Jaw-dropping caves and Miao minority at Gétû, the destination of the Petzl Roctrip 2011

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June 15th 2011
Published: June 19th 2011
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The road to Gétû

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Chuanshang dong - "Cave over the bed"Chuanshang dong - "Cave over the bed"Chuanshang dong - "Cave over the bed"

20 sweaty minutes to climb the stairs to this cave. 150m long, 70m high, about 100 m wide
While spending four weeks in Yangshuo (Climbing China's limestone cliffs in Yangshuo), Coco and me heard a good deal of stories about Gétû, the location of Petzl's Roctrip this year. Local westerners told us that the place is amazing, though, hard to get to. That was enough of a challenge for Coco and me and so we made our way through backroads of Guizhou province and into Gétû. Since the information I'd like to share about directions and the place itself might be interesting to a broader audience, this entry is in English.

Coco, whom I met in Yangshou, spoke decent Mandarin, which helped a lot to find the place and talk to the people there. Finding the place was not as hard as I expected or was told, though it does not appear in any travel guide. We had a good time with the locals, and alone in the caves. The scenery is hard to ever forget. The potential for climbing here is high and only a tiny part of the climbable rock is bolted yet. The rock quality is good, though you should expect some dirty routes in the cave, especially due to bird shit. Some other routes still need some decent cleaning
Yanzi dong - Swallow caveYanzi dong - Swallow caveYanzi dong - Swallow cave

From inside the grotto on its back towards the ferry pier
and you should definitely bring a helmet since there is some loose rock. Routes are pretty hard in general, which is not surprising with the upcoming Roctrip in mind. You will still find a couple of 6b/c routes in the cave.

The caves

If you walk out of Gétû, you will pass a gate that normally requires visitors to pay an entrance fee. Somehow, there is an arrangement of Petzl that climbers can enter the park for free, so you should not be paying a fee (at least not right now). After about one kilometer on the right, you will see the Chuanshangdong ("cave above the bed") high above you and when the road turns left, you can take a path to a platform which is right at the entrance to Yanzidong ("swallow cave"). This cave is about 100m high, houses an infinite number of swallows, and the Gétû river enters this cave and disappears in the mountain.
The Chuanshang cave requires you to cross the river with a little ferry boat. If the first "pier" looks empty, try to walk further along the road to a more touristic pier, where you will manage to catch a ride. Crossing the river from the first pier costs two Yuan, the more sophisticated second pier will issue rountrip tickets for ten Yuan.
Climbing the stairs up to the cave is a rather sweaty experience and takes about 20 minutes. On the way, you can branch off to a "view hole", where you can also find some climbing routes. The Chuanshang cave is a breath-taking natural wonder, with its own microclimate and some special flora and fauna. The path through the cave and the stairs are about eight years old (according to locals) and built for Chinese tourists, that visit the location in small numbers. We never saw more than about ten other people in the cave per day.
Walking through the cave and leaving it at the rear end takes you straight into Avatar's Pandora. The slope that descends from the backside of the cave into an enourmous grotto houses wild bananas, bamboo, and other tropic species. If you continue on the path, you will get to a lookout over "Blind valley". This canyon is sided by limestone cliffs, a few kilometers long and there is no (easy) way to access it. The view into it is once again breath-taking.
The cavesThe cavesThe caves

from the ferry. In fall, there is a ray of light through Chuanshang cave onto the river in the morning.
can also walk down to the grotto on a path that is not developed properly yet. Check out the first video on this entry for the view from the upper lip of the grotto.

How to get there

You will probably start this adventure in Guiyang, the capital of the Guizhou province (which happens to be China's poorest). We took a rough eleven hour ride on a nightbus from Guilin to Guiyang. Tickets can be obtained at the bus station (also the one in Yangshuo) and are 260 Yuan. The buses leave at the new and huge intercity bus station in Jinyang New District.
There are direct buses to Ziyun (south of Anshun), which take about three hours and are 50 Yuan. This place is not to be mixed up with Zhijin north of Anshun, which is listed in the Lonely planet and also houses some caves. Ziyun is the last bigger city before Gétû, so you might want to do some shopping for food here. In order to get to Ziyun, it has proven helpful to have its name written in Chinese letters with you (see the last photo of this entry for my version).
Since there are
Yanzi caveYanzi caveYanzi cave

with lots of swallows flying over the fisherman
only a couple of direct buses to Ziyun a day, you can also take a bus to Anshun (2 hours,
35 Yuan) which drops you at the west bus station. From there, you need to change to the south bus station in order to catch a bus to Ziyun. The bus stations are not this far apart, but probably too far to walk with climbing gear in your backpacks. The bus to Ziyun is then about 20 Yuan and takes 1.5 hours.

From Ziyun, take a taxi to Gétû. We payed 80 Yuan for it, which might not have been the best deal. There are minibuses back from Gétû to Ziyun, that will drop you in an intermediate city (I forgot the name) for ten Yuan. From there you have to take another bus to Ziyun (four Yuan). It takes a while and is a bit of a hazzle, so you might also get a business card from the fellow taxi driver that takes you to Gétû and call him for a ride back to Ziyun. Buses from Ziyun back to Guiyang leave at 8:30am and 1pm.

