Mountains, Temples and Explosives.

The Anglophone group are now camped outside a small restaurant in the town of Nanyue (N27.25164 E112.73084) at the foot of Hengshan mountain. Although Nanyue was always on our route we had not originally intended to spend the night here, but because we are well in front of our schedule, and need to lose a few days to let the French catch us up in Guilin, we decided to camp here. A good decision.

In contrast to much of China finding a camping place in Nanyue was simple. We drove through the town, passed the splendid temple (highly recommended at 20 Yuan plus 1 Yuan insurance!) to the main square where uniformed parking attendants vied for our custom. We opted to camp on the right near a small restaurant (with a jar of snakes on the bar) where many of us ate. The restaurant also allowed us to plug in and re-charge our batteries (both Kon-Tiki and Womble have electrical problems). The camping area (a concrete-grass coach parking area) also has a number of stand pipes with water during the night.

Most of the shops and cafes in Nanyue sell fireworks and "joss sticks". Not the pathetic fireworks you can buy in Europe but real fireworks some weighing several kilos and packs of giant joss sticks over a metre long. Everywhere you see groups of people, young and old with red carrier bags full of fireworks heading for the temple.

Photo by Clive Barker.There are teen-aged girls in western t-shirts and jeans and old men in black robes with red sashes all carrying a couple of kilos of explosives into the temple! Once inside they head for the second courtyard where there are two "fire houses" each about four by seven metres with a wood fire inside and several small openings through which you can throw your explosive offering.

Each person kneels briefly in front of the fire house then throws their offering (sometimes still in the carrier bag) through the nearest opening and quickly retires a few meters whilst their prayers are carried up on clouds of smoke (and noise). Well worth a visit.

Our leisurely time in Nanyue was alas cut short when we realized that Carl's Chinese visa needed extending urgently! We must be in Guilin by the 11th of September! Time to go

Stephen Stewart.

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