Monday, June 18, 2007

River Rafting, Yangshuo Style

After our hike through Yangshuo farm country, we rested and cooled off by taking a bamboo raft down the Yulong River. But we didn’t take just any old piddling bamboo raft like those pictured above – those are for the hoi polloi. Cristy arranged the DELUXE double raft with a cloth-covered gazebo, table and benches, and, of course, tea! (I think she was worried that our group of hefty Americans would sink the little rafts!) She even arranged food for us – locally grown peanuts and water chestnuts. Wow, fresh water chestnuts really beat those tasteless things that come in a can!

We had to wait a few minutes for them to ferry our ride to the launch site, so we turned our trip into the “Princess Cruise” by buying all the girls flower wreaths – made from real flowers, no less.
We waited in a shaded tent where young Zhuang women were making “love balls” – embroidered balls used by the Zhuang minority peoples as part of the courtship ritual. When a young Zhuang woman finds a man she wants to marry, she tosses the embroidered ball to him. If he catches it, he has to marry her.
These are more elaborate than the ones we’re used to seeing – the tassels and beads are not usually there. I suspect these are gussied up for the tourists.

Finally our boat arrived, and we started our leisurely cruise. I was surprised that we had only one boatman, the same as for the two-person rafts. This poor man had to shove 10 people up and down the river! (Not only is the raft bamboo, but so is the pole the boatman uses to propel the craft.)
Ten people on our raft? Yes, my clan (Zoe, Maya, me), Chris, Tom, Olivia, Elaine (the other family in our group), Lili & Cristy (our guides), and a Zhuang maiden who came along to serenade us with Zhuang folk songs! Zhuang folk songs are kind of nasally, so the sound was not really improved by being sung through a low-quality loudspeaker! But at least everyone else on the river got to enjoy the same music we did.
As we neared the Yangshou Mountain Retreat, we saw a fisherman on a bamboo raft and he was using cormorants to fish for him! I had heard of this practice, but this is the first time I’ve seen it. Fishermen train cormorants to catch fish and bring them to the boat. They tie a string around the bird’s neck so that it can’t enlarge its throat to eat the fish. Instead the bird disgorges it, still alive, into the fisherman’s hands.

I’ve heard that one trained cormorant can catch enough fish to comfortably feed an entire family. This fisherman had four cormorants on his boat – either he has a very large family or his is a commercial operation. In the few minutes we watched, we saw the birds catch five fish.
Shortly after passing the cormorant fisherman, we reached our hotel. The boat pulled up to the shore, and we were deposited neatly at our destination. What service! And we made it just in time for lunch (which included river fish, of course – do you think the nearby fisherman had anything to do with that?!).


mimifrancoise said...

Oh, what a fun river trip! Thank you for the photos and explaining the fishing. I had heard about the trained cormoran but did not know about the string tied around their necks. I hope the fisherman unties the string and rewards them with fish after they do all the work.
bises said...

Boise is a great place, especially for those who enjoy the outdoors. It really offers travelers the best of both worlds -- fun activities like river rafting, skiing, and hiking, plus big-city dining, entertainment, and nightlife.

white water rafting tips said...

Great pictures! that place is perfect. I'm also a rafting fan and i already tried rafting in different rivers in asia. Thanks for sharing.

white water rafting tips