Sunday, October 5: After Vivian and I finally leave her brother’s house, we zoom down a dirt road along a steep drop-off at what I think is a perilous speed. No matter. Vivian is an excellent motorbike driver at any speed. She tells me that when her husband rides on the back of her motorbike, he’s always chastising her for going too fast. When she rides in his van with him, she’s always haranguing him about his speed. We both agree that when we’re not in the driver’s seat, we always think the driver is going too fast, no matter the situation. That being said, I don’t get too nervous with Vivian even when she does go fast, except on the one little stretch as we leave her brother’s house, where it’s a downhill bumpy dirt road with that vertical drop-off.
We’re heading back the way we came because Vivian had earlier pointed out a tea plantation on a distant mountain and I asked if we could go there. We head toward Yangshuo but take a side road to get to the plantation entrance.
Before we get to this detour, Vivian stops on a short stretch of road and asks if I’d like to drive the motorbike. I’d liken it to learning to ride a bike for the first time. I start in fits, not accelerating enough, and then accelerating too much. I don’t topple over, but I don’t feel comfortable either, especially not enough to drive on these mountain roads with Vivian on the back. I hand over the handlebars to Vivian and we continue on our happy way.
According to the Yangshuo Insider, Seven Star Tea Plantation is about 12 km north of Yangshuo “on the scenic and hilly village road to Husband Mountain and ancient Stone Village with views across the Li River Valley, rice fields, and kumquat orchards and lots of fresh air.”
Finally, the mystery of the small oranges with edible peels is solved. The orchards all over the mountains north of Yangshuo are covered not in orange orchards but in kumquat orchards. I’m so glad I stumbled upon this piece of information in Yangshuo Insider, because I was quite perplexed about the fruit that Vivian was describing.
The Seven Star Tea Plantation offers a tour and the opportunity to pick and dry the tea in the traditional way followed by a tea tasting and introduction to the Chinese tea ceremony. I’m not really interested in all of that today. I just want to walk around the plantation. There’s a huge tasting room filled with Chinese families, but I just buy the ticket to the plantation and we hop on Vivian’s motorbike to go up to the top of the mountain by dirt road.
We hop off the motorbike and head up a stepped walkway to the top of the hill. Vivian makes herself comfortable on one of the steps and tells me to take my time. I walk around looking for good vantage points. The views are marvelous. The tea bushes are lined up in neatly trimmed rows on the mountainsides and, down below, I can see farmland, mountains and the karst landscape in every direction.
Some people have donned the conical hats offered by the plantation and are picking tea. Vivian has shown me that only the most tender shoots are the ones to be picked.
I come upon a gazebo that has seen better days. At the top of the decrepit steps is a hole in the floor, and the structure is leaning like the Tower of Pisa. I wouldn’t make the mistake of climbing in for a view, although it’s tempting.
I pass whole families picking tea in their cute little hats.
I love tea plantations. They’re so picturesque. This is the first plantation I’ve seen in China, but I visited the Boseong Tea Plantation in Korea two times:
Finally, Vivian and I make our way back to Yangshuo and the hotel. At the end of our tour, she tells me her odometer measured our trip at 80 km. My behind and my back are feeling every bit of those 80 kilometers, so I’m happy to get off that bike. It was great fun all around though. Though I was a little annoyed by the stop at her brother’s house, it was an experience to see how rural Chinese families live. And on top of that, I got to watch some Chinese daytime drama on TV. 🙂
After our tour, I return for an early and quiet dinner to Rock-n-Grill, where Audrey and her friend Sarah took me on Friday night. The food doesn’t seem nearly as good as it was that night; without the wine and the great company, it paled by comparison.
Tomorrow evening, I have to head back to Nanning. Before I go though, in the morning, I’m planning to take a bamboo raft down the Yulong River.