a pothole in jiulong

So I came back early. It was getting wet, which was slightly funny considering it hadn’t really dried, and trying to hang on in a slopey pocket filled with mud on greasy limestone was mostly an exersise in derangement. And coming back early was better than not coming back at all when I decided to side-pull off a tasty super-finger-loving flake that then – like the asteroid dwelling gargantuan moray eel in Empire Strikes Back turned out to be attached to a block half the size of a bar fridge which jumped at my leg before gently floating down to bash a crater in the rice paddies below. Lucky my leg was under something of an overhang so it just brushed past instead of trying to sit on it like a fat belligerent vampire baby. Yes, I screamed. I went, “eeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!”.

Climbing. Yeah. … I love Jiulong for climbing, but it really needs to be pummeled with a) a high-pressure hose to spray the mud where it belongs – in the fields, and b) always be approached with a hairdryer or a portable jet engine to dry out the slimy mud pockets that always lurk at the hardest moves ready to mug you like a sap who takes a shortcut down an ill-lit alley.

Besides the one climb of the day, we did a small amount of walking, the highlight being through the heart of one of the limestone spires, gutted by a stream and opening out inside into a vast black atrium. The good thing about caving is it’s always wet, so there’s no surprises when you stick your hand into something to hold onto … and it’s wet.

All this followed by a brisk return car ride through Qingyuan, which I think has taken the mantle from Dongguan of “shithole of the world”. I know it was pretty steamy and saturated with that South-East Asia fog/mist/hazy warm water mix that makes everything kinda poorly conceived and impenetrable, but that haze doesn’t normally stink of unique and different toxic miasmas every hundred meters. Nor is it usually yellow, grey, or corrosive. Qingyuan after all, was the city everyone was panicked for after the chemical plant upstream in Shaoguan dumped a load of poisonous sludge into the Bei Jiang a couple of months ago. I don’t know how pollution would be quantified in a place like this. Even our driver called it a shithole.