blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In the countryside at Jiuxi

June 8th, Wednesday

Doing her washing in the stream
Pleased to see the sun come out in a blue sky for once, I was apprehensive about the heat it might generate. I was aiming to take the Y4 bus through the hills. In the end I couldn't find a Y4 so got onto a K4 instead, taking it to its terminus which was Jiuxi Zhan, a bus station by the Qiantang River, a few miles upstream from our hotel. The bus took me through the woods south of West Lake, past the zoo on the Hupao Road lined with the mottled trunks of plane trees.

Washing line in the tea fields
There didn't seem to be anything touristy outside the bus terminus; I didn't mind that. Jiuxi was a village not unlike the one at the bottom of the Fragrant Hill near Beijing. My walk started in a small park with green grass still soggy from the recent rain and continued up a surprisingly narrow road which one of my maps calls “Misty Trees Along The Nine Bend Stream” and which the signpost called “Nine Creeks” (the literal translation of jiǔ xī; other pointers to this part of the countryside call it "Nine Creeks and Eighteen Gullies"). It looked appealingly traffic free so I walked on into the valley. Almost at once there were tea plantations in all directions, near the stream I was following and above me on the high terraces. All this scenery to myself, so peaceful! Occasional cars or bikes went past and in the fields the tea farmers were having an early lunch break. I came across groups of people grilling kebabs under plastic gazebos in the fields nearest the houses. It felt a lot more old-fashioned than the city. People were washing their clothes, bedding and dishcloths in the weirs of the stream.

Tea workers' lunch break
The water was clean and clear up there. I followed a damp, cobbled footpath under the trees parallel to the lane and found a rock to sit on where I could dangle my feet in the water. The woodland flowers are familiar European varieties but the trees are different. Black tailed butterflies fluttered around me and I heard a bird call with a long low whistle.

I found a shady pavilion with pictures on its inner walls “full of Zen implications” apparently but they were lost on me: pictures of incomprehensible folk tales, I assume, the captions composed by a Taoist poet who lived through many upheavals, dying in 1931, Fan Zengxiang. A chap sat on a bench in there minding his own business, maybe in the middle of a Zen meditation, I couldn't tell.

Cooling my feet
At the Linhai Pavilion

Having walked part way up that valley, I also explored part of a side path the other side of the village leading towards the Wuyun Peak (too many steps for me to attempt the whole walk, too hot). The street at the start of this trail was more residential than the other one, with people's washing hanging everywhere from balconies and over walls and bridges. Three dogs wandering around, old folk sitting in doorways, a huddle of men playing cards in a yard and a young woman carrying a baby tied to her back in a cloth. The name Wuyun refers to the five auspiciously coloured clouds that surrounded this hill but there were no clouds today. Following a concrete footpath through the fields I sat in the shade half way up the hill on a stone which was the "Boundary Mark of West Lake Cultural Landscape Heritage," to be precise, eating my home-made sandwiches and drinking some water, with a view of the rolling tea fields, the semi-tropical forest and the skyscrapers in the hazy distance on the far bank of the Qiantang River. It felt good.
Jiuxi village street

After supper that night we went for our usual stroll by the river and saw people flying kites. One was a floppy red bat. The kites and their strings were lit up with little lights so that their owners, adult men holding reels to their chests, wouldn't lose track of them in the dark.

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