Day 14 – 10/28/2011

Yangshuo – Guilin

After so many kilometers on highways and main roads, between villages and along off-road tracks, a little time spent on the water makes for a welcome change. On the morning of the 12th stage, the participants swap their trusty Audi Q3s for narrow bamboo rafts. But the drivers from the third group also make the most of their last kilometers on four wheels before reaching their final destination in Guilin. The tour baton is passed on here to the fourth group.

Pictures day 14

What a shame – this is the first morning of rain on the Trans China Tour. So far, the Chinese weather god has been smiling benevolently on our travels. The sun shone brightly over Beijing – a rarity. Bright sunshine over Shanghai – also not something to take for granted. Slight humidity and a somewhat murky sky over the region around Shenzhen – completely normal. And now, bang in the middle of a sub-tropical scenic paradise? It is surprisingly cold and wet. The last one hundred kilometers of yesterday’s stage saw the outside temperature drop by more than ten degrees, from 28 to 16 degrees Celsius. And this morning brought with it a light drizzle. This kind of nuisance is a rare thing indeed, according to our hotel manager. This area usually comes with a good weather guarantee. Usually.

But never mind. A morning boat trip beckons the participants – on the Yulong He, just outside of the city of Yangshuo. No torrential rapids here, rather a gently flowing river – but with a sensational backdrop. It is surrounded by towering karst hills, lush green mountains with steep rocky sides and a plethora of caves – although, on this particular morning, they are partially shrouded in mist. And two of the participants sink - they were a little restless on the narrow float made from a few bamboo sticks bound together.

At midday, the group sets off on the 12th stage. It takes them to the staging post of Guilin. The route is only 70 kilometers long, but has plenty to offer. Small, very narrow and winding country roads pass through tightly packed villages with lively markets and heaps of construction materials of all shapes and sizes all over the road. The thoroughfare is also shared by chickens, dogs and even entire herds of cattle, not to mention the familiar two, three, four, five or even six-wheeled small vehicles. As always, utmost caution is the order of the day.

Video day 14

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But the amazing landscape outshines everything. Lush fields of green – with rice being the crop of choice. The rice is cut and bound into small sheaves, the way cereals used to be bundled in Europe. The fields and villages are surrounded by high karst hills with steep rocky sides, sometimes hundreds of meters high.

Today’s destination is Guilin. The city on the Li Jang River is a dream destination for Chinese vacationers. The sweet aroma of the evergreen blossom trees (Osmanthus) lining the roads could be one reason, the nearby karst landscape is surely another. The impressive heights around the city bear striking names – Moon Tooth Hill, Elephant Trunk Hill and Folded Brocade Hill. Around one kilometer from the latter is the East Gate, a partially reconstructed gate from the original city wall.

For the participants in the Audi Q3 Trans China Tour 2011, the third wave ends at the finish line in front of the Homa Chateau Hotel, a little outside Guilin. The black and white checkered flag means goodbye to the tour through China – the next group arrives tomorrow. One final spectacle is offered, however, by the extremely modern and exquisitely designed Homa Chateau Hotel. The entire complex is a treasure of modern art. The owner is a passionate collector and patron of the country’s acclaimed artists. The global significance that Chinese artists now hold is something that the crew of the Trans China Tour had already learned in Beijing.

Day 14

Day 1