Nicholas Quirke was up early on 16 July 2021 to combat the full itinerary of the day which would end with a flight back to Harbin. Though his room was not only comfortable but huge he had still not managed to have a deep and satisfying sleep and as he had only eaten a protein bar and some nuts the day before breakfast was much needed to give him the energy he was going to need. There were a number of sights to see in the volcanic fields of Wudalianchi and the plain but tasty congee and accompanying dishes were just what he needed. The day began with the information that his seven pm flight had been pushed back to 10. 50 which meant huge would not arrive in Harbin till nearly midnight. This also presented a problem as to what he would during the 4 hour delay. Though he had to pay, he was fortunate to have the son and daughter of the hotel owner drive him to the four disparate locations he was going to. The whirlwind day began with a boat ride across one of the volcanic lakes to enter the Geo Park. At the gate there was some confusion as the lady sold him a ticket and then the gate keepers wouldn’t let him in. It turned out after an emergency call to Peng that she had only sold him a ticket for the bus which was pointless as he couldn’t get on it unless he went through. He wasn’t going to let the moment spoil his day though he did feel he needed to apologise to the ladies at the gate as he had been a little stroppy. There was a bus ride to main site of the Wudalianchi volcanic field, which, consists of 14 cinder cones and was formed during five eruptive cycles from the early Pleistocene to 1720 -21 when the freshly preserved cones of Laoheishan and Huoshaoshan erupted in 1720-21 when the lava flows covered 65 km2 forming the five lakes of Wudalianchi. There was a lot of ground to be covered and after a walk that took him along the sea of lava he began an ascent too the crater which looked once he had reached the top decidedly benign through he had read some reports stating that the volcanoes were getting ready for another burst of life. He circumnavigated the crater, posed for photos with fellow visitors and on three occasions when he mistakenly thought he was going to be asked to pose again took photos for them. It had taken a lot of effort and though there was a cool a wind it was very hot work and lasted about 3 hours. Once he was back on the bus to the entrance he called his guides who picked him up to take him ton the next location. They suggested lunch but he decided to carry on with the tour and they took him rot the ‘Three Pretty Lakes’ scenic park. Though the landscape surrounding him was rugged he felt ‘pretty’ was an apt description of the water, the grasses, the paths, the luminescent pools he encountered on the long walk and to his delight the tour ended with a cruise by river boat through the reeds and grasses which he felt was exquisite. He was again the centre of attention on the boat and he posed for photographs with the passengers. He was looking forward to the next stoop which was a visit to some ice caves which were indeed very cold but when he saw the illuminated ice sculptures that led to final large Buddha he was disappointed by the cheesiness of it all. The next location he was visiting was to have been his last, but due to the delayed flight the hotel owner and Peng had added an experience for him at a health spa where the healthy properties of the volcanic water could be enjoyed. First though he took a long walk across a lava field and round a lake which proved, once he had left the families behind, to be a very peaceful and contemplative time though an encounter with two youths prompted him to record a live FB post as once again they misunderstood his pronunciation and thought he had said he was Indian. He was looking forward to the spa and once he was inside was delighted to find a series of pools all offering relaxation and treatments for a variety of conditions at differing temperatures. He had nearly 4 hours to enjoy the luxurious waters and as was often the case as the only Laowai he bathed in Green Tea pools, Red Tea, Ginger, Peach Blossom pools and along the way meeting a number of people. He impressed a group of onlookers when he stepped into a large deep swimming pool that turned out to be freezing cold and in true English spirit plunged straight on in. He finished with a bathe in the ultra hot Longjing Tea bath and once he was showered and changed he was still pouring with sweat and the attendant gave him a towel to keep as a memento of his visit. His drivers picked him up drove him back to the airport. It was a short wait and a relatively short flight back to Harbin, though it was still nearly an hour to get to the Hotel which was a charming, Art Deco building. It was past 1am when he checked in. A new day had begun and even though the AirCon was broken he longed for sleep.

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