Thursday, 12 May 2011

A bit about Guizhou

The first thing to say about this part of country is that it's absolutely stunning. Way down south, almost at the border with Viet Nam, it's getting close to tropical, and has never had glaciers. The rock is a mixture of limestone and mudstone, and when that weathers over millions of years, you get spectacular scenery... All those over-the-top Chinese landscapes you've seen? Yep, this is where they come from.

Actually, a lot of South China has similar mountains, but around here there are just more of them. They're not all that high - only about 2000 m, mostly - but the whole province is one mass of hills. Steep hills, with deep valleys and no straight roads.

The result of this is that Guizhou is traditionally known as the least developed province - for centuries, large parts were mostly impenetrable, and it was left to the natives. The native population is one of China's ethnic minorities, the Miao (at least in the east; western Guizhou is mostly Dong, I believe).

The Miao are a relatively traditional people, and their farming-dominated villages seem to be of two sorts: either on rivers in the narrow valleys, or way up high on the mountain ridges. We've got some more photos of these villages for later, but this one shows typical river scenery. The bamboo-roofed canoes are a common element. To imagine yourself there, you need to picture sweltering temperatures and humidity, exotic butterflies and strange birds, and the odd grunting water buffalo.

As a final thought, a lot of Guizhou is now opening up. Ridiculous highways are being driven straight through the hills and over the valleys, and entire hills are being razed if they get in the way. China is investing heavily in getting Guizhou into the current century, which is leading to tourism, prosperity, and a huge great galumphing stack of outcrops. There are reasons why the province has so many important fossil deposits suddenly appearing (e.g. Kaili Biota, Balang Fauna, and those cute little plesiosaurs you've probably seen on the internet). While the benefits to the local population are clear, we hope that the place doesn't lose most of its beauty in the process.

No comments:

Post a Comment