Danxia Shan (rosy cloud mountain) Geopark received world heritage status in 2010 but you’ll be hard pressed to find it on a google search. It is the most amazing mountain range of sandstone outcrops – the several hundred metre high remnant of a landscape that has otherwise worn away. Where the terrain permits there is subtropical forest, now providing safe haven for numerous endangered animal and plant species. We took a cable car to the top and surveyed the scene, before strolling along a contour to a lookout pavilion. The authorities have worked hard to create weatherproof walkways, kiosks selling drinks and toilets along the way. Too sanitised for the intrepid hiker, too brutal for the environmentalist but great for the average punter. You could hike for days in the protected area and it looks good for climbers too.
On the way we spotted a Tung Oil tree in full bloom – Dad mentions these beautiful trees in his story and one of the reasons I wanted to come to China in spring was to see them. Some things haven’t changed in 70 years!
I was also taken to see the ‘male’ stone and the ‘female’ stone. These alarmingly anatomically correct rock formations may attract the attention of the ‘lewd police’ so I’ll leave them to your imagination.
At the bottom of the mountain is a lake, which we had to take a boat across. I was expecting a motorised ferry but in fact I was delighted with a small boat (capacity perhaps a dozen passengers), poled by a strong young man. My guide told me that this is the traditional style and I think it may be similar to Dad’s experience of being poled up the East river in a sampan. The poler stands at the rear facing forwards and has two long oars that cross in front of him. He gets into a rhythm of shifting back and forth on his feet (positioned as if taking a stride) and with a straight back, using his whole body, he could probably continue for hours, as Dad describes.
It has been a very enriching day. As we were speeding back to Guangzhou on the train at 300kph, we passed farmers ploughing their fields with buffalo. It’s like being in parallel universes. Onward and upward – I flew to Guilin and am settled in to the Guilin Park Hotel by the river.