Lake of a Thousand Islands

Nicholas Quirke was wet to his core on 13 June 2021 and it was not just the incessant rain fall that caused him to be in this state. Even though he was wearing a rain mac, the high humidity caused him to swelter inside the plastic covering and he might just as well have not bothered wearing it. They were moving on to Qingdao lake which was in the neighbouring province of Zhejiang. It was a man man made lake formed by the completion of the Xin’an River hydroelectric station in 1959 when he valley was flooded. The islands were the peaks of mountains and submerged in the lake, at the foot of Wu Shi Mountain, now known as Wu Shi island, lies an ancient city known as Shi Cheng built during the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25–200) and he discovered is well-preserved and undisturbed at a depth of 26–40 m (85–131 ft). Besides the city of Shi Cheng many other historic sites have been confirmed beneath the water. The drive was over 100 km and they stopped along the way to view the lake and capture images of it from above. Exploring the lakeside for views proved to be an adventurous activity and they followed some unconventional and untraveled paths. They were rather disappointed when they spotted a sign from where they could view Plum Peak Island. The path led them to a platform completely surrounded by trees and no view at all and laughed heartily at the effort they put in for nothing. It was also a surprise when another platform they encountered promised a view and they ended up scrabbling over rocks and scrubland. There were some spectacular moments though, even in the rain and when they finally got to check into the hotel he needed to change completely as he was sodden. The rain had stopped and they walked to the ferry terminal to take a cruise round the lake. Knowing that the lake was also famous for an event in 1994 known as the Qingdao Lake Incident when three hijackers boarded a boat full of tourists and set it on fire, killing all 32 passengers, mostly Taiwanese, on board, did not make him nervous but he found it hard to imagine why and to what end the sad episode achieved. There was no explanation at the time and soured relations between China and Taiwan. The three suspects were convicted on on 12 June and executed on 19th of June. It was exactly 27 years ago and he could imagine if the humidity and heat was anything like he was experiencing it could be enough to send someone mad. They paid 30 yuan extra to able to roam on board and enjoy an air conditioned cabin though most of the time was spent on deck and savouring the beautiful sights. The dismay they experienced over the Plum Peak view continued once they stepped ashore onto the island itself. In an uncharacteristic moment of thoughtlessness Peng, swayed by the sales pitch of the boat guide bought them a round trip on the cable car. They queued to go up for about 20 minutes to take a ride that lasted about 3 minutes. They were outraged as at the top there was only a place for tea and a viewing platform, although it was a lovely view the 60 yuan spent was a thorn in Peng’s side as they walked down from the peak and for the rest of the day. This was a good thing as on the next island they stopped at they were encouraged to pay for a ride round the shoreline to the next boat terminal. The 3.5 km the guide said the walk was turned out to be less then 1.8 and they took in sights and a temple along the walk in less than 25 minutes. The final stop on the cruise was on the ‘Island to remind you of Your Childhood’ which were 4 islands linked by bridges with a variety of attractions, including the largest opening locks in the world. By the time the were back on dry land and had spent a marathon 5 hours on the tour they were in need of some energy and sustenance and a stall selling freshly made mochi seemed the local place to stop and have an intake of sugar to fuel them for the 2 km walk back to the hotel. Going out for supper was off the table again and a take away sufficed. The hotel room, though basic was one he would remember forever as it was the only place he had been that provided a Mah Jong table and tiles for the customers relaxation. Exhaustion had settled in and he was too tiered to take advantage of the game and instead allowed a drowsy numbness to overtake him.

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