Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Day 116: Around Datong - Wed 19 Jun, 2013

Day 116: Around Datong - Wed 19 Jun 2013
Woken by rumble and screech of endless trucks carrying coal downhill. Off to walk up through spectacular Hanging Monastery perched on side of
Cuiping Peak (only 4 of us went in when rest saw it was $21pp though). Monks are no longer in residence. Complex has 44 interjoining rooms, built so high to cut off noise, smell and sound, thereby maximising full meditation. 


The temple building is the oldest in China which amalgamates the three religions of Buddism, Taoism and Confucianism. 


GirlRob climbed OK until level 3, outdoor pathways seemed to narrow the higher climbed, floors of ancient wood, massive wooden poles cut into rock supporting whole structure - then suffered vertigo, clutching at rails to stop the spinning.

Looking in tiny cells at hard wooden bed with chamber pot slot underneath, tried to imagine monks daily life (and to wonder how many they lost overboard??) 

Breathed more freely once safely down on more level ground.

Don't step back to get a better shot Miles...


Back to vehicles via dam at gorge-end and tunnel with waterfall.

Following lunch, went on to Datong - awful awful town, heavily industrialised, full of scrap metal heaps and grotty machinery shops, home to huge coal mine and associated complex including high rise housing, old dirty coat trucks, coal dust in air covering everything, grease and black mud on ground, multiple chimneys against sharp mountains (quite reminiscent of Mount Isa in one part).

How eerie - felt we were driving into Mount Isa in Oz.....


Parked in carpark of Datong Grottoes, but (for the first time) Wanderoos didn't go in with others to view. Took the time to get down wheeled duffle bags from top boxes and pack for upcoming weekend in Beijing with sister Kerry and family who are flying up from Shanghai to visit and explore China’s capital with us. Called Ukraine embassy 30 times (literally!!) to try and find out how many days to get a visa, consulate staff answered but never put through to visa section. On to Great Wall, first glimpse of mud walls awesome. Past army convoy, all new trucks, very young faces in back. An alarm went off in Guy’s vehicle - oops, stove left on from lunch, smoke set off fire alarm! He had been trying to fix his Webasto at Grotto carpark; will he join us in Beijing on Webasto repairs? Passed through another dreadful coal town, people hand-sorting coal lumps, unbelievably primitive. Then passed an accident, motorcycle totally underneath coal truck’s front wheels, didn’t look good for rider...

On the northern outskirts of Datong, came across our first remnants of Great Wall, and rammed earth mud fortress, where we were to camp for night. Had fun squeezing our vehicles through arched opening to village beyond, holding our breath as Miles’ vehicle just scraped through.

Villagers were friendly curious people, the children initially shy, then intrigued by seeing themselves on camera, putting their “fighting kangaroo” stickers on shirts or faces (some of the little koalas came back on sticks, like puppets, the next day). Village women parked themselves nearby (then on our chairs and steps!), and closely watched everything we did. They beckoned us over to where children were feeding a tethered goat to take more photos.

Sharing precious water

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