For my 2011 Annual Report click here: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=9639
Well, just got back from a two week "vacation", visiting my wife's family about five hours away in the mountains. When I first went there in 2005 they had just built the first roads leading there and it took over eight hours. It was a hold onto your seat for dear life whilst packed into the bus like sardines kind of ride. One time an old woman looked out of the window and was decapitated by a tree branch (not when I was there). This time it was tame and uneventful.
We arrived in Xincheng County a week before Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) and walked around a bit. I like the feel of this town, but wish it was closer to a large nature reserve.
The main square.
The view from my sister-in-law's apartment is beautiful on all sides.
Next we headed to her parent's house in a village about forty minutes away. It used to take over an hour and a half, but the road was widened.
Behind their village there is a fragment of karst rainforest left on the mountain slopes. This type of ecosystem is critically endangered. When my wife's grandmother was young tigers used to come down from there around dusk and eat people. Sadly, they are gone now..
I decided that this year I would finally make it to the top. Previous times I was always stopped for reasons beyond my control. I chose a path behind the village primary school and distracted some people playing basketball before I ascended:
It took hours for me to finally get up there. The reason is because the vegetation you see in this photo was 90% thorns.
It shredded up a nice-ish coat I brought back to China with me..
I did finally get up there, though by then it was dark. The avifauna was diverse and I really wished that I had that new Panasonic FZ150 I have been wanting to purchase.
This lucky cat didn't apear to be on the menu.
Although the weather wasn't very conductive to herping I did manage to find the first snake of the year!
Xenochrophis piscator (If I'm correct this will be the first snake I've identified to the species level in the field in China!)
Unfortunately, things were not looking good for this serpent.
It was perhaps five degrees C and windy that day and it didn't even stir.
It's tongue tasted the air a bit, but it could barely move. I put the snake under a bale of hay and prayed for its survival. The next day I returned to find it had not made it through the frigid, rainy night. It was perhaps fifteen degrees and sunny. If it had just held on a little longer.. It looks like it was about to shed it's skin and got caught in the cold. I hope that I didn't kill it by disturbing and moving it. It just seemed to be out in the open at the wrong time. I feel sad that I was not ablew to experience their famed feisty disposition.
The theme of death continued and the next day when we went to my sister-in-law's new husband's hometown further in the mountains three goats were slain in our honour.
Yes, he is indeed using a blowtorch to roast it.
They thought it would be a real treat for me to go out and watch them slit their throats and drain them of blood whilst they were still alive and frantically spasming.
I went for a walk after the started on the second one and was immediately apprehended by a young soldier:
After a brief interrogation I was free to go.
Finally, before we left the area it was time for one more bowl of the best Mifen (rice noodles) anywhere:
For 4元人民币 (less than half Euro) you get a large bowl of noodles with a hefty portion of good meat in it. Simply divine..
Winter is a frustrating time here. The vegetation is still quite lush compared to colder climes, but beyond birds there is little wildlife. I can't wait to get back to that rainforest in the summer!