Camp started early on the 17th of September, meeting at 5:00 A. M. at Baiyun airport. We spent quite a while checking in but made the plane in good time to take off on the first leg of the journey. The plane took around 2 hours to get to Kunming and our connection to Dali was a further 45-minute flight.
When we arrived in Dali, Yunnan airport, we were greeted by our Keystone Adventure friends; Ryder, Mike and Kat. After getting lunch at a local restaurant, we went by bus to the Gudu hotel, where we are staying. After settling in, our first activity was a scavenger hunt in Old Town Dali. Homeroom 8I decided to split into three groups to tackle the different tasks. Throughout this task, we got to know the different parts of the town and learn about the history of Old Town Dali. Our dinner was in a local Dai Cuisine restaurant where we ate the food with our hands from a wonderful spread of food. Everybody then went to the hot springs to relax before finding out that our group (8I) had come second place in the scavenger hunt. A long but rewarding day.
Today we got up to meet at 8:30 for our first task with our budget. Each class has been allocated money to budget for certain meals and events throughout the week. This is a new experience for many of us. For breakfast, we found a restaurant serving bowls of delicious noodles available at only 11 yuan. We agreed that this was healthy and well within our breakfast budget, so we ate here as a team.
Returning to the hotel, our Keystone Adventure guide Kat explain our next challenges of dumpling making and tie dying patterns. The first activity was dumpling making. We found our way to the local market where we sourced and bought 120 dumpling skins, and enough corn, pork and stalks of green onion to fill them. We went to a local restaurant to start mixing ingredients and preparing to make the dumplings. We made a total of 120 dumplings and all were eaten but 1 solitary dumpling.
The Tie Dye challenge started by working together to find the bus station and the correct bus which would take us to the activity. After some negotiation we found the bus and that it was to cost 8 RMB from our budget to get to the activity. We arrived at Mom Handworks where we were told about the rich history of tie-dyes and how they are made. The guide only spoke in Chinese, so our wonderful Wendy translated for Non-Chinese speakers. After the history, we got to try this ourselves. We chose a design which we liked and separated into different tables. Each table had an amazing teacher that taught us how to tie-dye. The teachers spoke only in Chinese, which even the native speakers struggled to understand due to their accent and dialect. The expressions that they made to try to make us understand what they were saying were priceless and made all of us laugh. It was a great experience for everyone. We finished the tying process and the guides help us through the next part of dying the designs. When we got the coloured design back, we untied it to get our final product.
After our final challenge of the day, we had to collaborate to find the best way back to the hotel. We managed to find a different bus which actually cost 1 RMB less, hopefully helping us to gain useful points from the ongoing budget challenge.
Today started by meeting at 8:30 A.M. in the lobby so that we could as a group plan where to get breakfast. Today's breakfast was the second part of the budget challenge for us. Our group split up the money so that different people chose the healthy breakfast they wanted. For the first part of the day, we learned Tai Qi with a very experienced master. The master had been learning the arts of Kung Fu and Tai Qi for at least 60 years. We found some of the Tai Qi and Kung Fu moves difficult and tried to keep up with his fast pace. The teacher laughed with us as he instructed us on the proper breathing and moves which we were learning. It was a funny and relaxing experience. Everybody was surprised at the moves that he could do (because of his age), which involves so much flexibility, balance and speed. We thanked the master for teaching us about and how to do Tai Qi.
After Tai Qi, we then had to use our budget to purchase a lunch which we put in a Tupperware box, for eating later on the mountain. We hopped on the bus for a short ride to the start of the hiking trail, which was our next challenge. When we started walking on the mountain, there were some difficult obstacles that we had to overcome to get to our shaded lunch spot. For the rest of the hike, the weather was temperamental, changing from drizzling rain to very sunny, it made the hike conditions change as we climbed higher into the mountain. The weather is known to be weird in Dali. The main part of the hike lasted for about 5 hours and it took teamwork, encouragement and leadership for all of us to reach the end together. We did take breaks to take in the amazing views once we reached different flat parts on the way up the mountain. Getting off the trail also posed challenges. The trail started to get steep and hard to get down, which made us need to think of a strategy to help each other down. Some of us had small fall which helped us to find the correct path and we all found it funny and a great experience.
The final meal of the day was a buffet in Old Town Dali. There was a large variety of food and we were able to relax and find out what the other groups had done that day. We were proud of our achievement and were quite tired, but, we got some time to explore after dinner. Today was a really good experience and we all learned a lot about each other and ourselves throughout these challenges.
Today we went rock climbing and abseiling. We took a bus ride to the south of Dali where the hike to the rocky cliff began, it was a bumpy ride! On arrival, we had to collect our own climbing gear and take it on the hike. The hike was steep, long and in the sun. We had to work together to get to the top (Mr Hunt helped us out a lot). When we arrive at the cliff for the rock climbing activity we set up tents to help us to stay out the hot Dali sun. We actively listened and asked questions during the safety demonstration while we were being shown how to use the different climbing equipment.
As two people were climbing, the rest of us worked to get our gear on and check that each person was wearing it correctly. As this was happening, another instructor was taking us in threes to attempt the abseiling challenge. The path to the abseiling was another challenge in itself, and we needed to support each other to make the journey between the activities. All of these activities required teamwork and support in order to be successful. The abseiling challenge involved moving down the cliff face backwards. It was a fun challenge, but also quite terrifying.
Today we really learned the value of effective communication and teamwork. We all had a lot of fun and great experiences. For many of us, today was full of completely new experiences and require us to be risk takers. We learned a lot about safety equipment and climbing techniques which help us to be successful individually and as a group.
Today we rode bikes from Dali to a small town for lunch, and then on to a village to learn about basket making. After the bike safety talk, we did a quick bike test to ensure that we were able to use the gears on the mountain bikes, which some of us had not used before. The bike ride was about 25 kilometres through a beautiful green landscape of mountains capped with low clouds. Luckily for us, the terrain was mainly flat as we progressed towards the small town as a team riding together. When we got to the town we got to split up into small groups to have lunch. We were encouraged to eat local foods, which most of us did. The local dish most of us tried had beef, spinach and onion with some local spices. It was delicious.
After lunch, we got back onto the bikes to ride to a nearby village to meet Mr Wang who taught us how to weave baskets and placemats out of bamboo. He made it look so easy, his fingers moving quickly as he demonstrated his craft and our next challenge. Some of us struggled to keep the pattern and twist the bamboo into the correct shape. It was very challenging but a fun task.
The two challenges which we were involved with today were very different and required completely different skills. It was great to get out of Dali, see the landscape and visit a smaller village to learn about local crafts and ways of life.