30 days away
30 km / 19 miles since last post
22,457 km / 13,954 miles total
This morning we decided to have breakfast in the hotel, as Ricky advised they do a western style breakfast. I sat down to scrambled eggs on toast with coffee and juice - a great start to the day. Nick was feeling a little worse for wear after staying out late last night with Tyson. I don't think he was enjoying watching us eating our breakfast at all.
We met the rest of the group at 8:30am and headed down the road to pick up some road bikes. We had the option of picking a Chinese bike or a mountain bike. Stu said that the Chinese bike would be better as we are only riding on flat land, and the mountain bike would be too heavy. It seemed everyone else opted for the mountain bikes, but Stu and I were very happy with the Chinese style.
We rode for around thirty minutes out of the town and past some small villages and farms. It was a great ride, made all the better by the fact there were no inclines!
We soon arrived at the side of the Li River, and this is where we would be taken on a two person raft for a couple of hours peacefully down the river. Ricky advised us that the river level drops down at a few stages along the way, but that it was nothing too high and would be quite gentle. However, this immediately put Stu on edge as he was worried we would capsize and he would lose his camera.
The drops were nothing too serious. There were a couple of bigger drops, where we had to get out off the raft and the raft had to be pushed over a wall, before we could get back on it, but the rest of it was fine. Stu could not stop feeling nervous about his camera though, which the rest of the people in the group found quite amusing. Poor Stu!
It was a fairly peaceful journey down the river, with the exception of the people selling beer along the way. They had set up stalls actually on the river to sell beer to tourists - that became a bit annoying and sploit the tranquility a little.
The whole journey took around ninety minutes. At one stage we watched as Jo and Tegan's raft went over one of the drops at a slight angle, and it looked for a moment as if it was going to capsize. Luckily it balanced out and I think they only suffered with some wet legs!
There was some fantastic scenery along the river. The mountainous peaks along the way are impressive, and we even saw a few water buffalo too.
After getting off our rafts we found Ricky and he showed us to our bikes, which had been transported down the river for us. We got back on our bikes for a short journey to Moon Mountain - so called because it appears to have a hole in the top of it which is the shape of a half moon. Here we got off the bikes and took the steps (well over 800) up to the bottom of the hole in the mountain. It was quite an effort to get to the top, and it wasn't helped by the fact that there had been rain this morning and some of the steps were a bit slippery. Jo fell over on her bum at one stage!
Ricky had warned us about the women who follow you up the mountain and try to sell you drinks. I didn't think they would actually follow you the whole way up, but when we got to the mountain this little old lady started the accent with us, laden with a large bag of drinks in a bag over her shoulder. We told her that we didn't want a drink, but she persisted - and sure enough she joined us the whole way along. It got to the stage where you just had to ignore her, as there are only so many times you can say "No".
At the top of the mountain there was a view down and across the landscape. I'm sure that on a clear day this view would be beautiful, but it was really hazy and foggy and so the view wasn't as awe-inspiring as we'd hoped, but still nice.
The old lady with the drinks stayed with us at the top and continued to try and sell them to us, with no luck.
After taking some snaps at the top, and catching our breath, we all headed back down the steps again. I think the old lady had finally got the hint and stayed at the top of the mountain.
Stu and I stayed at the back of the group going down the steps. I did not enjoy going down the steps at all because most of the steps were slippery with the rainwater. I had to take it really slowly and was so scared about slipping over. Stu was great though as he held my hand the whole way down.
At the bottom of the mountain we got back on the bikes and took a short ride to a local village where we would have lunch. The lunch was actually provided at a farmers house, and I have to say it was delicious and one of my favourite meals in China so far. We had loads of dishes - it was a real feast. There was sweet and sour pork, pumpkin, chicken with asparagus, beef, potatoes, chicken with carrots and probably some other dishes which I have forgotten - all served with rice and washed down with a beer. It was a lovely meal.
After lunch it was back on the bikes to ride a short while to get to a coach which would drive us to a local cave. Ricky had warned us that this coach was very old, and he wasn't kidding. We shared the coach with a group of French people, and Ricky had told us not to sit at the back - so this is where the French people sat. We soon realised a few minutes into the journey why we were told not to sit at the back, as we were driving down a very bumpy road and each time we went over a big bump the guys at the back were almost thrown out of their seats. I felt a bit bad that nobody had warned them, but it was really funny!
At the cave entrance we had to get into a small rowing boat initially. This is because the entrance to the cave is via a small river. It seemed like a really low and closed in entrance to the cave, but once inside it opened up and the roof of the cave was really high - I think the guide in the cave said it was around 100 metres high.
Once inside the cave we got out of the small boat, and followed the pathway around the cave. We were shown around various areas of the cave, pointing out certain limestone formations along the way. It was a nice cave because it was so big and open.
The walk through the cave took around half an hour, and the final part was the mud and hot water pools. Here we could change into our swimwear and go into the mud pool first. It was good fun, but the mud was quite cold. Stu didn't have any swimwear with him, but he was quite happy to stay clean and take some pictures of us all splashing around in the mud. We could rinse ourselves off in some cold water here and then walk a little further on and come to the natural hot water pools. Luckily I managed to find the hottest pool at the top. They weren't amazingly hot, but I'm glad I got the warmest one. It was nice to relax in here for a while, and even Ricky rolled up his trousers and sat here with us for a while.
After relaxing here for half an hour or so, it was time to get dry and get changed and make our way back out of the cave the way we came. I didn't have high hopes about the cave to start with, as I have seen a lot of caves and they are usually much the same, but this cave was good and I think we all really enjoyed it.
Outside the cave we got back on the old coach to take us back to our bikes, and then we took the hour or so ride back to Yangshuo.
As we were riding back to Yangshuo it did start to get dark, which was fine at first. We were riding on the road most of the way but they have quite a wide cycle lane. However, the nearer to town that we got, the more congested the cycle lane gets with bikes, mopeds, people walking etc. so it was quite an interesting, and sometime slightly scary, ride back to town. All part of the experience I guess!
We returned our bikes to the hire place in town then took a walk back to our hotel.
Ricky had recommended a western style restaurant to us the other day, so we decided to check it out tonight and invited him along. They had a really good varied menu, and quite reasonably priced. I ordered the potato soup to start, and the peppered steak for my main course. Stu ordered soup too and some beef fajitas. I have to say that the food was really good. My steak meal cost just £4, yet I had two large fillet steaks with chips and vegetables - and perfectly cooked too! The only unusual thing was that they brought out our soups after our main course... However, it was still a great meal.
It started to rain quite heavily once we'd finished our food, so it made sense to stay at the same restaurant for a while for a few more drinks. We introduced Ricky to a drinking game called 21. It was good fun, and we had a really good laugh (mainly at Stu who kept getting it wrong and having to drink!)
We have a free day tomorrow, and Ricky recommended that we do one of the various courses that are available. We can do things like learn Tai Chi, learn King Fu, go cormorant fishing etc. We opted for the Chinese cookery lesson, and so booked that for 9:30am tomorrow.
Another great day in Yangshuo!