Friday, November 21: After I finish posing for photos wearing the traditional costume, I climb back up to the Seven Stars with Moon viewpoint, all the while looking for a path to Longji Ancient Zhuang Village and the Longji Rice Terraces. I climb all the way to the top, and having seen no paths at all branching off of the main path, I walk back down again. This is only the first time I become what some might call “misplaced” on my long day’s hike.
Finally, I find a path about midway down the mountain that appears to head west. I had passed this path before but a sign said the path was for farmers only. However, this time, I notice that the path actually splits in two. One is just a dirt path; I believe that to be the farmer’s path. The other one is paved with stones, and that seems to have no sign at all. I think this may be the path to Longji. I go ahead and take the gamble because I’ve seen on the map that the path to Longji should branch somewhere off of this main path toward the west.
I walk for quite a while along this path, maybe 15 minutes, admiring the beautiful rice terraces along the way. I come to this little covered bridge where I sit for a spell.
I continue along the path. Sometimes I’m flanked by steep banks to the right and forest to the left. I love all the ornamental grasses and some of the autumn colors I see along the way.
During my walk in the woods, it would NOT have been pleasant had my stomach acted up. However, it would have been convenient. I could have easily stepped off into the ornamental grasses without a soul seeing me. But it behaved itself during the entire hike in the woods, much to my relief.
Finally, after about a half hour, I begin to spot signs of human habitation. Most of the time, I’ve had this path to myself, although I did pass a couple of small families headed in the opposite direction. They seemed to be tourists, as they were dressed up as the Chinese usually are when they travel; they definitely didn’t look like farmers.
Finally I seem to be on the outskirts of Longji. The houses are still spread far apart, but the further I go down the road, they congregate into increasingly close-knit huddles. I pass this woman working along the roadside, but she doesn’t even look up. I guess she’s used to seeing tourists in these parts.
Soon after I pass this farmer lady, while on the outskirts of the village but not in the thick of it, suddenly I feel my stomach churning. It is letting its mind be known and I begin to panic. I look around at my options. I see a woman walking across the road close by; she’s carrying two baskets on a bamboo pole. I’ve found the Chinese don’t often understand the word “toilet” but they more often understand “WC.” I say to the woman, my voice probably sounding desperate. “WC?? WC??” She waves me off, though I don’t know how she does it when balancing that bamboo pole over her shoulders. She obviously doesn’t want to have any interaction with a foreigner. She walks behind a building along the side of the road and quickly disappears.
By now I’m calculating whether I can run back to the deserted path through the woods and fields, or if I can find a bathroom VERY SOON on this village road. If worse comes to worst, I may have to crouch down right on top of one of the rice terraces, behind whatever tuft of grass I can find. I look at the building nearest me. It doesn’t look like a house; it looks sort of like a warehouse of some kind. I think maybe I can sneak behind the building. I go to the backside of it and HALLELUJAH!! It’s a bathroom! It’s not marked as such on the side facing the road, but on the backside, there it is, two doors, one male and one female. I’m saved!
Oh sweet relief! I, who have traveled through some of the most notorious countries in the world for causing stomach problems, including India for 3 weeks, have hardly ever had this kind of problem while traveling. I guess I’ve been lucky so far. Let me tell you, it is NO FUN to have to worry about this when you’re far from home. At this point, I begin to wonder if I should have stayed in bed another day.
As I cannot allow myself to choose turning back, I continue on. I think I’m good for a while, and I have come all this way. I come upon some new and being-constructed buildings along the road, but I can see the Old Village down the hillside. I can also see a long curvy road upon which a lot of tourists are walking. I keep walking ahead.
Now the terraces are becoming more dramatic. There is a deep valley and lots of mountains with terraces cut into all of them. Of course my camera won’t capture the ones on the opposite side of the valley because it’s too foggy and cloudy.
I pass a pretty little stream along the way. I’m loving all the ornamental grasses I’m seeing today.
Finally, I reach the hugest rice terraces I’ve seen here. They look like slices of turkey layered on a huge platter. Of course the rice has all been harvested, but here the terraces are filled with water, and that gives them a different look altogether.
I keep walking along the upper road, but I can see there is a lower road where people are walking. I determine that after I go to the end of this road, I’ll return on this lower road.
The landscape is amazing!! I just can’t believe how gorgeous it is. The only thing that would make it better is if it were BEFORE the harvest and the sky were blue. Or if it were sunrise or sunset.
The beauty of it takes my breath away. I’m stunned by the amount of work that has gone into building these terraces over the centuries. According to China Highlights: Longji Terraced Fields, the terraces were first built in the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368) and were completed in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) by the Zhuang people and Yao people. The irrigation methods used make the best use of the scarce arable land and water resources in this mountainous area. There are about 66 square kilometers of terraced fields in southeast Longsheng County.
