Here we sat again on the tiny plastic stools at Shao Ni’s food-stall next to the old entrance gate to Getu river and its famous arch and devoured the obligatory 3, 4 or 5 dishes of delicious food in the middle of our small table, surrounded by chicken, street dogs (it was Mutlu’s business to chase them) and passing by goats and cows. For us Shao Ni was the most important institution in Getu, providing our daily breakfast - mostly a spicy noodle soup with eggs, tomatoes, all sorts of green stuff and peanuts - and dinner. It was always surprising what the energetic 28 year old with her roughly 40 kg’s was able to prepare with just one wok.
Whenever she saw us arriving she pulled out what was in her fridge and presented it to us; with finger-pointing, her little English, our even smaller Chinese and of course her smartphone it took us just minutes to chose a handful of dishes that she then prepared with ever varying tastes and ingredients. Vegetables, different sorts of tofu, eggs, a few times meat and lots of rice were on our menu and we were really in trouble on the few days that she had closed because of a wedding or funeral - of course she announced it to us the day before but still, eating in one of the few restaurants in town was by far not as good.
Climbing in Getu means climbing in one of the most laid back and rural areas of China. There are some small shops not offering anything fresh; But then there is the “fruit truck” - another institution of Getu that we relied on - that passes once or twice a day with its ear-piercing megaphone always repeating the same few phrases so that no-one has the chance to miss it (it can get pretty annoying if you want to sleep in), always bringing a selection of fresh fruits, peanuts and homemade potato chips. Ok, there is also the tofu truck, the fresh noodle truck and other sorts of tuktuks that bring different stuff, but that was more for Shao Ni and not for us… Access to the many climbing sectors involves a walk of 30 to 40 minutes along rice paddies, vineyards and through tiny villages full of waving and smiling farmers, kids and old men and women, mostly from the local Miao minority in their traditional clothes. To reach the arch you cross the river using a ferry and then you are back to Chinese torture, climbing 1400 steep stairs to reach the base of this amazing structure.
All climbing in Getu is first class;Sport climbs, awesome multi-pitch climbing, caves, tufas and technical climbs, all set in a beautiful landscape and of course the main reason why we stayed for a good three weeks. On rest days we did extended hikes, flew our drone (which I eventually sank into the Getu river) or just chilled around Rouletout. Hiking near Getu can be quite an experience. One day, Lisa & Martin were already with us for a while, we had decided to hike to a cave harbouring a still inhabited village. We didn’t know the exact location but we had a rough idea and started off, crossed the Getu river and climbed a dirt road, passed small farm houses and occasionally tried to ask for the way (using our smartphones as translators). After a few hours hiking along white limestone cliffs and through lush green vegetation we decided to ask for the way at a small wooden shack. Martin and I entered and before we could say a word we were offered two tiny stools and a bowl of schnapps and cigarettes. Cigarettes are the Chinese “ice breaker” - before you ask for something, offer a cigarette, when you arrive somewhere it is very likely that you will be offered a cigarette, cigarettes make many things that seem impossible possible. Being or staying a non-smoker is hard in China ;-).
Sitting next to the fire we communicated with the family using smartphones. As soon as we had finished the schnapps, we got new one and only after having accepted a beer (and no more schnapps) we were offered food into the same bowls. Two hours later we were finally ready to leave the house, slightly drunk but with a full stomach we continued our hike - we never found the famous cave but again we experienced the Chinese hospitality that made our stay so enjoyable. We were very lucky with the weather, experienced a very sunny and balmy November.
Mutlu, not knowing that the restaurant in town has fried dog meat on the menu, took over control of the street in front of our parking spot from the other street dogs and convinced Shao Ni to feed him with fried sausages and rice. The days passed and the end of our stay in China came closer which meant saying goodbye to Getu and Lisa & Martin who stayed on. It was grey and it rained the day we left, a perfect fit with my mood as we headed out towards Ziyun and onward back to Yunnan province and into Kunming. We stocked up on many things, I got a new drone, Mutlu some big packs of dog food and of course some real Kinder Buenos; As with so many things in China you really have to be careful what you buy as there are cheap copies of everything on sale, sometimes even the shops are just copies of a famous original…
In Kunming we were again reminded of the other China, the one where everything is possible, the buzzing one that has finished its transition away from a producer-economy toward a consumer-economy. We stayed in the southern suburbs of town, not far from the Laotian consulate as we had to organise our visas, a very rich area full of apartment blocks, streets lined with Mercedes’s, Audis and Bugattis and shopping malls of incredible size. “Single Day” had just passed, a newly created capitalist holiday on 11-11 to celebrate the countless singles of China and by now the highest-volume online shopping day in the world (surpassing the US’s Black Friday); taobao.com (owned by Alibaba) alone turned over more than USD 14 billion on this day in 2015 - but still it seemed everybody was on a shopping spree (or we were simply not used to the hustle and bustle anymore). Once we had collected our visas we headed south, back through banana plantations and to Mohan, the border town to Laos. For a last time we ate in one of the small restaurants and in less than an hour we had finished all paperwork with border police and customs with Losang’s help. We said goodbye to China and Losang - thank you for a great time, we will be back in spring next year.