Onto the third and final postcard from the Wenshan 'birthday' travels. This was the area around Yuanyang, known for its wonderful terraced landscape and the colourfully dressed Yi, Hani and other 'ethnic minorities'.
First impressions were not good. Low cloud made visibility absolutely zero, I was informed that there were no buses to where I wanted to go and the local minibus drivers demanded 100 yuan for a 'tour'. Not to be thwarted I set out early the next day, determined to get to a village called Jingkou, and not pay 100 kuai. for the privilege of travelling ten kilometres. I asked the drivers' prices again, asked if there was a bus and was told again that there wasn't. Pointing to a bus waiting, I asked if it went to Jingkou and they reluctantly admitted it did. Paying my 3 kuai fare I joined the other passengers, many minority women in embroidered costumes, and got off, into the cloud, when the driver said we were in Jingkou. Following my little map I managed to find the village, preserved for tourists but beautifully, paid the entrance fee (this is China, if it's for tourists, you pay) and was shown by a local who would no doubt expect some payment later but that was okay. It was an oldy-worldy place, a real, living world, not just for tourists, but partly so. We saw mushroom -shaped house with rice-straw rooves, girls practising the local dance, old water tools and milling devices, models of Hani outfits and so on. Amongst this, village life with the buffalo, farming, washing clothes and kids playing went on as normal. My guide, who talked away with disconcerting 'hello, ello' every so often, wanted to be in all my pictures and hadn't the knack of taking photos without putting his finger over the lens, so none of me. Visibility was fine in the village and I made my way back up the road to walk back or catch the bus. In fact one of the other vehicles, a motorbike with a covered trailer, a bench on each side, stopped for me. I joined three locals, three hoes and a piece of bamboo for my two kuai ride back to Yuanyang for lunch. I ordered my noodles and was joined by a French couple newly in China from Laos. They'd had no challenging experiences with Chinese people, got a vehicle for ten kuai and were helped by the locals keen to practise their English! Was this the place I know and love? They had been coming from a small place towards Yuanyang and were with the owner of the guest house at the time, however. I just hope they retain their positivity but suspect they might encounter some challenges later. They advised me to try asking the passengers in the vehicles where they were going and just go there as the whole area's beautiful. Okay, so I tried. Vehicle one driver mocks my Chinese. Vehicle two driver says the next vehicle is going to Bada, which sounds great. I go to the vehicle, the passengers look amazed and the driversays they're not going to Bada. Other drivers laughing. feeling totally stressed, hating all Chinese and ready to sit down and be swallowed up, I found the energy for one more try .... I got a seven kuai ride to Mengpin with five local women! They were a fun-loving lot, offered me apples ( I love the Chinese!) , made several stops picking up and dropping off supplies, chatted with random people en route and finally dropped me off in an extremely cloudy Mengpin where I was besieged by local women selling local embroidered belts, bags etc who had had a pretty thin day in the sales department. The foreigner arriving in the clouds must have been like manna from heaven. I escaped fairly lightly, being shown to the 'viewpoint' and bargaining for a couple of purse for my student hosts. i escaped and started walking towards Yuanyang, hoping a bus would come along shortly. Better than that. A black Ford stopped almost immediately and a charming young couple from Guanzhou offered me a lift. Woops. Lift from strangeres. Don't do it, kids. They were lovely, spoke slow Mandarin and a bit of halting English and together we went to try to see the sunset at Bada. We passed through yet more dramatic landscapes, pausing for photographs of terraces, paddy fields and local children playing. We wanted to take pictures of local women at work, with buffalo carts but they, unsurprisingly, wouldn't let us. I'm keen to take photos of people in ethnic dress but it's really too intrusive unless you buy something from them. The outfits are really lovely, with diamond -shaped flaps at the back which swish as they walk.
We saw a little evidence of a sunset, the scenery was spectacular and we waited with a small crowd of other Chinese, all of whom were incredibly friendly and welcoming. With no full sunset visible, we left and I was taken back to Yuanyang after a very full and lucky day.
My bus for Mengzi was due to leave at 8.10 am and there I could catch a bus to Wenshan, a total of 200km. We left without a hitch, traversed some more amazing countryside and villages, plus some horrible towns and arrived in Mengzi, 100km away after a mere four hours. Just one step from home. Time for another very stressy moment after my love-fest with the Chinese. No buses to Wenshan today. Bus just gone. 10 am tomorrow. Then she said something about go somewhere else, which I didn't understand. Nearly crying tears of frustration as other customers clamoured to get their their tickets and the girl laughing at me not understanding (it's just embarrassment but it doesn't help to know that at the time) I went out, clinging to the words 'er chi' and deciding what to do, feeling pretty desperate. A guardian angel came over who'd heard me in the queue and spoke a little English. He explained that 'er chi' (which means bus 2) was the other bus station. He put me in a taxi, told me how much to pay and told the driver where to take me. Thank you, thank you.
So no more problems as there were regular buses from there. Mine was full of Miao people whose women wear pleated, embroidered skirts in a variety of volours with headscarves or intricately embroidered head-dresses. Plus the hens, of course. After another 100km, another four hours I'm home. It'd been a great week, not without its challenges but I'm in China, what do I expect.
Back at work on Monday and I'm looking forward to it. A happy Easter to all of you at home.