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The Freaky Sikou Sandstone Gorges

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya Situated around sixty kilometers from Zhongwei City is the new play ground for the Chinese tourists. It is an area opened only several years ago filled with a few temples and caves all located in sandstone gorges that were formed millions of years ago by both earthly upheavals and rushing water. Now it has been broken into two parts; the east playground and the west playground. Thankfully the admission fee of 60 Yuan per person gets you into both. Several nights ago Luo Wei spent about fifteen minutes negotiating with a taxi driver for a days taxi hire and finally got him down to 150 Yuan. Then he seemed to think it would take from around 8:30am to 6:00pm to get there, walk around and return to Zhongwei City. We also negotiated the cost of the taxi for the two of us. When he arrived the back seat was filled with his wife and child. We thought that he was dropping them off somewhere on the way but at no stage during the journey there did they depart the taxi. When we arrived they all just walked freely into the park and we had to pay an admission fee each. That was ok by me. I have seen many places in China and over the past several weeks so has Luo Wei. With our admission fee came a cute Chinese guide that explained everything to Luo Wei as we walked and she translated it to me. Most of it was interesting but there was also the usual 'this rock looks like an elephant or a chicken doing handstands' type thing which always passes over my head with a deep sigh whilst I am thinking 'do you really need to add such stupid things to keep people entertained'. I mean seriously, this place was really cool enough without the chickens and other mind boggling visions that someone came up with whilst on some sort of 'trip'. The eastern half, which is the first half of the adventure, was the most dramatic. For over an hour you walk through a huge gorge that was split into two by huge earthquakes millions of years ago. The rocks tower over you and massive boulders lay trapped and suspended in mid fall laying in wait for a time when the gorge splits even further apart to flatten the poor tourist below them. Thankfully we got through the visit without any earth movements! Halfway though the walk you begin to climb the left side and soon you arrive at a temple that just like most 'hanging temples' must have been built by freaky monks freaking out on some sort of freaky mind altering drug that made one of them sit up and say; Hey guys, I've got this great idea! Let us build a temple way up there! Where? Up there, half way up that freaky cliff over there! We can spend a million hours carting heavy beams and statues up there for no reason! Yeah! Yeah! I feel it! Let's carry all those really freaking heavy things up there for no reason and then let's have to walk up and down the cliff face every morning and evening for no reason also! Yeah! Yeah! I feel it! Once again I sat there bewildered as to why in the world any one would want to build a temple in such a place. Back then there would have been steel ladders and walk ways. Even now they are very steep in most places and most left Luo Wei out of breath. Back then maybe monks were right into rock climbing and bungee jumping! We finished the Eastern section and left the cute Chinese guide behind and within minutes we arrived at the Western Section and once again the taxi driver and his family walked freely into the park. This made Luo Wei even angrier and by now I was beginning to question things. The Western section is much smaller than the Eastern section. At the beginning they try to make you pay to climb a rock wall and after you decline you continue to the suspension bridge than hangs high above you between two huge cliff faces. You then begin your climb up the left cliff face and just when you arrive at the small rock cave they then spring it upon you that you have to pay 15 Yuan each to cross the suspension bridge. <u>Before I go any further, the story is this:</u> A King sent a man here to feed a flock of sheep (or goats). He lived in one cave and the sheep lived in the cave on the other cliff face. They all lived here happily for nineteen years. Each morning he would whistle and the sheep or goats would run down the cliff face and he would feed them and they would all then rush back to their caves. That is the short story of the two caves the suspension bridge hangs between! Ok back to my other story! So you think, it is only fifteen Yuan each, why not pay. When you finish your climb and have just been told you must pay more money to cross a bridge you take your ticket out of your pocket to see if you were right, and of course you were. One of the main pictures on the ticket is the suspension bridge, so you begin to question, why do you have to pay? Then what makes you really REALLY mad and I mean really really REALLY mad is the fact that you have to pay and there is no negotiating the cost and whilst you are arguing with the bridge bugger the taxi drivers son happily crosses the bridge for free. It is then that your day is spoilt and you tell every one around you to fark off! You then walk back the way you have came and head to the next destination the Reclining