I am blessed to have my friend Jerry Shipman grace us with a Guest Blog. Jerry has had a lifetime of travel experience. If you can find it on a map, he has probably been there. Today, Jerry shares his adventures at the beautiful karst formations of Guilin. Karst is a type of landscape or topography underlain by limestone usually, that has eroded into unusual formations. This erosion creates impressive spires, towers, fissures, sinkholes, and ragged/jagged mountains. The most famous may well be the Unesco World Heritage Site at Guilin, China.
Some time ago, my brother / best friend Ravi and I decided it was time to make a dream come true, and so we sojourned off in China. I had been fascinated with China since as long as I could remember. I had to experience the ancient mystical, mythical painting I’d seen way back in my college days of the enchanted area in populated western China known for their unusual karst mountains. I knew I could not pass it by. We went to China only a few years after it had opened its arms to embrace world travelers. Tourism was still new, and China had not yet made the changes to the ‘old’ to the ‘new.’
When trying to arrange for our transportation and stay in the Karst mountains, I found very very few Americans had even ever been there. This enticed me even more. After visiting Hong Kong, we took a train west into Communist China and saw that everything was still very gray, drab, and quiet. There was not yet any signs of billboards, advertising, color or even of TVs and autos. We entered an ancient world, and the farther west we went, the more isolated and remote the area showed us its culture of many hundreds of years.
And so we finally arrived in a small town of Guilin, nestled quietly and cozily in the famed blue Karst Mountains. There was very little electricity. Very few vehicles, a few old trucks mostly, but there were plenty of rickshaw taxis and bicycles.
We climbed by foot, a through a steep, narrow path up the ‘Piled Silk Mountain.’ (That’s the nickname given by locals, but I’m don’t remember the actual name.) We made it to the top to visit the pagoda. The panoramic views in any direction from atop was well worth the climb. I would only suggest (or at least highly recommend) this trek only for those with youth, stamina or strength. This was one of the most challenging physical feats I’ve ever encountered.
Nearby is a treacherous mountain road where I learned to pray with sincerity, relevance, and passion. Needless to say, I have no desire to do this again.
In the heart of the village which straddles the river Li, is an old traditional Tea House in the middle of a long ‘Z’ bridge. While going there, locals warned us ‘mind the bats.’ We waited till early dusk to walk to the Tea House for the traditional tea when out of nowhere a black horde of bats came swarming over the entire area from a what seemed a million local caves. The villagers all fell to the ground, and as a bat swooped directly into my face (and attached itself to my proboscis) I too, immediately fell to the ground. The sound they produced was eerie and beyond Hitchcockian, while the constant flapping of their wings was nerve-shattering.
After five full minutes of lying frozen, and struggling to separate my ‘nosey’ friend, all of the creatures disappeared as quickly as they had arrived. The locals explained this happened every morning at sunrise and every evening at sunset. And this ended our stay in Guilin, heading towards the Great Wall. (But that’s another story…) Thank You for letting me share my adventure with you. , Jerry Shipman~