Wulong Karst Area: Three Natural Bridges (天生三桥)

So our guide to this region was the Lonely Planet’s China’s Southwest guidebook, edition 2007, but first published in 1998. It is getting a bit long in the tooth. This book now seems to be out of print, certainly it doesn’t seem to be advertised on Lonely Planet’s website anymore.

For some odd reason, the guidebook recommends you that you see the Wulong Karst area as a set of ‘daytrips’ from Chongqing. WTF? What is the aversion to staying in a small town? I would recommend that you stay in Wulong city itself rather than the “Wulong Karst” tourist area, you are only a short 1 hour bus ride away from the tourist destination, and you are not held hostage to the expensive hotel or food prices.

The buses heading up to the tourist area leave ‘when full’. The last bus to return is about 430-5pm. It is 8 RMB one way for the trip, which is about 1.65 AUD.

We caught a bus around 9am, and were deposited at the Wulong Karst Tourist Centre:

Tourist Centre

If you wanted to continue onto the Fairy Maiden Mountain (仙女山 ), you can transfer here to another minibus that continues up the mountain. From here, we were funneled into the tourist centre, where it cost a cool 135RMB for a ticket to the Three Natural Bridges (up from 40RMB in 2007, that’s inflation of over 300% in 7 years, or nearly 50% pa. Ouch. I guess they need to fund the hideous surrounding apartment blocks from something).

You catch a coach (included in your ticket price) to the start of the Three Natural Bridges – Tian Sheng San Qiao 天生三桥. Since the fourth installment of the transformers movie Juggernaut was filmed here, you too can have your picture taken with Bumblebee at the top of the scenic area.

The option to fully hike down to the bottom of the gorge has been removed. I expect that maintenance of a lift is much cheaper than maintaining a switchbacked path down the side of a gorge, added to the cleaning fee for the thousands of Chinese tourists who like to throw rubbish by the side of the path, because ‘someone else will clean it up’.

Enough ranting, onto the tourist stuff.

At the base of the elevator, you still have perhaps 100 stairs to walk down to get to the base of the gorge. You could take the gucci option and have a bamboo sedan chair ride – there is a list of official prices to help you travel certain sections; with an end-to-end ride trip of the gorge costing 3000 RMB. Pricey, but if you’re less mobile, not too scared of heights and confident in the quality of the sedan chairs (and the carriers!), it is certainly an option. I didn’t see anybody giving it a go.

It is so difficult from a photo to get an impression of the scale of these things. Each rock arch bridge was immense – something like 200m high with an arch of up to 95m, spans of 130m, and the thickness of the arches approximately 30m.

The descent:
Fascinating Cave

It is marked on the tourist maps as 迷魂洞 Mihun dong, or the Fascinating cave.

One of the signs at the start of the walk indicates that this gorge location was known as Longqiao, described as a winding dragon as a hollow below, with the name of Wulong Mountain in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) reunification records. However the original courtyard style post office in the gorge below dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD).

There are lots of neat carvings in the stone walls of the Three bridges area, and lots of locals who have taken it upon themselves to offer services for the tourists. You can spot the wooden platform used for the tourist photos, above.

A courtyard style house/post office:

Courtyard

This had originally been built in the Tang dynasty, but had recently been rebuilt for a movie “The curse of the Golden Flower”. You can buy postcards here for 7 RMB, and the post office will post them for you. I point this out, because it is so very hard to get postcards in China, in anywhere except for the major tourist attractions. It is also very difficult to get postage stamps.

The first natural bridge you can see is to your left as you descend: Tian Long Qiao (天龙桥, Flying Dragon Bridge), and it is the rock bridge overlooking the courtyard in the photo above. On the maps it looks like you can walk out this way, but the area is blocked off due to rockfall.

Immediately to your right is Qian Long Qiao (青龙桥, Azure Dragon Bridge), underneath which is the courtyard post office.

Azure Dragon Bridge:

Qian Long Qiao2

Here and there are dotted carvings of dragons:

the first dragon
You get a nice walk through the gorge, past a bit of a bubbling stream, before you reach another relic from the transformers movie:

Grimlock

Grimlock is still going.

