Tuesday July 29 2014

There was a lot of confusion about bags in the morning. Were we to leave the, bring them, or put them on the bus? Were we to get on the bus? All of this was debated over a delicious breakfast of a soup with some sort of small rice like grains ad chunks of pumpkin, with several dishes to go along with it.

In the end we put our bags on the bus, and then walked to another bus that would take us to the famous Guoliang tunnel. Man were we in for a ride!

The road was windy and narrow and the corners sharp, with big round mirrors to help driver see around. Lucky those were there, for every time we climbed the steep hills to a corner our driver gunned the gas, honked the horn and flew around the bend. The CTs all shouted and screamed for more! I commented that roller coasters probably seemed tame to them.

The tunnel gave access to a cliff top village, and according to our tour guide, it had been hand carved by 13 people over a six year period.

Before the construction of the tunnel the only way to or from the cliff top village was by climbing metal rungs. This was very dangerous, especially for the women who had to climb down the ladder to find an appropriate husband. The story goes that the village leader had collected 12 strong men to help him build the tunnel.

The holes, in the tunnel, that made for spectacular views of the red cliffs across the way, had originally been carved to allow for ventilation, to let light in, and to dispose of the rock during the building process. The tunnel was filled with swallows nests.

We passed amazing little waterfalls, part of a stream that ran all the way down from near the village. It was sad to see the water was so full of garbage. Seems like the river may have also served as a garbage shoot.

We crossed a little bridge near the top. On the far side was a set of stairs leading down to the waterfall.

Ray followed the stairs, and continued through an old valley. Last we saw of him for a long time was his back disappearing into the distance through that valley. Our boss Sarah was NOT happy with Ray’s disappearance.

Ray showed up at the bus meet up spot hours later, bought a plastic instrument, and started a little band with Andy. Nate and I joined in, Nate with a kazoo, and me with a rubber chicken!

We had another delicious healthy meal at the hotel before we got back on the bus for a two hour drive to our next hotel. We had to drive down a narrow dirt road with a steep cliff on the one side. The road was under construction so that put us down to one lane. There was the usual stand off of our bus facing the cars trying to go the other way, and a lot of honking, before we finally pulled over as far as we could and let the cars by. Still we had to drive around the construction workers vehicles, dangerously close to the edge. Tense moment for all.

It was raining when we pulled up to the park entrance, and the mist made a distant rock peak look just like a howling wolf. We all sat on the bus for a while in confusion, until a group of us ran off to use the washrooms. When we got back everyone was in motion. We ran back to the bus to get our stuff. We weren’t entirely sure what was going on. We were told something about rafting, but were assured there should be somewhere to leave our stuff. Nate hadn’t wanted to leave his expensive camera and tablet on the bus, especially when we had been warned by the CTs that this province wasn’t like Shandong, where the followings of Confucius still have a large effect. In Jinan even a thief has a sense of face, and so often blatant crime isn’t observed. Here, we were told, there were people here who would’t hesitate to rob you.

We followed a path along the river filled with rushing water, and a beautiful mountain backdrop. .

Groups of rafters would paddle by every once and a while, many in the middle of epic splash battles.

We stopped to rest at a waterfall with pools and separate flows of water. We walked up into the pools and stood amongst the divided falls. It was gorgeous, like being part of a masterpiece.

Nate and I passed by the thin rope bridge- it cost 20 RMB to walk across it, and it looked like fun, but we were intent on the rafting! We thought it was funny watching Sarah, and Katrina wobble across it from a distance though!

Muffin was not planning on going rafting, so we had asked him if he could take our bag (as apparently there was not somewhere to lock them up). Nate ran back to find Muffin as he had finally found a place to change, and didn’t really want to get his only pair of shorts wet. I was standing over another small waterfall on the river. In front of me was a big rock protruding over the river, and above it dragon flies circled in flocks. It was so beautiful I was drawn to become part of the scene. I climbed down on the rock and sat cross legged in the middle of it letting the scenery surround me. I had a bunch of people from our group call out to me and wave. I was told I was buddha!

We bought our tickets, and were preparing to get on the rafts, when the sky opened up in an apocalyptic deluge. There was a rumbling in the distance, but it was too late, we were going rafting. We life jacketed up and paired off into our rafting partners, and just as we were about to climb in the boats Muffin rushed up to Nate and I with our stuff, “I can’t take this,” he said holding out our bag.

“Muffin,” I replied, “It’s too lat to tell us this now, we can’t take it. Nate’s got his computer and tablet and everything in there.”

“I have to go to the place and then…”

“Muffin,” Nate responded, “Why are you telling us this now?

“Is there anyone else that’s not going on the boats that could take it?” I asked. Apparently not, everyone else had already headed back. Fortunately the people at the ticket booth had garbage bags, and they knew how to wrap. Ten layers of black plastic later, and a lot of tape, we piled our bags and ourselves into our raft. “CHARGE!” I yelled as we approached Katrina’s boat. We caught up to the rest of our group, who were hiding under a bridge, and after a brief battle with Katrina and Andy we led the way down the first waterfall, backwards! WAAAHOOOOO!!

The rain kept beating down, thunder went from a rumble to great crashing booms, and we began to see streaks of lighting fill the air above us, and there me and Nate were, careening down the river in our little raft, flying down small waterfalls, carried by the current and the storm, and praying to god the lightning didn’t strike!

We were soaked, so when we made it back into the shelter of the for sale booths, I gave the biggest hug to every CT, FT, or marketing staff member who had not braved the river.

We were able to shower and change into dry clothes in the hotel, and by the time we’d finished the storm had stopped, taking the mist with it. The wolf head no longer looked so much like a wolf head without the fog, but the mountains looked spectacular!

Dinner was delicious, perhaps even better then the place we’d stayed at the day before. Afterwards we had BBQ around a bonfire that smelled like lighter fluid. Candy got karaoke going, and we sang, ate, and danced circles like maniacs around the fire. Even the CTs (chinese teachers) drank! Emme got drunk, and had a giant grin on her face, dancing. Franny had her fourth beer taken away from her as she protested, “but I can drink five!”

After the party ended us Fts with any CT that we could convince to go with us went to the roof to continue the fun, chanting, “the roof the roof the roof is on fire!” We were only there for a little while until the “Ray show” spun out of control. Candy rushed onto the roof to drag off all the men to help her contain the maniac who apparently had already broken a television.

Ray, drunk out of his mind (remember he had been drunk for two days at this point on top of the drinks around the campfire), had gotten it into his head that he was going to climb the mountain, and was quite upset that no one was going to go with him. Somehow Candy and others in change had found out about it and gotten it in their heads that it was their job to stop him. They were trying to get him to go to bed, and essentially he was having a temper tantrum. In the end Ray had been locked in his room, climbed out the balcony, and disappeared for a while. He’d then reappeared, been dragged up the stairs by Karina, and then the sun had risen.

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