China 3: Dali, Yangshuo
From Lijiang, we took an early day train to Dali. This train left an hour earlier than we thought.. the schedule had changed about 2 days before our trip! We made it though. The train ride was uneventful but it was neat to look out the window.. everything was new. The track from Dali to Lijiang was only opened in April!
Dali was another good place to spend a day – a very laid back place, used to dealing with western tourists but not overrun with them (us.) A weird phenomenon were the ganja ladies. Any time we ate or drank on an outdoor terrace, we would be approached by women whispering "ganja? ganja?" There were also women selling locally made silverware who would visit our table to show off their wares. We decided to have some fun with them. Phase 1 was asking ganja ladies for silver, and asking silver ladies for opium. Phase 2 was to make animal noises (quack quack quack, etc.) until they left. This took a surprisingly long time and it was hard to keep a straight face.
The next morning we took a bus to Kunming (the one day train that does Lijiang -> Dali -> Kunming would not have arrived in time) then connected to a night train to Guilin. From there it was a short 1h bus trip to Yangshuo, the climbing capital of China.
Robin and were going to spend the next day climbing. I emailed a few people from the partner board in the Karst Café, one of the local climber hangouts. One of them (Phil) met us there for breakfast the next day.. this was a good thing because Robin was too tired to climb. So Phil and I rented bikes and set off for the crag. We went to one limestone outcropping with 2 developed faces and spent the morning climbing easy stuff (5c, 6a) on the east face. After lunch we tried to find the west face but couldn’t get there, and none of the other climbers out for the day knew how to find it. But then one of them suggested we try a 7b. This is normally well beyond my ability but he said it was actually much easier than 7b and well protected (in other words you’re very unlikely to injure yourself if you fall,) so we gave it a go.
I started off leading and resting after clipping every bolt. It felt more like a 6c (which is basically the edge of my ability and harder than I’ll normally lead.) But I was doing OK. Then about 2/3 of the way up I got to a section that I just couldn’t figure out. There was a bit of a crack but not a great one, and a small flake sticking out, and no good feet. I was far enough above my last bolt that I had no choice but to keep going up, and then I fell.. somehow ended up head first (which isn’t supposed to happen) but didn’t injure myself… just a few scrapes on my arm. Well, first lead fall of the year out of the way :)
Phil tried the climb after me but couldn’t make it as high as I did. He used the rope to pull himself up to the 2/3 point then lowered off and cleaned his gear. We called it a day after that.
The next day Robin and I visited the mud cave. This is a weird attraction. You get a guided tour (Chinese only unfortunately) of some fairly spectacular underground formations, then you can bathe in a pool of mud. After that, the real treat: a series of hot tub-like pools fed from a volcanic spring. Not quite an onsen, but it was nice anyway.
After that we took the bus back to Guilin then got on a night train to Guangzhou, the mainland transportation hub for Hong Kong.
(Robin and I were in Dali on May 6 and in Yangshuo from May 8-10.)
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