And then you arrive at the third natural bridge, Hei Long Qiao (黑龙桥, Black Dragon Bridge).

Heilong Qiao

Black Dragon Spring:

Longquan Dong

or 龙泉洞 (Longquandong). There were quite a few springs dotted throughout the gorge, with their poetic names carved into the rock next to the spring.

Dotted here and there are stories carved in stone:

The third chapter

This is the third chapter of the story of the Black Dragon. I’m pretty sure that this was carved with the aid of a power tool, rather than hand carved.

There are quite a lot of very serious explanatory signs in FOUR languages about how this limestone area was formed. Can you guess the languages in use, dear reader?

The way out:

the walk out

At the end you have the option of catching diesel powered cart out of the gorge for 30RMB; or hiking out which takes about 15 minutes of solid effort. There are actually locals who still live in the surrounding hills which you can spot on your way out. We talked to one stall holder who said it took her two hours to get home to her village.

Village outlook:

Village outlook

So in Summary:
I would recommend the “three natural bridges: as a tourist destination, allow yourself at least half a day. It is also possible (albeit expensive), to get around if you are not fully mobile.

If you’re not of Chinese origin, you can expect to become a tourist attraction yourself!

tourist attraction

New steps, new steps, new steps!

Remember that scene from Strictly Ballroom where Paul Mercurio’s character Scott Hastings lets slip that he dances the Pasa Doble and he’s challenged to dance and he’s all flailing arms and rooster strut and all of Fran’s family fall about laughing?

Scott is then taught not to dance with the head, but with the heart. Da-thump. Da da thump. Well I couldn’t help cackling when I saw this bunch of Chinese dancing ladies in Nan Chuan (南川):

New steps

Amazing how music takes you back.

Shooting Hoops

We arrived in Wulong, 武隆, Chongqing province China. The entry to the town off the freeway had a statue boasting of the ‘healthy constitution’ of the locals. Well, there was stadium right bang in the middle of town, between the bus station and the train station. Later that night it was open for business with dancing ladies practising out the front, and a basketball game going on inside.

The red team (Rong Xin Cun Zhen – 融兴村镇 The rising prosperity of disparate villages), were generally a bit fitter than their opponents, the white team (Gong Yuan Yi Hao – 公元壹号 The Christian number ones).

hoops

I don’t think I’ve ever watched a whole basketball game at all, but there was something about the atmosphere in this stadium that made we want to stay. I was cheering for the white team, because when we started watching at the end of the first quarter, they were the underdog. Unfortunately, my victory was spoiled by the fact that one white team player ran down the clock for all of 3 seconds just bouncing the ball from hand to hand.

UNSPORTSMANLIKE!

The final score was 93:89, with a player interchange that only lasted 3 seconds at T-8, and a timeout called at T-5.

How not to inspect your bees

So the bees swarmed. A week later, I had a friend come and help with more nadiring, and hopefully a honey harvest.

After the first inspection

Why so early?

Well, I struggled with my last nadiring effort. A full warre hive box can weigh 20 kgs (40 pounds), so that’s 60kg I’m wrestling with when I’m trying not to disturb the bees too much when expanding their house. A helping hand makes the job much easier, and points out things that you may not notice in your effort not to squash the bees.

It was almost textbook on how not to harvest.

1. I thought the top box of three would contain only honey.
It didn’t. It was about 50% brood comb.

2. I thought that the wall comb would contain honey, so I could harvest that.
It didn’t. More brood comb! Combs 2 & 3 next door had the capped honey.
Then we had comb containing brood break free from the frame.
We ended up returning the top box to the hive column, to make a five box hive, and I chucked the broken comb (in one giant piece), in. This will cause me a headache when I next inspect the hive, because the bees will ‘fix’ this broken comb to the walls (and the other honey comb that it is leaning against), so that they can use the space.
Next time, I need a clearer board. This is like a one way trap door for the bees; they can exit to the lower boxes, but they cannot return.

3. I thought Queen Mum was in one of the lower boxes.
She wasn’t. I found her, about 6 hours later, in a clump of bees on the ground behind the hive, in the area where we had been working.
I picked her up with a spoon and placed her near the hive entrance whereupon she marched right in like she owned the place.