We also got train tickets for a hard sleeper in the
crossing the Gétû rivercrossing the Gétû rivercrossing the Gétû river

the guy was kind enough to take the two of us over
train from Guiyang to Shanghai a week later at a ticket office in Anshun. Despite the Lonely Planet saying that it is a hazzle, it turned out to be no problem.

Where to stay, what to eat

There currently are a big hotel and a little guesthouse where you can stay. There is some major construction for accomodation going on right now so that by the time of your arrival you might find yourself with more choice about where to stay. We were staying at a little place along the main road in a non-obvious family run guesthouse. It is 50 Yuan per night, including a noodle soup breakfast (good and spicy) and a dinner with rice and a differing set of dishes on top (good, even more spicy and definitely close to what the people there eat). If you stay longer, you might get a 40 Yuan deal. The beds are barebone (no mattress), sheets are clean, but you should not be too sensitive about dirt. The owners' sense of cleanliness definitely differs from ours. The bathroom has squad toilets and showering takes a while.
The owners are as most of the other people in Gétû of the Miao minority and super kind and helpful, if you manage to talk to them. They do not speak any English, like most of the other people in Gétû. Nonentheless, you will still be able to get your room and two meals a day without speaking Chinese.
Taking lunch is up to you. We bought a good stash of cookies in Ziyun and took them to the caves for lunch. Sometimes, there are delicious bans in the morning, filled with honey that you can take.

There are a couple of little convenience stores around the village, that sell water (only in small bottles), beer, some cookies, cigarettes, juices, ... Do not expect much of a choice here. Everything is pretty cheap, so you will probably end up spending 60 Yuan a day at most (including the guesthouse).

Extending a visa in Guiyang

Since I had some troubles extending my visa in Guiyang, I will also share this experience in the hope that it might help somebody. My plan was to get my visa extension going on the day we arrived in Guiyang, and then go to Gétû. On the way back, I planned to pick it up. The officer in charge in the Exit/Entry Administration Office in the Jinyang New District branch of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) did not like this plan so much. He wanted me to spend the week waiting in Guiyang. So I needed to go to the city first, convince a hotel to check me in without paying money or staying there, so that the guy at the PSB gets a message on his "tourist tracking computer system" that I have a hotel in town.
Upon being back at the office he wanted to see my key. When I told him that I do not have it with me, he wanted me to proof having 200$ per day that I am staying in Guiyang, which was plain ridiculous. I showed him my 2000 Yuan I withdraw before the trip to Gétû. He wanted to know if I have a credit card which I could show him. After all these hazzles, he finally accepted to extend my visa and believed that I was staying in Guiyang. I got a receipt saying that my visa is currently extended and a copy of my passport. We left the office and headed straight to the bus station
a 15cm centipede and a huge butterflya 15cm centipede and a huge butterflya 15cm centipede and a huge butterfly

it's a wild ecosystem here
:-). A week later, I picked up my passport again, after paying the fee of 160 Yuan without any problems. The same officer was nice and helpful. I do not really understand why he caused me so much problems in the first place.

The way back

Upon returning to Guiyang I got my passport back and Coco and me had a good night in the streets. The next morning, our 27 hour train to Shanghai left and we spent the time on it reading, playing cards and talking to the Chinese. In Shanghai, I spent two days in the house of Cocos parents and we were pretty lazy. In the evening, we were hanging out with some friends at the Bunds. The next day, it was raining heavily, so that the only thing I did was hopping onto a Maglev ("Magnetic Levitation"). It is the only production line of the german built bullet-fast Transrapid. Covering the 30 km to the airport took eight minutes, with a topspeed of 430 km/h. Biggest and fastest roller coaster ever. A taxi for 210 Yuan took me to the airport in the evening. The flight left two hours late due to a
Blind ValleyBlind ValleyBlind Valley

hard to access, surrounded by rock cliffs. Tempting.
thunderstorm so that I had to race through Moscow airport in order to catch my connection flight. My backpack is still in Moscow and I hope to get it by Tuesday.

Well that's it. I had an awesome last week of my travel in Gétû, got some climbing, a lot of culture and some more beautiful scenery. Seven weeks in the US, six weeks in China, climbing at least every second day, meeting great people, seeing stunning landscapes and rock formations, lots of camp fires, having all kinds of weather and delicious food. What a great trip.

Additional photos below
Photos: 43, Displayed: 29


Welcome to Pandorra.Welcome to Pandorra.
Welcome to Pandorra.

behind Chuanshang cave there is this funnel of green, with the grotto to Yanzi cave at its lowest point
the pathway through the cavethe pathway through the cave
the pathway through the cave

built eight years ago
the cave has its own microclimatethe cave has its own microclimate
the cave has its own microclimate

and thus its own specifc set of tropical plants and creatures
the grottothe grotto
the grotto

the Gétû river is entering through Yanzi cave on the right and submerging deeper into the hill into the cave on the left
and from aboveand from above
and from above

every angle is a new picture

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