Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Biking in the Karsts

Wow! This is the most fun since I started this trip. I rented a bike and just headed out into the fertile countryside. Far away from the commercial tourist traps I met some real people, farmers mostly. This is a very fertile land between the karsts. You can see lots of vegetables growing in the foreground. They basically cultivate every foot of level ground. The world keeps getting smaller and smaller. There were plenty of one room houses, but they all had a satellite dish and probably a cell phone too. Cell coverage is ubitiquitous here. The little karst in the center has a cell tower on top of it. Riding country roads is the way to go. There were two cars in an hour and a half of riding. There were mothers with little babies strapped to their backs, women carrying two baskets over their shoulders, men an women tending fields by hand and families gathered around tables playing a card game with very narrow cards. Here's a picture of a grandfather/grandson and the family bull... At least I think it's a bull. This area will probably be a rice paddy at the next harvest. As I rode along I had to dodge the family roosters. With all this cultivation, I did not see a single tractor. Another surprise was the groves of orange trees. This is China's Florida. The juice at the inn is fresh squozen (my word) every morning.

The way they irrigate is really interesting too. They build a series of weirs across the river and force all the water thru one sluice with a round shape. Somehow this makes a vortex with enough umpph to force some of the water up a three foot inclined pipe. Based on careful checking there is NO PUMP no electricity. It just works. Amazing!
But the highlight of the whole excursion was coming across this work in progress. This is a waterwheel made of bamboo that the family had just finished rebuilding. I say rebuilding because the stonework and the axle were definitely old. As you can see the bamboo handiwork is brand new. As I arrived he had just finished strapping (with what looked like aluminum baling wire in the foreground) the first bamboo bucket. I watched as it poured the first batch of water in a stone trough at the top of the picture that looked like it had been dry for a long time. They did not speak of word of English, but the celebratory mood was clear.

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