Cycling & Rafting




October 2009 • Canon 40D camera

It was a nice and bright morning at 8:30am as we jumped on our bikes for a cycle through Yangshuo and out into the surrounding countryside. Our destination was a bamboo raft ride on Yulong River 遇龙河 — a branch of Li River that we visited yesterday. I hope the rafts are going to be a lot quieter then on Li River. Cycling through Yangshuo can be quite daunting. Cars, buses, tractors, motorbikes and cyclists all ride along each other. And it seems no one stops for anyone—they just beep at you to watch out that they are coming through.

After 10 minutes of cycling we made it out of the city and into the countryside. Karst hills greeted you and green rice field landscape fills the space around you as you cycle. It's been years since I last cycled in the open air and I was enjoying every moment of it.

The weather had now heated up and was turning into another hot, sunny day ahead of us. You could hear the birds and insects singing as you cycled through the quieter dirt roads. On some sections we cycled on public roads used by motorcyclists who were happy to beep at us as they drove by. The stunning karst hills were everywhere. In some areas we cycled past a few tombs and graves that seem to have been casually buried by the side of the road.

The road was paved here with a small river to the side every once in a while. Some bigger rivers were so clear it reflected the karst hills perfectly. Sweating and thirsty, we cycled at our own pace in the sun, enjoying the beautiful nature that surrounded us.

Did you know...

The river's name comes from a local legend. A dragon from the East sea traveled to the river. Impressed by the beautiful landscape it decided to stay. The villagers living on the river bank would see the dragon several times. Hence the name Yulong refers to 'meeting the dragon'.

After 40 minutes of cycling we arrived at Yulong River and we picked a two-seater raft with a colorful umbrella. To our wondrous surprise there was no motor on the raft like at Li River. We had a driver of the raft in a traditional sense of using an oar to steer us. At times the raft was really wobbly so we stayed seated all the way. It reminded us of our time in Venice. Although it was more crowed than Li River, it was a relaxing experience nonetheless, with the exception of our driver shouting out to other drivers as he past them by. The odd voices of local people trying to sell tourists drinks - “hello —beer—water—you buy” can also be heard every once in a while.

There were some sections that you had to go down river on a small weir. Some rafts ahead of us got stuck and had to be pushed out by the driver. Others, like us whet down without any problems with a big splash as we hit the water, the front submerged and our legs up to avoid getting wet. Felt like a water ride which was a fun experience. There were purpose built bamboo raft lands where the locals would sell food and snacks. There was one place next to a weir where they took photos and would sell it to you.

The umbrella on the raft shielded us from the heat of the sun as we approached midday. You can see fisherman on the side near the banks trying to catch fish and also in other parts of the river with wide nets. Spotted a family of ducks gently going about there business. Some of the most brightly coloured insects I have seen are here—a red fly of some kind landing on our raft.

You felt closer to the hills as the river was smaller. On another section of the river, we turned away from the karst hills to a more quiet, secluded area with tall bamboo trees. This part could have been a romantic cruise were it not for the loud conversations our rider would have with other riders from time to time.

After the cruise we jumped onto our bikes which was waiting for us (Ollie had arranged for them to be here) and settled off into the countryside again. We headed to a local restaurant for lunch. I tried a local specialty of a whole fish, head and tail intact, grilled in spicy chilly sauce and tomatoes. Served with rice and green vegetables it was one of the best fish I had eaten in my life! The restaurant had a wonderful view of the famous Moon Hill, which would be our next destination after lunch.

Final thoughts

It was a wonderful and exhilarating experience cycling through the rural scenery. One of the highlights of the trip so far, with stunning landscapes and small local villages. Farmers tending to their rice fields and animals, children playing outside houses as you cycled by, it felt you were experiencing a life that had not changed for generations. And I hope tourism will not change the people's way of life or the amazing scenery in any way.

Yulong River was another great river to experience. I preferred Li River just because of the larger majestic views but if you prefer a more smaller, quieter experience then Yulong River would be for you.

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