Day 22 - 23rd April - Luoping to Guanling

After a good nights sleep, I was feeling much better until the Navigator switched into the Nurse from Hell mode. The only thing I was allowed to eat for breakfast was toast and orange cordial. And then I got into trouble for putting butter on the toast. Needless to say, despite all the beer every night on the trip, I’ve dropped 2 kg since starting out from Bangkok. You obviously burn up a lot of calories in this driving business.

I keep on coming back to the mountain terrain, its vastness and the engineering of the road system. But it is truly amazing and the morning drive was no exception. The steep sided karst mountains are of every shape and the roads just go through them or between them. I’m not sure what the length of road tunnels are in China, but it must be huge. There were 2 large suspension bridges we crossed during our drive that I am sure would equal the Golden Gate. Long and hundreds of meters above the rivers below. It rivals anything we have driven in Europe, yet these are not noted in any guide,  its just part of the landscape.

One mountain we passed through seemed to have more holes than Swiss Cheese. There were 2 tunnels for the tollway and another couple for the fast train plus a couple of old ones that seemed to be unused.

Many of the hillsides were terraced. The terraces were small, narrow and obviously very old. Plus a large number seemed to be no longer in use. Our guide was unsure why, other than the kids had moved off to the big cities and there was no one left to farm them. This I can understand. Clambering up these mountainsides to eke out a subsistence did not look promising.     

One of the challenges we have had is that our Garmin maps are pretty much useless – although they generally tell us (within a few hundred meters) when we have reached our hotels each evening. Our Guide uses the same Garmin, but has different maps. One’s that seem to be a bit more accurate. Normally, for non military uses the GPS data has a deviation, usually a matter of meters. In China its much more. Mostly the little blue cursor is floating around in grey space well away from the roads. The other challenge is that many of the roads are not in our Garmin Maps, nor on the paper maps we have, such is the rate of new development. Navigating here without a guide would be very difficult.

While on the technology front, we cannot access Facebook, Instagram or Google while in China. They are all blocked. There are local versions to cater for the domestic population, or you can subscribe to a VPN service (which we don’t). So if you don’t see anything posted or us responding, this is the reason, it not because we are ignoring you.

For our morning tea stop we visited the Malinghe Gorge and then on to Huangguoshu Waterfall for lunch. Both were underwhelming although the Waterfall was supposed to be the biggest in China. Maybe, but if that is the case then China does not do waterfalls. They really paled in comparison to the mountain landscape that we had been driving through. Compounding the disappointment is the fees that are charged to enter these places. Malinghe charged RMB40 each (AU$8) to enter (a 50% age discount) plus another RMB40 to catch the elevator back up because we had run out of time and then RMB 5 for parking. Huangguosu charged RMB230 (AU$46) each. And I thought we were paying the same price as the locals, or at least according to the signage. But there were crowds of them.

Shortly after starting out this morning we crossed from Yunnan Province to Guizhou Province. It is noted for its Ethnic Minorities who have a predilection for eating dogs. It’s also one of the poorest.

The restaurants in Guanling all have large pictures in their front windows advertising their speciality. Many had the same large catfish image stuck to the glass, a couple roosters and one had a couple of Alsatian images guarding the front door.   

Tonight, Green is shepherding the group to dinner to make sure that they don’t inadvertently eat fido. Although I am feeling much better, the Nurse from Hell had forbade me from joining in and left behind a couple of dry crackers to gnaw on and a bottle of water to wash them down. I think I’ll turn in early again.

But the car went well again today.