The next morning dawned bright and sunny again, just not in my room. With no window to see I still got up at 8:30, packed my things and after a cup of tea (furnished from the nice Danish gentleman at the South train station in Xi’an) I was on my way.
I had looked up the online information on the cave since I was almost sure there would be no English guide available.
I already knew the way to the bus station and on the walk there I bought an apple from a vendor. This would suffice as breakfast. Once at the station bus number 10 took a while to come. What turned out to be really irritating was that on the information sheet it said 18 stops instead of final stop. I was counting each stop and was thoroughly irritated when the bus stopped at no clear indicated station. Should I count that one or not? Finally I asked the guy next to me who made a gesture as if to tell me when to get off. He didn’t but it was not necessary after all.
I had arrived at the right place as all the other local tourists indicated. The village had a lot more to offer than just the cave. There was also a bungee jump place, boat rides and some kind of cable chair with which you could cross the gorge (I am sure there is better word but since I don’t even know the word for it in German…, sorry).
I went for the all-in one ticket which was a bit of rip-off in the end because although it had sights from A-F on it (with the cave being B) nobody could tell me what the rest was except that F was a 5 minute boat ride which was prolonged by another 5 minutes because we had to dock three times to take other passengers on board.
The cave then was a spectacular walk with lots of scenic spots on the Yangtze and a few historic sites of Chinese defense against the Japanese in WWII.
When I came out of the cave ‘park’ it was time for some lunch. Since the choices were limited I walked into the next one which had a very lovely view on a tributary of the Yangtze. Alas, not for me. Single diners are always banned to the darkest corner. In this case not a corner since I was just banned into the cave.
On the other hand who knows how well built the terrace structure was. After the earthquake one cannot be too careful. The restaurant had a few specialties, one of them being an olm (or something similar)! The picture on my table number was definitely not inviting.
To stay on the safe side I ordered vegetables instead, noodles and fried rice. Portions again were large enough to feed a family of four, but I love to have a choice.
Sylvia would have loved the vegetables covered in bacon.
After the meal I was ready for the other sights, but as already said there were non (at least for non Chinese speaking people) except the boat ride. So I made my way down the gorge, already worried about walking all these steps up again.
The boat ride then was nice but short, nothing special except for seeing the cave from a different perspective.
After the ride I slowly walked up again, ready to go back to the hostel. The bus ride into town was a lot less exciting than out of it since I could read and it was enough to look up ever couple of minutes to see were I was. Since I came back in good time I stopped at the cafe from yesterday and had a coffee. I had a long day still ahead.
The coffee was rich, creamy and sweet and had almost nothing to do with coffee. But it gave me a little downtime and a boost to tackle the airport issue.
With my backpack and my front pack in place I decided I would take a taxi to the airport shuttle station. It seemed rather heavy all of a sudden. I tried first on the street in front of my hostel to no avail. After 10 minutes I thought it prudent to walk to the bus station to have this option at least in case of taxi hailing failure.
It wasn’t that there were no taxis, just that no one wanted to take me on. And I had the destination in written Chinese. I was at the end of my rope here.
At the bus station I realized that it was rush hour and that it would be next to impossible to get on the bus what with all the Chinese pushing and shoving to get on first. So back again to lining up for a taxi.
While waiting I asked a young woman next to me if I was at least waiting on the right street side to go to the shuttle. As it turned out she spoke English, explained to me that the taxi drivers were changing shifts and therefore didn’t take anyone on and that bus no. 8 as written on the hostel information was not going to the shuttle. She knew because she worked near the hotel from where the shuttle left.
In the end she managed to hail a taxi, took me with her and payed for the it. I was overwhelmed especially since she walked with me to the correct hotel. Really, the Chinese are a lot better than their reputation!
At the hotel I found out that the shuttle would be leaving at 6pm, but by that time it was shortly before 5pm. The bus was already there but wouldn’t leave for an hour? I was flummoxed.
Anyway, I settled down in the lobby, reading my book and prepared to wait. I still had ample of time since my flight left only at 8:30pm. When the bus finally started after 6pm I was already less relaxed. I like to be at the airport early. Rather have a coffee there after check-in than being nervous about making the flight.
When the bus made its second stop we were only at the train station, a huge hub that I had seen already the day before. By then it was 7pm and I was on tenterhooks. Babsi (my friend in Beijing had ordered a driver due to my late arrival).
I tried the Tibetan mantra of ‘on ma ne be ne hum’ (I am sure it goes totally different but this is the way it sounded in German to me) and to be indifferent about it. After all it was only a flight.
In the end I was at the airport at 7:30, could check-in right away and had time for a water. Turned out that the airport was super small and all flights except mine were delayed.
Delayed for hours, like six or seven. Just imagine you have to wait that long. Apparently this was nothing unusual. I later heard that the air force is taking precedence over all flights and if they are having maneuvers then the air is theirs. Maybe this is exaggerate, I couldn’t verify it.
Long matters short, I left on time and a bit over two hours later I arrived in Beijing where Mr. Shi awaited me. He had a sign with my name but when I saw it first they seemed like Chinese characters. Since he kept looking at me I tried to decipher the sign again and then recognized my name. I think I need a new prescription for my contacts.
In no time at all we arrived at the Hutong where Babsi lived and then it was really time to relax. Yours, Pollybert
You did not try the olm?!? Pollybert, I am disappointed :-) I must mention again that Chinese cuisine is a nightmare for pure vegetarians…I still have not overcome my hot pot trauma ;-)
I have to confess that I also lost my taste for hot pot after our first night in Lhasa