Longqing Gorge.

Nicholas Quirke was irritable when he woke on the morning of 24 June 2020 and everything from the sound of voices on the radio to having breakfast, served to annoy and frustrate him. It was an early start to their destination and he realised too that his disappointment in not being away and now in Hangzhou was really getting to him. The compromise trip was to drive out into the countryside he was now familiar with to a Dragon Escalator on the side of a mountain. On their arrival with barely another person in sight they walked to the location through a deserted tawdry play park and a desolate, derelict street of closed decaying shops and restaurants and his spirits sank further. This looked utterly appalling. A rusting iron frame clinging to the mountainside added to the sense desolation. An intimidatingly vast Dam, apparently one of the largest in China, and the colourful, gaudy Dragon snaking down the side of the mountain were impressive and a little frightening. He entered the dragons mouth and traveled up numerous escalators, glimpsing the austere sight of grey concrete through the distressed Perspex windows, with dissatisfaction coursing through his veins. On exiting he saw still cable cars lurking eerily in the air and a parade of empty pleasure boats lined up on the dock, they were hurried to a waiting boat to take them through the gorge and with a handful of other other passengers the cruise began. Maybe the word ‘Pleasure Boat’ promised an experience akin to a desultory ride up the river Thames on a rainy day , but whatever was in his mind had not prepared him, in any way, for the stunning, natural wonderland that he had just ventured into. Everything, from the deep Turquoise shades of the water, the searing, sharp, crenelated sides of the seemingly never ending gorge, the vista of vegetation clinging to the vertical slopes that opened up with every twist and turn of the river that over millennia had eroded and shaped this valley into one of natures truly spectacular visions, served to astound, delight and fill him with awe. It was a feeling that stayed with him all day as they first climbed one of the highest pinnacles in the gorge to view from above the splendours of the gorgeous Gorge. They found themselves on an illicit path, a narrow promontory from which an old tight rope was suspended across the gorge with a bike from and age old performance remained attached. Once they had returned to the depths of the valley they went out into the gorge on a rowing where, in the idyllic setting they ate Zongzi in honour of Dragon Boat Festival. The trip would not have been complete if they didn’t take the cable cars to the top of another peak which they discovered led to an even higher point and temple and he found himself climbing another mountain and celebrating the magnificent views from a dizzying height. The day had turned from sullen to splendour and despite the fatigue he managed to carry a mountain of parcels, including his GoPro replacement before crashing out on the sofa and watching the end of The Lighthouse which he had found mostly tedious and completely the wrong tone to end the day on

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