Buddha, which actually looks as though it was built and painted about two weeks prior to your arriving. By now you can't be bothered anymore and simply head back to the taxi. On the way back to the city you thank the taxi driver for bringing his family along and then ask his son if he enjoyed his time crossing the suspension bridge which is one of the main reasons you actually went there in the first place. His wife then begins to add her two cents worth as to why it is fair that they get in to both parks for free and not have to pay for anything once they are in there. When you arrive back in the city you throw the taxi driver a bundle of Yuan that is much less than what you agreed on. He then looks at you with eyes that say; What have I done wrong! These are the eyes that you will find staring at you all the way through your adventure in Ningxia Province. When you point to a picture of a bowl of noodles on the wall that says five Yuan and once you have finished and go to pay they point to a small menu list on the other wall and ask you to pay more. When you question as to why they didn't tell you when you ordered from the picture, they simply look at you with eyes that say; 'what have I done wrong!' When you get happily get into a cab and arrive ready to pay what is on the meter the cab driver then asks you for more money and explains that you should pay his parking for the past hour before you even got into his cab you then angrily throw the metered fare at him and he looks at you with those eyes that say; 'What have I done wrong!' Yes, this is pretty much Ningxia Province my friends. I have not worried too about most of it and simply what the 'what I know to be right'. Many places we have gone Ningxia Province has left Luo Wei deeply hurt and angry as to why her own people have treated her they way they have. I'm used to people trying to get a little more from me as most think I am the usual American Tourist that is over here for a week or two, loaded with cash and ready to pay what ever is asked. No dig at them as how would they know any different being here for such a little time. I paid the same when I first began traveling and most people do. Whether they like to tell you the truth or not. I have since found out that this province is very well known for such things and that is part of the reason that most Chinese Tourists don't come here. The government forgot them for political reasons and I guess 'people differences' were the reasons that the rest of the country forgot them but now, I do believe greed has become one of the major factors for the lack of internal tourists. For those coming to China and want to travel weird and wonderful places do include Ningxia Province. If I wasn't traveling with Luo Wei I wouldn't have many of these feelings as I wouldn't be experiencing them from in insiders point of view. I would though have noticed a big difference in the amount of people trying to get an extra penny of two from me and my usual care free attitude towards such things would have toppled a time or two but getting past that, it really is an amazing Province to visit. The scenery is truly amazing and the sites are very much, not only tourist free but happily Chinese Tour Group free. There are no yellow peeked hats or mega phones here, most sites have a lower entrance fee than in other provinces and thankfully what you get to see here is truly spectacular. Sadly though, food and hotels are not as inexpensive as you would think. In fact they are much more expensive than what I thought they would be. So we have only one more destination left to visit here in Ningxia Province and I for one am hoping that we will meet someone that will be as open and helpful as nearly everyone else I have met here in China over the past nearing four years. Not only that mate! I am also hoping to meet someone that Luo Wei will take to and that will help allow her to remember all the good things we have seen here in Ningxia Province. If we don't I do believe that it will be put directly to the bottom of her list of places to visit and people to meet. I guess my only advice for anyone who desires to travel here is simply to ask twice what the cost is and what it involves. Secondly, if you hire a cab and it has other people in it when it arrives, simply smile and hire another one unless you are happy to pay the cab drivers family excursion. Oh yeah, one more thing! There is now actually a public bus that takes you from the town and firstly to the Eastern section and then to the Western section (even though both are only ten minute walk between). I have no idea where it leaves from or what time but our guide told Luo Wei that there is one and wasn't too happy at all with out Taxi Driver. We asked at several places but no one seemed to know and nor were they willing to give any details to us. No wonder when all tourist places charge three hundred Yuan for the day and that doesn't include the entrance fee to the parks! Beers N Noodles toya.....shane _________________________________________________________ The soundtrack to this entry was by White Zombie The album was 'Supersexy Swingin Sounds' __________________________________________________________

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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