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Highlights of Southern China

June 17, 2015 1 Comment

This trip has been simply wonderful for the majestic scenery.

We have been here about two weeks now and travelled some 3500km in the south and west of the country. Less than 500km of that would have been on flat road.

We have crossed numerous steep mountain ranges on roads varying from passable to downright primitive. Two days ago it took us nine hours to travel 220km along a road that looked as though some drunken giant had scratched into the side of the mountain with a rusty nail. It was simply appalling conditions amidst the most spectacular mountain scenery: Incredibly steep, thickly forested mountainsides, plunging valleys and roaring rivers. We are all being close to overdosed on the natural beauty and magnificence of what we have driven through.

For me there have been three stand-out events of the trip so far, all involving natural beauty of the most breath-taking quality. It will be hard to use adequate superlatives.

Inside Zhijin Caves

The beauty of Zhijin Caves

The first was a visit to the Zhijin caves about 90km drive out of Anschun. It was a shit of a drive! I had never heard of these caves, which amazes me they as are simply an outstanding world class experience. They consist of a three km walk along a paved path that is exceptionally well lit. That entire distance is one jaw-dropping massive cavern of huge exquisitely sculpted stalagmites and stalagmites reaching up to 70 metres high and 50 metres girth. Every possible configuration of rock and stone is thrown at you on every turn of a corner. You think it can’t get any better, but it does. The colours are simply beautiful.

The second is Tiger Leaping Gorge, which is world famous and rightly so. Sometimes you hear so much about a place that you think it can’t possibly live up to expectations, but this easily exceeded what I hoped to see. The gorge runs for 16km and has a really well constructed road right along the river which flows through the valley of the gorge. It takes you ages to get those 16km, because you are simply compelled to stop after every bend to look, admire and be astounded at the jaw-dropping beauty of the plunging mountain walls.

When we drove out of the gorge I suggested we turn around and drive it again, as it’s unlikely we’ll see anything like it again. I should have been more forceful as Al and Barry’s attention had turned to finding a place to camp for the night. (Sigh!)

The third is Yading national park situated high on the Tibetan plateau in Sechuan province. Again I had never heard of it and again I am amazed it is not world famous. I’m here now and as I type I am looking at snow-capped mountains, incredibly verdant forested valleys and bubbling streams and creeks coming off the snow melt. It reminds of the very best of the Swiss Alps and Yosemite national park in California combined. The Chinese have spared no expense in putting in the necessary infrastructure to explore the three sacred mountains here (to Tibetan Buddhists), the various monasteries, grasslands, forests, lakes and rivers. There are also more birds and animal life here than I’ve seen elsewhere.

They have done it in an exceptionally efficient but tasteful manner. Yading sits at around 4200 metres and there is not a flat piece of land to be seen. It is exhausting to to get to, but worth the pain.

Getting to these places has not been easy, but the unbridled grandeur of all of them has made this trip something special already.

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  1. Linda Watkins says:

    Hi Pete,
    Thanks for keeping us up to date with your travels. Also thank you for a great read! Your style of writing makes the reader feel we have witnessed the beauty you have experienced. Looking forward to the next instalment.

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