH. Ten minutes in he's down to ten yuan and I'm so furious that I'm being had over something so basic as a ferry, something that should be REGULATED, I tell him in no uncertain tone no fucking way. Hell fuck no, go screw over someone else. I'll swim. And Bill's standing there going "well, he does seem pretty serious, and it's only ten yuan..." and before I know it he's digging for cash. DUDE. Let me handle the financial transactions. We're going to be robbed blind if you keep giving in to these people. Suffice it to say it was an expensive couple ferry crossings for us.
They took one look at us and quadrupled the fare on the spot. Four yuan. I wish. (Much to my chagrin, you can't continue along the same side of the river the whole way, as at certain points the karst peaks become sheer cliffs that plummet straight into the river. There's only a bank to walk along on one side or the other at certain points. And last week Bill was hiking with Romana, who is both fluent in Chinese and about as no nonsense as they come, who would surely say "go fuck yourself" and convey the proper meaning. Hence, he paid the correct toll every time.)
Overpriced ferries aside, the day was a win. The hike from Yangdi to XingPing is a full twenty-four kilometers, and takes between four and five hours. Bill reported that Romana kept a quick pace and they cleared it in just under four, which sounded good to me, but he deliberately wanted take his time and enjoy the scenery and take photographs and stop here and there along the way.
Collecting fresh seaweed (riverweed?)
I've got nowhere to be. Slow pace it is. The route takes you over a whole manner of terrains: through farmland and animal pastures, across rocky beaches, along a seawall (riverwall?), through the woods, through small villages, uphill, downhill, and everywhere between. The path is constantly changing, but farmland and the karst peaks remain constant throughout. It's a well-worn trail (although we only came across one other group of Chinese walking it), as it is considered the most picturesque stretch along the river, where the peaks are the most dense. It's a terrific walk, there is no shortage of things to admire and enjoy. And it's absolutely stunning. Just beautiful. THAT is why people come to Yangshuo
Of course, practically every villager you come across assaults you with "hello! bamboo! bamboo! hello! bamboo!," but that's standard operating procedure at this point. (And if you're Bill, you try to nicely explain that we don't need a boat, we're walking to XingPing, but thank you for the offer. If you're me, you shake your head no and roll your eyes at the dude rambling on in English to someone who has no idea what he's saying. We make a comical duo, me and Bill.)
We made it back a little after five, just before sunset as we planned. I wandered up the street and found some delicious veggie dumplings; Bill opted for his American food in the comfort of his own room. Two worn out travelers and one very good day.