Friday, February 13: After Alex and I emerge from the dense inside of the Major Stone Forest Scenic Area, we head to the perimeter road to retrace our minibus ride on foot. The sky is blue, the air is crisp, and wispy clouds are sweeping across the sky, making the Stone Forest more picturesque than it already is. We enjoy walking around and stopping in the grassy areas to enjoy the views.
We learn a lot from the placards in the park: The Stone Forest is composed of stone pillars of varying heights. The higher ones are called stone forest and the shorter ones stone teeth. The Stone Forest evolves from underground. The carbonate rock was initially eroded by groundwater; and then, embryonic stone teeth took shape underground. After they were exposed above ground during tectonic uplift, they became stone teeth. When these stone teeth grew higher, they became stone forest. We can imagine that the stone forest’s development is a dynamic process; the stone teeth today may become stone forest in the future.
We continue to walk and come to the Bushaoshan Scenic Area on the eastern side of the Major Stone Forest Area. It covers one and half square kilometers. Bushao Mountain was named after the posts for the patrolling guards of uprising farmers in the late Qing dynasty. The rock peaks and pillars spread out in picturesque disorder, together with the surrounding pine forest, creating gorgeous natural scenery. Due to its relatively high elevation (the highest peak at 1,796 m), you can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire surroundings of the Major and Minor Stone Forest.
We’re getting exhausted from our travel this morning from Kunming. We also did a lot of climbing up and down on the steps in the dense part of the Stone Forest, and now we’re covering a lot of ground as well. Alex lies down on the grass to take a break.
There are some peaks in the park the Chinese call “imaginal stones.” They are stones that look like imaginary characters: This isolated stone column is very like a figure, wearing a cowl-like hat worn in winter, with a packsack on his shoulder and a whip in his left hand, urging the flock of sheep. This is the “Shepherd Suwu.” Suwu was the diplomatic envoy sent by Emperor Hanwu to Xiongnu. He was put under arrest and became a shepherd for 19 years.
A towering stone column looks like an old man who is hunchbacked, wearing a robe and standing on the field with his hands clasped behind his back. He looks like a “calm wanderer,” deep in thought and satisfaction.
There is a tall rock column and short one, very like the figures of a mother bringing her child along. The front one is the mother, looking perfectly calm, kindly and decorous with a youngster of Sani nationality behind her. They are wandering slowly among the stone columns; the formation is called Wandering Mother with Child.
In general, the color of the Stone Forest is light gray. But you may also find red, brown and yellow patches on the rock pillars. However, these are not the original color of the rock, which is whitish gray. After the rock is outcropped and exposed, it is subjected to weathering and colonization of microorganisms, in particular the growth of algae. These processes have changed the color of the rock surface.
Some near-horizontal lines are commonly seen on the rocks in the Stone Forest. These lines are the bedding of rocks. Bedding is the intrinsic feature of carbonate rock that developed through gradual bottom-up deposition, stratum by stratum, in the process of carbonate rock formation in oceanic water. As growth rings are to a tree, bedding is to limestone. A bedding plane generally aligns parallel to water surface, below which the rock deposits. When the carbonate rock undergoes weathering and erosion, fissures are likely to form along the bedding plane. They are the horizontal lines we see today. One of the critical conditions for the stone forest’s evolution is that the bedding plane should retain its original near-horizontal alignment. In the case of a large inclination angle, the stone pillar will slide and collapse along the bedding plane.
A sign in the park lists the world renowned sites of stone forest landform as being 1) Stone Forest of Yunnan, China; 2) Bemarsha, Madagascar; 3) Gunung Mulu, Malaysia; and 4) Mt. Kaijende, Papua New Guinea.
The Stone Forest of Yunnan has been inscribed upon the World Heritage List of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural Land Natural Heritage. Inscription on this list confirms the outstanding universal value of a cultural or natural property which deserves protection for the benefit of all humanity.
The Wannianlingzhi (Eternal Mushroom) Scenic Area sits on the west side of the Major Stone Forest Scenic Area and covers about 3 square kilometers. The area features expansive and undulating landscape. High and low rock pillars are scattered sparsely among haystack hills and corroded depressions. The rocks present distinctive strata due to intensive stratification. A great many mushroom-like pillars of varying sizes tapering toward the peak were formed as a result of corrosion and rock crush, hence the name Wannianlingzhi (Eternal Mushroom).
We walk briefly into this scenic area, and we can see the “eternal mushrooms” on the hill in the distance, but we’re too tired to walk all the way up to it. We end our detour in the midst of farmland and rolling hills and return to the perimeter road.
One of the “eternal mushrooms” met an early demise.
We leave the Wannianlingzhi Scenic Area and head back to the perimeter road, where by now we’re exhausted. We keep seeing the tour minibuses zip past on the road, going in the opposite direction. We try to flag several down, but they are all filled to the brim with people and keep zooming past. Our legs are killing us by now, and we’re utterly exhausted, but we have no choice but to keep walking.
Finally, we make our way back to the park entrance. We still have to walk the 500 meters back to our hotel. The whole excursion has been tiring, but it’s been a gorgeous day full of stunning scenery, and we’re exhausted in a good way.
When we return to the hotel, we head immediately to the hotel restaurant and get a kitchen worker’s attention. We’re the only ones there, but the woman takes our food order after we make our choices using my WayGo translation app. We’re so happy to finally have a meal to eat, having eaten just some bread snacks in the park.
Tomorrow, we’ll head back to Kunming. We’ve decided we’re going to have a driver take us back, no matter the cost, just to avoid the bus and that East Kunming bus station.