Friday, September 28, 2012

Rolling on the (Li and Long Jing) rivers

After our big adrenalin-fueled day, we decreed our final full day in Yangshuo to be a ‘river day’, arranging through our hostel to float down the Li River on our own ‘bamboo’ raft (we were disappointed to learn they’re really just made of PVC pipe).

The float was about 2 hours long and was a nice way to take in the beautiful scenery of the Yangshuo area, especially when the outboard motor was turned off (which sadly was not frequently enough). Later in the morning as we neared Yangdi the larger boats started to appear and clutter up the view, but soon enough we were off the raft and into Yangdi, looking for some lunch.

During our time in Yangshuo, Todd had become slightly obsessed with an advertised tourist activity called “river driftage,” which looked like fun (two person rafts in rapids) but nobody we met had encouraged us to do it. So of course he was determined to find out more and give it a try. Juli was a skeptic, she said the water would be really low so it would be boring, but finally Todd found somebody to sell us tickets, and via a very rough translation, we were booked to go. We thought we had to wait an hour to depart, so we found a place that served noodles and (regretfully) passed on the horsemeat option, but it was still pretty tasty, and I think the local school kids enjoyed our presence. Then frantically a car stops outside, the driver finds us and tries to say something about needing to go ‘driftage’, so we got in his car and took off, eventually catching up to a tourist bus a few minutes out of town. we’re told to get on the bus, which we do somewhat ashamedly while apologizing in our best Chinese, apparently the bus was being held up just for us!

With the help of one Chinese tourist who speaks English, we’ve stowed our stuff in a locker, got outfitted and were ready to go, even if the water shoes provided didn’t fit Todd’s feet (which everybody else on the tour found quite hilarious...though it also could have been his shirtless style which was unique amongst all the drifters - some even went in jeans!).

We then boarded a second bus to take us to the launch point, which we learn is going to be 4km worth of ‘driftage’. As the bus ascends the mountain, the little creek we’re driving by barely seems deep enough to flow, let alone have rafts float down...Todd gets nervous that he’s chosen to do something really lame. At the top, it becomes clear that the creek is dammed at several spots and the river driftage is accomplished by opening the dams, flooding the creek with water and letting the drifters ride the rapids all the way down. Each dam is in place before a chute/waterfall, and each one gets increasingly bigger until the final one of about 30 feet high. Here's us going through the first chute:

The rapids generated and lack of control you have in your raft makes it essentially like an amusement park ride, but one where you get absolutely soaked in. Like those river rapids rides at Six Flags but way more intense and probably way more dangerous. Although it wasn’t the hottest day we had in the area, riding 50 minutes worth of rapids was an absolute blast and well worth it. Juli enjoyed making fun of Todd’s faces and screams as we dropped through the various falls, but Todd wasn't the only one making scaredy-faces:

As an added bonus, the bus took us all the way back to Yangshuo (where everybody else on the bus had come from) at the end of the “driftage”. That evening, our last in Yangshuo, we had a nice creekside dinner in town, opting for the local specialty 'beer fish' over the alternate local speciality, dog meat, which was also on the least I think it was fish, they brought out a live one for us to confirm our choice and when it was cooked there was a lot of sauce so it was hard to tell.

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