Wednesday leaving Pingyao for our cave dwelling

We woke up to pouring rain that dripped off the balconies and made puddles around the table and chairs down the centre of the courtyard.

I decided to make the most of the morning by visiting the Taoist Temple just down the road from our accommodation. Pingyao is well endowed with temples of all three varieties – Buddhist, Tao and Confusion. There are also
two churches within the city walls. One of the joys for those over a
certain age on the trip is that the entrance to all temples and buildings of interest are free on the production of your passport in China. So, happily waving my passport, I joined the early morning tourists and one or two ‘worshippers’ (I am not sure if this is the term for Tao followers) as we stepped over the ghost ledges into the temple grounds.

For those not in the know, every courtyard doorway has a wooden or stone step at its threshold which are put there to prevent ghosts getting in. Some of these can be as much as a foot high. This temple particular temple helpfully provided an additional box either side of the ‘ghost’ panels labelled ‘for the elderly’ to assist us in safely negotiating the hurdle.

The rain was something of a deterrent to the faint hearts so it was not too busy and I was able to wander around and take photographs without umbrellas or brightly plastic macs in them.

My temple visit completed it was time to leave Pingyao (said to be the best preserved walled city in China) behind and get back onto Penelope and take to the road again.

This is when we found that the truck has several leaks. Not bad but just drips. One was dripping inside one of the baggage compartments so all the bags had to be consolidated to one area and the cleaning bucket was placed under another – held in place by some interesting macrame knots tied in Barry’s sweatband ….

Other drips were avoided by people rearranging their seating and we were ready to leave.

It continued to rain all day. The area we are in is quite industrial, mostly coal mining and we continued to see evidence of the coal trucks we have passed in most of our travels of late. There are fertile valleys with quite High hills on either side of the wide flatland.

Eventually we stopped at a temple – this time of ‘The Dragon’. Not sure which deity was covered by this one! What was interesting was the two art classes taking place in an upper area of the temple. Both had local people as the subjects.

We moved on from there to Shanxi-Li Mountain Village in Qikou, Linxian County. It is an amazing place. We had to abandon the truck at the bottom of the hill as it would not have been possible to get up the hair pin bends! We were hurtled up in a battered people carrier by a man who obviously wanted to display his prowess at hill climbing and hair pin bends!

The Shanxi-Li village is very special. It is almost caught up in a time warp. Built into the hill, most of the houses have brick frontages with the back carved into the hill. They are built courtyard style and there are stone paths between the courtyards. The land around the courtyards are terraced and filled with produce. Someone has worked really hard at establishing the amount of planting – tomatoes, beans, aubergines, potatoes, coriander and cucumber were all in evidence. We saw a number of elderly people who moved slowly along the paths steadied by sticks or hoes. All had amazing smiles in weathered brown faces. Cocks crowed and there were a few chickens about but other than that there was total peace.

We wandered the paths and just enjoyed the moment. After our meanderings we met up for a beer in the courtyard. Talk was of travel and home. Someone found some gin and another had some tonic. Murmured conversation while we waited for dinner to cook.

It is a lovely place. The earth loos leave something to be desired but otherwise it is a magical spot.

Our meal was obviously sourced from the surrounding hillside and delicious. Cooked by the lady of the courtyard. Two young children played with the white fluffy dog and ginger kitten, who otherwise tumbled with each other in the dusty ground.

And so another day ends.

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