Thursday, September 27, 2012

Caving in China

On our second full day in Yangshuo we arranged to go on an expedition to a cave (possibly named Hungry Dragon Cave, but our guide said it had no name) somewhere in the vicinity of Xingping, a town a bit further down the Li River from Yangshuo. After an hour drive and 40 minutes of hiking (including climbing over a locked gate) we reached the mouth of the cave. The ‘living room’ of this cave was simply gigantic, probably 90 feet high and 300 feet across, we were able to explore this main room and several linked rooms/smaller caves easily on foot with our headlamps. Can you see Juli in the photo below?

After lunch the real caving began with a short rope-assisted climb over a slippery, 20 foot face. Todd’s climbing start on this day was not very graceful, receiving a skinned elbow and knee right off the bat after losing his grip near the top. Fortunately we were hooked in so there wasn’t much of a fall to be suffered. We continued through the cave rapelling/abseiling various cliffsides within the cave, the largest was probably about 90 feet high and we had a blast seeing so many interesting formations and colors deep in the guts of this mountain.

At long last we finally saw the light of day again, but our adventure was not over. In order to get out of the cave we had to climb a 45 foot high rock face that was estimated at a grade of 5.9, ‘moderate difficulty’ for a real rock climber. In addition to the slipperiness of the rock, the end of the climb required us to move laterally left across a face that was concave, like an overhang but not so pronounced. It was really challenging and of course Todd fell off, saved by the belay of the guide down below, but after much huffing and puffing (and pulling) we emerged...and to our surprise, after all the abseils we performed inside the cave, we came out near the top of a mountain rather than the bottom!

All in all, it was a great daytrip as we got a little bit of rock climbing in (memories of Railay Beach in Thailand!) and we got to see probably the most interesting cave we've ever been able to explore. If anybody is headed to Yangshuo, we definitely recommend Sunny Sky Climbing!

After grabbing a quick dinner, we changed and went to the local Light Show called Impression Liu Sanjie. We typically don’t “do” shows but this one was recommended in the travel guides and was directed by Zhang Yimou who also directed the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics. The stage for the light show is (supposedly) the world's largest natural theater which utilizes the waters of the Li River as its stage, with twelve mist shrouded hills as its backdrop. The story was in Chinese but we really enjoyed the singing, light effects and the choreography of the over 600 local performers. I think we enjoyed it a lot more than the local Chinese tourists behind us who talked throughout the performance and resulted in many groups, including us, trying to change seats and try to find a place we could actually hear what was going on. This wouldn't be the last time we had such an experience on our trip...

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