Wulong Karst area: Dragon River Gorge (龙水峡)

Longshui xia (龙水峡), or Dragon River Gorge was our next stop after the Three Natural Bridges. You can *just* fit this in after visiting the Three Natural Bridges, but it is a slight rush to make it back in time for the return minibus back to Wulong city.

The ticket is an eyewatering 115 RMB – available at either the Wulong Karst Tourist Centre, or at the conclusion of your walk through the Three Natural Bridges. Yes, this was a very expensive day trip.

The heavenly ladder:

Heavenly Ladder

There is are toilet facilities at the top of the gorge. Despite this, and the warning signs at the start that : “There are no toilet facilities below, go now”, at the first dark spot at the base of the lift, there is a strong smell of urine. Lovely, Jubly.

Underground Cave:

Underground River

This is the source of where the water comes from upstream, from the three natural bridges area. It was a luminescent jade green colour, winding its way through the gorge.

Galaxy Waterfall:

Galaxy Waterfall

There were a lot of poetic names describing the natural features along the way.

This could possibly be the jade tortoise:

Dragon River Gorge

The small natural bridge:

Small Natural Bridge

Although it kind of looks man made to me, it does suit the area’s ambiance.

Pretty!

Dragon River Gorge

At the end of the walk, there were some stalls selling trinkets, fruit and vegetables and things with a bit of a price premium. You had to catch the bus back up to the tourist centre, before transferring to the public bus down the hill. We were treated to the latest in Chinese pop music as entertainment, including what does the fox say. I swear, before I looked up video on youtube, I thought it was Canto-pop!

Dragon River Gorge (Longshui xia 龙水峡)
Wulong Karst Tourist area (武隆喀斯特)
Wulong, Chongqing (重庆), China.
115 RMB entry fee, 8 RMB public bus ride one way.

250RMB total for the day’s excursion. (52AUD, 40USD at the current exchange rate) I told you it was expensive!

To the rescue!

You know some times, you’re busting to go to the bathroom – ah sweet relief- but then you’re greeted by the dawning realisation that there’s *no toilet paper*?

Toilet paper man to the rescue!

tp man

Ok, so I only managed to capture his mug shot as he trundled away from me down the street in Nan Chuan, but I’m sure someone will have his business card.

MFWF – Pop up bakery and bar

As part of the Melbourne Food and wine festival, there was a pop up bakery bar and bar at Queensbridge square, Southbank. As it turns out, Michael McEnearney from Sydney’s Kitchen by Mike was the guest baker on the morning that I visited. Them’s the breaks.

Pear pastry ($7.50) and sourdough starter ($10):

MFWF - Pear tart
You eat the former, not the latter. The pastry was crisp and flakey. Very light, and altogether not good for me.

I had been wanting to start a sourdough starter for ages, but couldn’t quite face the volumes of good flour that I would have to toss out in the process. Tada! Let’s how this starter from Sydney via Melbourne will survive.

Ploughman’s platter ($20):

MFWF - Ploughman's breadboard

Myrtleford salted butter. Pork and fennel sausage. Tomato chutney. Pickled vegetables. Bread.
I think they had me at ‘pickled vegetables’. I completely forgot to look at the other options.

I spotted some other dishes that I could’ve chosen if I hadn’t been blindsided – scrambled eggs looked so-so, but the open sandwiches topped with pickled onion looked right up my alley.

Melbourne Food and wine festival pop up bakery and bar
Queensbridge Square, Southbank
Mornings from early until 12noon (that’s when the coffee stops)
Until 15 March 2015

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.

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