July 16 Volunteering in China – Global Volunteers

Thought for the day: “O’ call back yesterday. Bid time return.” -Shakespeare

Journal by: Susan Morgan

Despite still feeling a bit “under the weather,” I was eagerly anticipating our free time visit to the Yunnan Jiu Xiang scenic area. Listed as a national scenic spot and historical site, national AAAA tourist area, national geological park and a member of International Association of Caves, Jiu Xiang Scenic spot covers a total area of 167,014 square kilometers. It is 90 kilometers away from the provincial capital Kunming and only 34 kilometers away from the famous Stone Forest. Ann, Anna, and I had decided earlier in the week to travel to the caves together.
Ann worked hard making all of the arrangements through the hotel’s travel agency with help from Colin, Bella, and the other extremely capable Assistant Managers of the Golden Spring Hotel.

The three of us “adventurers” left the hotel lobby about 8:30 am. Our young driver, speaking no English, drove us a short distance away before stopping the car and motioning for all of us to get out. We were ushered towards a small group of men standing together where money was exchanged. After a brief conversation among the group, we followed an older driver to his car, a grey Honda, and got in. He also spoke no English but I introduced the three of us, the best I could manage, as Americans who were in China as English teachers. He seemed very nice and was an excellent driver, the heavy car giving a smooth ride like a hot knife through butter. The long drive to the cave area was filled with bumper to bumper traffic, rough roads,
and smells of exhaust from all of the heavy trucks traveling the same route. After a while, traffic thinned out and we moved along the highway at a good clip. Finally arriving at the cave area, our driver parked the car.
After a much needed “pit stop,” we rejoined our driver who handed us three entrance tickets. I asked what time we should meet him for lunch in one of the many small restaurants fronting the gate and he replied “one o’clock”. Ann, Anna, and I set off eagerly on our great cave adventure. We followed the walkways through increasingly green and forest-like surroundings until coming to a section where a sign indicated a long set of steps down to the rivers edge or a “glass elevator” for the infirm or handicapped sight seer. Fortunately, we chose the elevator, thus saving our feet for the many steps unknown to us yet to come.
After descending the elevator to the narrow river bounded on both sides by steep rock cliffs, we clambered aboard a row boat wearing padded life vests. About eight Chinese young people also climbed in before we set off down the river. The stillness of the surroundings was punctuated by the hum of insects. It reminded me of the cicadas in the States that one often hears on a mid-summer’s day. The air was humid and occasionally a drop of water from the greenery above was noticeable. River water, a deep green, reflected the vegetation, overhanging tree limbs, and steep, craggy sides of the gorge. Unfortunately, our idyllic boat ride soon came to an end.
Upon reaching the boat “dock”, we clambered out and followed the red arrows along the path. The scenery was jus gorgeous! After awhile, we came to descending paths and narrow steps leading to the caves. It was like entering a gigantic mouth, craggy rock formations looming ahead like giant teeth. Colored lights inside the caverns highlighted the various textures and formations of the ancient rocks. We made frequent “rest stops”, especially as we made our way out of the caves.
One of the most memorable spots was a double waterfall, the flowing cascade of water tumbling over the rocky cliff with a deafening roar. I hoped that, as it was nearing two o’clock (an hour later than planned), our driver could still be found. We finally emerged from the caves, then walked many steps (over 300) to the light above. What a joyful sight that was for our aching feet! Our next adventure was taking a cable car ski-lift high above the mountain valley amid fir covered mountains back to the park entrance. It was just glorious despite my fear of heights.
We found our driver waiting for us and then had a nice lunch in one of the many restaurants nearby where he seemed to know everyone. We ordered delicious fried egg, fried rice, and a tasty green vegetable whose name we did not know. Yummy!!
The ride back to Kunming was smooth and quick. An hour and a half before our scheduled meeting in the lobby at 6, we arrived at the hotel and enjoyed a little R & R. Another wonderful meal at Jerome’s Cafe, a short walk from the hotel, followed. “Wan an!” to all and to all a good night!
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