We all woke up late today and met in the lobby at 3:20 AM. Oh how I yearn for my old and comfortable bed. My wish will be granted soon. We drove and hiked to the same location we went to the previous morning. I traveled much liter, but the morning heat and humidity started to take its toll early. We walked through the same village with the same dogs barking and arrived at the rocky shore of the Li River. The same man and contraption was waiting for us. I boarded the so called ferry on the last cross over. We then arrived. Michael made us some coffee and we all waited for the morning lights to start. I set up my gear and we waited. As the light appeared, a lone Cormorant fisherman in his traditional boat with his two cormorants appeared. We waited and then the light started to arrive. For all of you photographers, you start with a very high ISO and work your way down with various adjustments along the way. A high ISO normally creates more noise in the picture of which most of it can be corrected in Lightroom. It was now time to start shooting as he lit his lantern. All of us moved all over the rock outcropping to take various images from different angles. Don’t forget, I was shooting in continuous mode and taking multiple pictures of each viewpoint. As the light got stronger, it always gets easier to shoot and constantly reset your camera. Finally the Cormorant fisherman pulled out a net and started to throw the net into the river. They also used nets when they used to fish. This fisherman was seventy eight. I realized that probably within ten years there will not be anymore people who know of this way of fishing. The three Cormorant fishermen we have photographed are eighty six, seventy eight and seventy six. How lucky I am to have seen this way of life before the people die out who used to lead their lives this way. There are no younger Cormorant fishermen left in China. I kept on taking pictures as he swung his fishing net around and into the water.
At 7 AM we packed up our gear and took the long uphill hike up the mountain to our vans. This was the same hike we had taken yesterday. I can tell you that it seemed a little bit easier this time around. We then arrived at our hotel at about 8:15. How could I face this breakfast again? Decided not to and wandered over to Starbucks for a venti cold brew. it was time to go back to my room and cuddle up in my bed after taking a long cold shower. Could not sleep and finally wandered over to get some durian and coffee. My new favorite combo. We were all meeting at 2:30 for our last afternoon in Guilin and the Karst Mountains.
How can I describe the afternoon? It was one adventure after the other in horrible heat and humidity. We arrived at Xingping at about 3:30 and Michael took us to a factory where some local artists had made large beautiful fans and paintings of the local area. I was tempted, but continually heard Olivia saying “What am I going to do with this?” Some of us bought fans and the scroll pictures. Andy bought six for his family as gifts. It was then a walk down to the Li River edge. There were lots of local long boats with weird looking motors on the back, transporting locals up and down the river.
We then got back into the vans for a short ride to Yangshuo. We walked through the village and boarded a ferry for the other side of the river. It was then a hike to the home of one of the Cormorant fishermen. We were going to take some portrait pictures of him in his traditional dress and smoking a long pipe. He lived a long hike from the ferry landing. We finally reached a long and narrow large stone street or alleyway with doors on either side, lots of chickens running around and clothes and mops outside many of the doors. He lived at the end of the street or alleyway. The only way i can describe where he and his wife lived is that almost everyone reading this blog could not spend one night there. I have seen conditions like this before. The best description I can remember is when I visited some South African workers on a vineyard. The Cormorant fisherman welcomed us and he posed for many shots of himself in various possess and some of the possess had his smoking a long handmade pipe. We all clicked away and rotated around to get different viewpoints.
At about 6 PM we finally left and walked back to the ferry. We then took a short ferry ride to a place called “Putao”. Putao is a beautiful location where the Li River meets the Karst Mountains. The same Cormorant fisherman appeared on his reed raft and two cormorants for us to take pictures of him as the sun set over the mountains. We were all standing in thick grass near the shore line taking shots of him as he paddled around and used his nets and birds. The birds have a sort of symbiosis with these fishermen. I have encountered something like that in Mongolia with the Eagle Hunters and their relationship with their birds.
At about 7 PM we were finally finished. Walked back, over and through long grass and marsh to the ferry. We were then ferried across the river to meet our vans for the one hour drive back to the hotel and dinner. Dinner was at the same western style restaurant. i decided to try something different. I had pork neck. Very tasty and cooked the way I liked it.
I cannot explain how exhausted and spent I am. Don’t forget, I spent nine days in Cambodia prior to China. The Cambodia segment was constant going around with no rest time. Andy told me that he should not have let me go to Cambodia and then to China on this very strenuous workshop. Kevin agreed. What is done is done and don’t forget “You can sleep when you die”. Andy offered all of us a 4 AM hike up eight hundred stone stones for a sunrise shoot. Everyone declined and we all decided to sleep in. I had previously made up my mind that I could not do this.
Tomorrow is a travel day to Shanghai. I was so happy to get an email from Cathy Pacific for online check in. Our fourth in country flight. Our flight leaves at 1:30 and we arrive in Shanghai at around 4 PM. Tomorrow I will wrap up this extradorinaiy adventure and give my personal thoughts.