We returned to Ljiang in some style, having negotiated a price with a man who was keen to get home with paying passengers to more than cover his costs. We did this as all buses were arriving full, the crowds waiting were building up and, as the concept of queuing isn't well known, getting on the next available bus would be a free-for-all.
I was keen to stay at Mama Naxi's guest house in Lijiang as I'd heard so much about it from fellow travellers. Although it doesn't feature in Lonely Planet ,everybody who's anybody goes there. She's certainly a formidable woman, can out-shout anyone and she serves the most amazing meals for ten kuai. It's a case of sit down at around 6pm and the food keeps coming until the last person is full. Breakfast, for 3 kuai, is an enormous banana 'pancake' - sliced banana on a whole 'baba', similar to nan bread. Delicious. 'Mama' and 'Papa' help you go where you want to go, pick you up and take you to bus stations (the right ones!), organise transport, excursions and make everything so easy. That is, unless you have a disagreement with Mama. She argued for half an hour with a couple who thought she'd overcharged them. Not one for the quiet life, in English or Chinese. In this matriarchal set-up, Papa was a quiet presence and surprisingly easy to understand.
We decided on a trip to Lugu Lake, were accompanied by Papa to the bus station,(yet another one) and embarked on the long but spectacular route through the mountains, rising at times to an altitude of over 3000 metres. On arrival things didn't look good. It seems we and a few others were making up numbers on a tour bus and most of the passengers got out to do their boat trip while we were dumped for two hours. However it became one of those Chinese situations I know and love. We wandered aimlessly for a while, found a beach and had a paddle ... that was until Tim spotted a snake in the water. In fact, several! He'd never seen me move so fast. The snake slithering under a rock, my rock, on the beach as I paused for a pit-stop added to the fun. From then we became firm friends with the other' dumped' Chinese, a South African tourist and the bus driver. We stayed at the driver's family guest house and all ate together with him insisting on footing the bill for a fantastic meal with the Bai Jiu flowing freely.
We also enjoyed seeing so many Ethnic Minority people, from the Naxi dancers in Lijiang to the Mosuo women in the villages on the way to Lugu Hu. The Mosuo wear spectacular head-dresses, shaped like enormous black mortar boards or flattened umbrellas. I managed to capture some 'back view' pictures, but our South African friend was more pushy, causing charming offence wherever she went.
So commenced the long ride back to the 'long-lost-friend' welcome by Papa Naxi, with some drama on the bus ride home when the complete back window fell out, suffering no damage, and being refitted before our return. We also crossed our fingers that the precarious-looking rocks wouldn't fall on the road as we passed, and that we wouldn't have to be winched back up from the deep valley, hundreds of metres below - a fate being watched by crowds of 'rubber neckers' as a lorry had indeed come off the road on one of the many hair-pin bends.
It was nice to have an evening with fellow VSOers in Lijiang, though Tim was by now suffering. I blame the Bai Jiu served from a tea pot thet he'd been cheerfully 'gan bei' -ing from (Bottoms up) the previous evening. That home-brewed liquor can be dangerous and I'd cheated on the 'gan bei', having suffered before.
Next stop of the whistle -stop was Dali, this time in the sunshine, before heading back to Kunming for Tim's flight and my meeting up with a VSOer for her weekend in Wenshan. It's always nice to have visitors here and Peter and I showed Jackie the 'sights' of Wenshan, Wen Bi Ta, Xihua Park, the noodle bars, hot-pot (not Rovers Return style!)restaurants and where the dog market is! No, I haven't eaten it, as far as I'm aware - it's an expensive delicacy.
This week I've been busy doing my 'catch-up' lessons, and have not been at my best. After all the exertions of the last few weeks, I could barely function, make sensible decisions or mark work. Teaching wasn't easy, I just seemed to be going through the motions, skype was playing up so I couldn't communicate with home and all I wanted was to sleep, day and night. So, a 'down' period, only my second in nearly twelve months, and, after an evening of Naxi dancing last night, I'm raring to go again.
I was invited to 'Lijiang/Naxi' night after my 'catch-up' class at 9pm and thought, why not. It shook me out of my extreme lethargy. I was dancing with the best of them, well, kind of, when I was approached by one of the students organising it and 'invited' to perform next. This is roughly translatable as 'you will perform', so perform I did. We all danced the Hokey Cokey, with me singing into the microphone, and they thought it was 'cool'. Since when has the Hokey cokey been cool, I don't know, but it was fun. Just hope no one had a video camera.
Well, this has been too long, yet again, so I'll stop now and nip to the market. For the past few days I just haven't had the energy to walk, bargain or anything really, but I'm bored of eating Chinese Pot noodles and have nothing else in the flat, unless you count dead cockroaches, so bye for now.