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Published: February 24th 2017
For me, the love affair began in Vang Vieng, Laos. Or even before. Many moons ago the breathtaking scenery of Huangyao in the movie, The Painted Veil, left an indelible imprint on my retina. Yes, I admit, I am a sucker for karst mountains.
Phong Na, Ba Tu Long Bay, Cat Ba and now Yangshuo, Guangxi province. I am close to Huangyao, I can even smell it. Here in Chauyang we are surrounded by them as they parade themselves down the Li and Yulong valleys. A small parcel of river flat extends in front of you bursting with yellow mustard seed lettuce and warmed by the unseasonal sun peach blossoms unfurl against the next karst mountain. Small villages resplendent with newly built hotels loom over the few remaining mud brick houses. Winding concrete paths lead down valleys between impossibly close mountains gloomy in the afternoon shadows. We cycle and we walk. There is a wonderful hiking path along the Yulong which is thronged at the weekends; during the week the crowds subside, the picnickers have gone. The family groups have washed up their plates, taken their last selfies in the flowers and returned to whence they came.
This is a rock climber’s heaven, so I am told. I have no intentions of joining them. It would be more my idea of hell! You might remember my exploits on Lord Howe where I chickened out halfway up the best day walk in Australia. Views I like, reaching them by climbing, I don’t.
Graeme happily quips, ‘If you’ve seen one karst you’ve seen them all. God, it’s a bloody karst of thousands.’
So, will I tire of seeing these upstanding limestone formations thrusting out of the land and the water? Possibly not. The view from the college room we are staying in whilst we volunteer as English speakers has one sheer face which I can almost touch as I lean out in the morning. Another faces us, dotted with greenery beginning its first flush of Spring. I like my view. I like the mountains. Now where else in the world do these karst mountains appear? But wait, I have not seen Huangyao yet. You never know that might just do it for me.
Or not. Last night I was talking to a Czech teacher here at Zhou Yue
English college who told me we really should visit Zhang Jia Jie before we leave China. I looked it up and guess what it is fabulous karst landscape known for the filming of Avatar. Ah, well, if I must!
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