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Jiuzhaigou is one of the most magical places on earth. I have long been a
fan of travertine streams, but Jiuzhaigou is in a class of its own. Anyone
who has ever been to a Chinese restaurant has likely seen photos on the wall
as a representation of paradise. The waters are so crystalline yet mineral
laden that otherwise terrestrial plants grow underwater and rimstone grows
before your very eyes.
When I went there in 1988 despite the remote location it was already a
major tourism destination for privileged Chinese; i.e., those high up in the
It was my second trip to China and things had changed greatly from the
year before when I could go anywhere unmolested by the authorities. There
simply weren't any rules for Foreign Devils, and in China no one acted on
When I returned I took a series of riverboats up the Pearl river and
eventually arrived in Nanning. My intention was to explore the vast expanse of
karst to the north but the entire area was off limits. That of course in no
way deterred me so I used busses and tuktuks to make my way.
My intention was to climb Daming, a tall hard rock mountain north of
Nanning, so that I could look down on the endless Guangxi karst further north,
then ultimately make my way to Du' An.
When I got to the top of Daming I discovered a secret military
installation and was immediately busted. The top scientists spoke some
were flabbergasted and could not imagine how I had gotten there undetected.
I was ordered to leave immediately so I said, "sure, no problem". With that
I simply disappeared into the forest then made my way down the north side
of the mountain. Poof, gone!
I arrived in Xiyanzhen (I think), a little valley town that had never been
visited by outsiders. After checking in to the local rat infested hellhole
hotel I was visited by the Mayor, the head of the local Communist party,
and the local People's militia, all of whom insisted that I leave
immediately. They refused to believe that I had come from the sky (All I could
to point up the mountain). I am now astounded to see that a toll road runs
thorough that remote valley.
The same thing happened in Mashan, I was busted and booted out. Nobody
cared where I went as long as I was gone, so I headed north to Du' An.
Du' An was bigger place and I was exhausted so I checked into a larger
filthy hellhole hotel reserved for communist party officials and other
bigwigs. I went downstairs into the cavernous restaurant and there discovered
big round table filled with very serious looking bigwigs. They were utterly
astonished to see me.
A tall intelligent looking fellow stood up with a smile and said in
English, "Welcome my friend, we were just discussing you. We know all about
travels so I insist that you join us. I am the regional head of the Secret
police, this is Commander such and such, etc." Talk about busted!
He politely informed me that I was his "guest" until I could leave the
following day. (In the afternoon I still managed to sneak off and visit a
cave!) He made it very clear that I must take a specific bus back to Nanning.
Under no circumstances was I to take a different bus, tuktuk, mule cart, or
walk, nor could I leave the bus until it arrived in Nanning. I asked if I
could return provided that I got permission from the secret police in
Nanning. He said "sure" and thought it was a very funny request. (Everyone in
China was terrified of the Secret police, and no one in their right mind would
ask them for anything!)
Still undeterred I arrived at the headquarters. Once again they thought it
was very funny, don't you know who we are? The answer was a flat no, I
couldn't go back, nor could I leave Nanning by any means other than an
airplane. In fact I HAD to go to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, a
city where foreigners were welcome. (Ha!)
In Chengdu all foreigners, i. e. white people, were incarcerated in a high
rise hotel where the party never stopped. The Chinese considered us all to
be subhuman savages with no regard to sex so my dreams came true when an
old hag suddenly opened the door and thrust in two pretty young Canadian
girls! They didn't care what we did as long as they knew where we were.
Needless to say I wanted to escape but it was forbidden for a foreigner to
take any means of transportation out of town unless it was on a licensed
tour bus. I made many attempts but was refused even by tuktuk drivers for
the Chinese are damnably law abiding.
Eventually I gave in and signed up for a tour of the leading edge of the
Tibetan plateau. Many adventures occurred during which I tried to escape the
tour. In particular I tried to join a band of Tibetan nomads but the nasty
bus driver held my backpack hostage. I will never forgive myself for not
abandoning everything and joining the Tibetans.
So it was that I arrived in Jiuzhaigou. The bus took us to the head of the
magnificent valley. I could not bring myself to get back on the bus so I
snuck off into the forest. The driver still had my pack and I was trapped so
he simply left me and drove down to the big hotel at the entrance of the
valley many miles away. So it was that I had an opportunity to see the entire
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to remember that wonderful long ago
In a message dated 8/9/2017 10:54:29 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
Earthqake in China's Karst
Reported variously as a 6.5 or 7.0, an earthquake near the karst lakes of
Jiuzhaigou, on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau in SW China. This remarkable
karst area is similar to Plitvice Lakes, Croatia’s National Park and World
Heritage Site, on the other side of the Earth. In both places the water in
the lakes is precipitating large rimstone dams. The dams are actually
growing with time and the waterfalls at the outlet of the lakes are actually
growing taller with time.
At least 19 people have been killed, more than 250 injured, and many, many
tourists are trapped.
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