Eventually, after takings scores of photos, I begin to walk back along the lower road. I assume it will lead into the Longji Ancient Zhuang village and then back up the hillside to the road, where I can retrace my steps back to Ping’An.
As I’m walking, two beautifully dressed young Chinese ladies ask me if I’ll take their photograph. When people ask me for this favor, I don’t hesitate to ask for the favor in return. This is the picture they take of me.
I get closer and closer to the village.
Before long, I’m at the edge of the village. I know the road back to Ping’an is up the hill, so I venture into the village, knowing that I just need to go uphill when I’m ready to leave.
I make my way out of this ancient village easily enough, and I walk uphill through more terraces and farmland.
I sit on the stone steps to take a breath and this is my view of the farmland.
As I get higher, I see I’m about to enter another village. I figure again that I’ll once again head uphill when I’m ready to leave this village.
The problem is that once I’m in the village and surrounded by the buildings, I can’t tell what is up and what is down. I pass by some ladies chatting around their motorbikes and I head off in what I think is an upward direction. After walking and walking and walking around and about on convoluted walkways, I return right back to the point where the ladies are talking around their motorbikes. I’ve come full circle. By this time, I’m exhausted and I really want to get on the path to Ping’An.
A little girl standing with the women says “Hello!” I think, “Oh boy, someone who can speak English!” I say to the girl, “Road to Ping’An?” She points up a hill in the direction I already walked, the direction where I got lost. She’s with her grandmother, who beckons her to lead me. The girl runs ahead, with her grandmother following behind, and at the next crossroad, she points in one direction. I still recognize this as the direction I walked before and got lost. The little girl wants to stop at every crossroad, but I really want her to take me all the way to the road. I pull out a 10 yuan bill and show it to her. “For you, road to Ping’An.” At each crossroad, she wants to take the 10 yuan bill, but I hold it back each time: “Road to Ping’An” I continue to remind her. Finally, I see the road on which I came into Longji and I hand over the 10 yuan. “Xiexie,” I tell her. Thank you!
Finally, I’m on the road that will lead me to the footpath back to Ping’An.
I keep walking down the road. I pass by my life-saving bathroom, so I know I’m going in the right direction. I’m looking for the trail to Ping’An off the main road but I don’t see it. The road curves sharply to the left, as in a switchback, and though this part doesn’t look familiar, I keep following the road which heads sharply uphill. There isn’t a soul in sight to ask whether I’m going in the right direction. Finally, at the top of the very long and steep hill, I see a woman out in her yard. I say “Ping’An?” as I point up the hill. She points back downhill in the direction I just came and shakes her head. No, Ping’An is back down the hill, she gestures. Though I’ve wasted a lot of effort walking up this hill, at least I’m glad to discover that my instinct was right that nothing looked familiar.
As I get to the switchback point, I ask a farmer: “Ping’An?” He gestures for me to follow him. We head off on another path that I still don’t recognize but I follow anyway. I figure he must know what he’s doing as he’s a local. Finally, we reach a point where I originally took a picture of this sign, so I recognize where I am. The farmer leaves me at this point, taking off on another path. Sweet relief. By this time I’m exhausted and my legs are sore, I’m dying to get back to the hostel where I can put my feet up.
Now I’m back in familiar territory, surrounded by steep banks and rice terraces and ornamental grasses waving in the breeze, as if they’re cheerleaders encouraging me on my long walk back.
I’m also very thirsty at this point, as I haven’t had a drink all day. I see this shack ahead, and thinking it’s a place I can buy a drink, I pick up my pace. Sadly, I find it’s nothing but an abandoned shack.
I keep thinking that once I reach the covered bridge, I’ll be almost back. Not quite true as this was 15 minutes into the walk. But I am happy to see it, and, as I did on the way out, I stop for a rest for a few moments.
Then I’m walking back around the rim of the Ping’An Terraces and I can recognize the contours of Seven Stars with Moon.
And I see some farmers doing a controlled burn on the hillside.
Finally, I arrive back at the hostel at 4:30 p.m. As I started on the path to Longji at 11:30, I’ve been hiking for 5 hours, not including the walk up and down the mountain to Seven Stars with Moon and the posing for the photos in the costume this morning.
I see the Memory Board on the wall of the hostel, but I don’t add anything to the wall. I just want to go into my room and lie down for a while.
At dinner, I don’t really want to eat anything because of my stomach. No Chinese food sounds appealing anyway. However, I figure I’d better put something into it because sometimes an empty stomach doesn’t feel good either. I order some toast and I drink several cups of hot water, as well as several bottles of cold water. It’s easy to get hot water at any Chinese establishment as the Chinese believe hot water is good for your health.
I’m planning to leave Ping’An in the morning. I’ll be going to Guilin where I’ve reserved a hotel room at the Guilin Sapphire Hotel. I figure there are some sights to see in Guilin, so I’ll play tourist for another day before returning to Nanning on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Sadly, my unexpected holiday will be over and I have to return to work on Monday.