This isn’t a reflection of the warre hive ‘inadequacies’, just more about my own inexperience nearly causing a disaster.

What did we do correctly?

4. My friend bought a spare baseboard.
This gave us a platform to work on without getting grass and dirt on the comb.

5. We set up our working area behind the beehive.
You always walk and work behind the hive entrance. This way the bees don’t find you in their way when they return from foraging flights, and that they don’t think you’re stealing from them.

6. We nadired the hive first before going through the top box.
This gave the bees a bit of a distraction and something to do, so that they didn’t pay much attention to us.

7. We had a plastic crate
This gave us a ‘bee free space’ into which which could chuck the bits of harvested honeycomb.

Monday’s Garden & Harvest – a few days late

Picked:

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes. The combination of both bees to the garden, and relocation of one garden bed to a sunnier spot have meant I have had about 200g of tomatoes per day for at least two weeks. You can’t see the grape vine underneath for the masses of tomatoes.

tomatoes

Corn. My neighbour grabbed the first harvest, because I was away. The second harvest I don’t think got successfully pollinated because the male pollen has already been distributed, but the female silks (and resulting head of corn) doesn’t look fat enough.

Honey. I reckon that falls into the harvested/picked category. I’ll tell you more about it in a later post.

Planted:

Spring onions, from a batch purchased at the local shops. I chopped the green bits off, then soaked the roots in a glass of water until new sprouts came up from the top. There’s a bit of a pong from the water that it stews in… you are supposed to change the water over every day, but sometimes I forget. I like the spring onions skinny, so I plant them close together.

I tried several times to plant hot chilli seeds and seedlings. Every time I have been foiled by the snails, slugs and cockroaches (sorry, it’s true, I’ve seen them), who will walk over coffee grounds (which they are supposed to be adverse to) just to get to the chilli plants. I wonder. If you ate a garden snail ala French style, who had been feasting on chillis, would it be all tingly and hot?

Many times tried to plant some form of pumpkin/squash for autumn/winter picking. No luck. The seeds just never took for me.

Lemon Thyme.

Root herbs

Tumeric & ginger. Both roots I had bought at the shops, and they had sprouted small green shoots. I planted them with a shallow covering of soil, and about a month of humid weather later, I now have green shoots popping up. Since we’re talking rootstock, the galangal that I thought I had killed over winter has resprouted. Hurray!

To Do:

Either transplant or repot my lavender. It’s been in the pot for 5+ years, so it needs a bit of a refresh.

Update on the ballerina apple:

apples

Three fruits on one branch has been reduced to two, compare to November last year.

banana

Look at the size of the dwarf banana, compared to October last year. Things are very confused in my garden with tropical plants in the same garden bed as cold climate plants.

Suspected Orange:

Possibly an orange

I had many suspected orange pups. This is the only one that set, and it’s grown a lot larger than any of the other potential fruits that I’ve ever had. It’s probably 7cm in diameter. Fingers crossed that it survives.

My neighbour’s tree got a serious attack of the orange stink bugs (a plastic shopping bag full), and a windy day in spring meant that all the young fruit buds fell off.

Reverb 2014, Part Two

Reverb 2014, Part One is here.

Other years participation are listed here.

6. Prompt for 6 December:
Money. Where did you spend your money this year? Did you save it instead? What, if anything, would you like to do with your finances this year?

I’m generally more of a saver than a spender, but that doesn’t mean I don’t spend. I like to use good quality ingredients in my cooking, in my eating. I didn’t think that there was much difference in ‘no-name’ brand flour and ‘branded’ flour (and I’m not even getting into the stone ground flour yet). But this year I noticed a difference: everything that I made with the no-name brand was more rock-like than expected, and the results didn’t rise. The taste was always ‘flat’ and uninteresting.

When buying clothing, I prefer to spend more on long lasting well made pieces to wear than the latest trend from a chain-store knockoff. I try to buy Australian made and ethical wherever possible. There have been less shopping trips to Melbourne this year.

