Psyched from our adventures of the day before, The Adventure Group was ready early on our second day to leave behind our less exciting friends and find more thrills.

The first travel agency we stepped into was not helpful. There was just one guy sitting there and he didn't seem interested in talking to us. So we walked the few feet to the next agency and found some much more helpful people.  We booked a trip to the water cave for the morning and rock climbing for the afternoon. The total was 238 RMB (36 USD) per person.

They drove us out into the countryside in a minivan and dropped us off at a ticket stand for the water cave. The traffic was a little crazy, it being a holiday weekend, but the scenery was beautiful.

This arch-shaped rock is called Moon Hill:

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From there we got on a dilapidated little bus with 15 or so other tourists. I walked to the empty seats at the back of the bus and just started laughing. The bus was falling apart. Really! You could see the road through large holes in the floor. One of the seats looked as though it were in the process of falling through the floor. We zoomed over small bumpy winding dirt roads on what was pretty much the most exciting (ie terrifying!) bus rides we’d ever been on. Any minute we thought the bus would come apart completely. It was awesome.

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Jo's foot over the hole in the floor. That is daylight you can see!

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Some more beautiful landscapes we were able to enjoy while simultaneously fearing for our lives.

   

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At the entrance to the cave there were lockers to store your valuables in and the 5 of us, knowing we intended to swim inside of the cave, decided to strip down to our swimsuits and leave everything else in a locker. None of the Chinese made this same decision.
Here are the instructions posted at the entrance:


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There were no helmets so I wonder why that was listed as a requirement. 
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The cave tour began in a little boat. We had to hunch over for the first few hundred meters to keep from hitting our heads on the low roof of the cave. Then we got out of the boats and walked through the rest of the cave. Our guide turned out to be a student who was just working there for the holiday weekend. She was nice, if a little nervous, and she pointed out the rock formations that looked like animals. I can't really remember her saying much else. We walked through to the end of the cave and then on the way back we stopped to enjoy the mud pool.

I love mud! I was so excited to jump into a big pool of mud!


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Floating in mud! I'm the one with the muddy face. I'd just gotten mud in my eyes which wasn't so fun but luckily my eyelids and tear ducts worked together to blink and cry the mud all out.

These are actually photos of the photos that the professional photo guy took. I didn't take Stacey into the mud with us. Matt took his camera and probably has lots of cool pictures from the cave but I guess we'll never know.
   

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Matt going down the mud slide.

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We rinsed off the mud in the cold running water coming from a spout in the wall. The next stop was the hot springs which, in my opinion, needed to be much closer to the mud pool. Have you ever wandered through a cave in nothing but a wet swimsuit? Brr. After soaking for a while in pools of naturally hot water we returned to the outside world.

The bus we took back to the main road was a much bigger and sturdier bus than the crazy little coming-apart-at-the-seams one we'd ridden on the way there. But all the same, we had to wait for the driver to figure out a way to secure part of the underneath of the bus that was hanging down in a way it was not supposed to be.

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At the end of that bus ride we were met by our rock climbing guides. They took us to get some lunch before we went on the the climbing of rocks.

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Not lady-like, I know, but I was sooo hungry! Swimming always makes me hungry and swimming in mud is no exception!

Matt found it funny when the guide apologized that lunch was so expensive. They've raised their prices because of the holiday, he explained. For a bowl of noodles and a bottle of water it was 8 RMB (1.24 USD).

And then it was on to the rock! The bandages I’d bought at a pharmacy that morning to protect my injured hand where not helpful and ended up coming off. Ouchie.

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But I thought I did pretty well, all things considered. I made it to the top of 2 different climbs but on the third one I got really tired about two thirds of the way up. I thought I could stop to rest by letting go of the rock and leaning back on the rope but this turned out to be a bad idea. I guess because of the slight outcropping above me, once I released my hold on the rock I fell back and found myself dangling out of reach of the wall. I twirled helplessly in the air as I flailed and kicked and tried to get back to the rock.

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“Come back to me!” I cried to the wall. “I’m so sorry I ever let you go! Come back to me!” But the obstinate rock wall remained just out of reach. 

“Swing!” yelled the guide at the other end of my rope. Or it might have been “swim,” it’s hard to tell from that height.

“I’m trying!” I yelled back.

“Kick the wall!” was the next advice she offered.

“I can’t!” was my frustrated reply.

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I was stretching my arms and legs out the as far as I could but nothing was coming into contact. Finally I worked up enough momentum that I came just close enough to brush the wall with my toe. It wasn’t exactly a kick but I toe-poked that rock as hard as I could and that got me swinging hard enough that I could kick the wall and eventually I managed to grab onto something and pull myself in. By this point the harness had gotten uncomfortably tight around my crotch. And I was still really tired and I still couldn’t find sufficient grip on the rock to actually ascend any further so after clinging there desperately for a while I prevailed upon the guide to let me down.

The view from the rock:

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That night we had dinner at an Indian restaurant, the most expensive meal of the weekend at 63 RMB (almost 10 USD!) per person.

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That night we took a bus back to Guangzhou. This time it was a proper night bus with beds. Like in Harry Potter! 
Once again we were told the ride would be 8 hours and it was again only 6. But luckily the bus was really late leaving so it wasn't quite such an obscenely early hour when we arrived in Guangzhou.

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