Language, linguistics and travel. A blog that tries to bring them all together.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Journey Continues...Wulingyuan

I've been back home for two months and all that time the urge to complete my travel blog has has consumed me. Now the time has arrived to finish it off.

I set out in April 2006 with a mission to travel from Cambodia to Japan via Vietnam and China, with the aim of speaking the language in each of the countries. To do this I used my Fetch-a-Phrase D.I.Y. Phrasemakers, each of which gave me the ability to create thousands of basic sentences in each of the languages en route. It worked amazingly well, particularly the Japanese version as it was written during a two day boat trip from Shanghai to Osaka and was ill-formed. More about that as I finish off this blog but suffice to say it was a very successful journey

I left off in the middle of China and now it's time to return there...

Wulingyuan National Park

By Chinese standards, Wulingyuan National Park was heinously expensive. For the equivalent of $30, half a month's wages for many the average Chinese worker, we were given a credit card-like ticket and electronically finger printed before being allowed in. On the other side of the turnstile a convoy of shiny, new purple buses sat waiting to take the visitors deeper into the park.

As in American National Parks, the majority of the people preferred to stick to the main routes and viewing areas. On the map these were highlighted in bold red. I decided to strike off on one of the lesser blue trails. I asked a nearby Chinese tourist if I was at the correct trail head, pointing at my map as I did so. Full of concern, he suggested I not take this particular route, "There will be no people," he warned, as if being alone were a horrific idea. "It will take five hours!" he continued, his eyes growing wide.
I thanked him profusely and set off . He was right, during the entire five hours I saw no one except a few people doing maintenance.

The views were astounding. Millions of years of erosion had separated skyscraper-sized spires of rock from the main body of the surrounding hills. Enormous and independent, they rose from the valley floor like a collection of phenomenal phalluses, each wearing a bonnet of rain forest with tufts of foliage clinging precipitously to crannies down the length. The faraway canyon floor was a sea of Jurrasic green that created a landscape so primitive and forbidding it was easy to imagine having to duck in order to avoid the talons of a pteradactyl.

Dropping to the valley floor, I joined the 'Highlighted Tourist Route" where hoards of Chinese and Koreans were standing in front of strategic sculptures posing for pictures or examining the trinkets they'd bought at the souvenir stalls. At first I pitied them missing the magnificence I'd just seen, then I followed the path they'd just taken. It followed an ancient stream bed that was lined on both sides by great monoliths of rock that stretched so far upwards, they gave the illusion of bending outwards over my head. It was like walking down a serpentine avenue of rounded off, clay skyscrapers.

For two days I wandered the park, trying to make sense of the scenery. Stripped of its vegetation, it would have been indistinguishable from parts of southern Utah and, like the national parks there, consistently challenged my eyes to accept what was being shown to them.


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