Yesterday we hired a car and went to two tourist destinations outside of Kunming. For you geologists in the audience, you will be pleased to know they each consist of Karst formations. The Stone Forest is 1.5 hours southeast of Kunming. The formations their are mostly towers and and very narrow canyons left behind when the softer rock eroded away. Words, as do photos, fail me. We spent hours wandering through narrow canyons, down staircases, up staircases and through door-sized arches. The whole area was very well developed (you probably guessed as much, when I mentioned staircases). We started at a new ticket building. Like many public buildings in China it was made of stone and had slippery marble floors. Once we had our tickets, we went outside and learned we should buy more tickets for the trolley to take us to the actual gate to the park.
After the five minute ride to the gate to the park, it was just a five minute walk to the actual trails. As mentioned, down stairs, up stairs, around rocks and through arches. We took pictures.
After three hours of wandering we took the trolley back to the headquarters. For reasons I do not understand, the trolley dropped us at a different building from where we had purchased tickets (and more importantly agreed to meet our driver). Because all the buildings are stone with slippery marble floors, it took us a little while to figure out that we were not at the right place. Eventually we found our driver and he took us to lunch.
After lunch (egg and tomato soup, eggplant, peas and meat, and "pockmarked grandmother's tofu,") we went to "nine countrysides" which is a canyon that heads into and through a cavern. Again, the trail was paved with rock. The rain had stopped so the trails were not as slippery as they were in the Stone Forest. The deal included a boat ride and more stairs up and down. The path followed the stream into a very nice cavern. Our guess is the trail went through the cavern for at least a mile. Before the last set of stairs we came to a sign that offered a "pole slide service." It turned out that was a sedan chair ride, but we declined. Once we finished the last set of stairs we were able to get a "rope lift" a.k.a chairlift, to the top.
Then a two hour drive back to the hotel. Before dinner I went for a walk through the nearby park. One area of the park had a barbed wire fence with many notes and pictures stuck on the wires. Folks were gathered in small groups and some were reading the notes. I have no idea what it was all about. Then we went to treat Will to some western food at Salvador's. Will ran into at least four people he knew from TFC, including two supervisor types. All of them are great.
Today is Sunday (Saturday evening in Albuquerque) I am headed out for a short jog. Then Tessa and I will probably go shopping, to lunch and then the airport. I look forward to being home, but am not excited for the flight back.