I have spent a lot of money on the bees, I think I’m at $1500 so far, less than 6 months in. Hopefully this will settle down as I have bought the hive, the protective equipment, and I’m in the process of buying another hive. I don’t anticipate any additional costs from now. fingers crossed.

With the finances in 2015: hoping to have enough money for property purchase, or some shares. My procrastination will have to take a bit of a backseat.

7. Prompt for 7 December:
Victory Laps: What was your biggest accomplishment this year?

Got bees. ‘Nuff said. Oh wait, they accomplish all on their own without me.
I tried to meditate/conduct yoga for a month straight. Mostly did it for most of the month.

8. Prompt for 8 December:
Hero: Who was your hero this year? Tell us why. What makes a hero in your eyes?

I admire the Australian author Bob Graham, who donated part of his winnings from the 2014 Prime Ministers Children’s Fiction Awards to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. This is in front of a PM who implemented a “closed border” policy of towing asylum seeker boats away from Australia, to their alleged point of origin. Even using inflatable life rafts as a boat substitute.

Australia is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. Seeking asylum is a human right. If we deny people that right, are we really human?

Seeking asylum is a human right

9. Prompt for 9 December:
The Plank: It has been said that you must learn to take care of yourself before you can be effective at taking care of others. How did you take care of yourself in 2013 (sic)? How will you take care of yourself in 2014 (sic)?

Meditate more. Perform Yoga more than once a week (so I’m 6 sessions out so far this year). Donate more to charity.

10. Prompt for 10 December:
Leap of faith: What decision did you make this year that was a leap of faith? Did it work out? Or not?

Committing to getting the bees. Bees are for life, not just for Christmas.

11. Prompt for 11 December:
Small Pleasures: What small pleasures did you discover this year?

Watching the bees go about their normal activity at the hive entrance. Turning my foraging eyes “on” and looking a what is in bloom in the neighbourhood, and what the bees could be collecting today. That’s what will go into the honey and the bee bread that they’re making. Each teaspoon of honey is a reflection of what’s in the surrounding environment, and contains the nectar of up to 1000 flowers.

Reverb 2014, Part One

1. Prompt for 1 December:
At the start: Where did you start 2014? Give us some background on this year.

Can’t remember. Sorry. Doing stuff relating to a funding proposal that was supposed to have been done and dusted about 2 years ago, yet now, another year on, we are still doing funding proposal related stuff. And guess what? It starts again next year!

There was less bootcamp this year. We didn’t have the numbers to keep the bootcamp sessions going onsite at work, which is a shame for something that had been running for at least three years. Hopefully in 2015, we can get some session happening again if we can team up with another corporate group nearby.

Instead of doing lots of baking related things, this year it was all about the bees. I was either reading about them, painting their house, sitting by their hive entrance watching their comings and goings, listening to them at the back of their house, or chasing them around the neighbourhood.

2. Prompt for 2 December:
Gorgeous: When did you feel beautiful this year? Why?

Seriously? This is a question? Is this because more females are doing this writing/reflection project that they’ve asked this sort of question? What about the males? Ah, that’s right, they don’t look back, they just grunt and return to their cave. One thing that I have been more conscious of this year is the type of compliments that you pay to the daughter’s of friends. Rather than emphasising body image in something like :”Don’t you look pretty today”, saying things like: “You helped me do X, how very clever of you!”.

3. Prompt for 3 December
Coulda woulda shoulda: What didn’t you do this year because you were too scared, afraid, unsure? Are you going to do it next year? Or maybe you don’t want to anymore?

So I meant to use my dSLR more. I didn’t.
I meant to procrastinate less. I didn’t. In fact, I think I’m procrastinating right now.

4. Prompt for 4 December
Do Over: Hindsight is the one thing we never benefit from in the present. Is there one moment you wish that you could do-over?

Nup.

5. Prompt for 6 December
Letting go: For next year, I’m letting go of…

Let it go!
Frozen, the movie. The angst. The most popular presents for girls in 2014 was all about Frozen.
I do tend to navel gaze a bit, and repeat in my head stuff that has happened I should move on from. But quite frankly, I’m an improvement on the previous model who are still rabbiting on and on and on about events that happened in the 1990’s.

Dude, give it up.

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