This time last year we were in a National Park Forest in China. We had gone to China because the astro-dweeb had been invited to give a couple of talks at Nanjing University and the Purple Mountain Observatory and then to participate in a workshop at a Remote Observing Station.
We travelled about 4 hours on a bus from Nanjing with about 40 Chinese nationals, into Xuyi Province and a National Park Forest. We were given a tour of the remote telescope – conducted solely in Chinese! Our guide was so caught up in the tour that he forgot to translate!
Our hotel was eco-wilderness – minimal everthing. Called the Tieshan Temple Forest Holiday Inn I am pretty sure it is not part of the Holiday Inn chain. The water from shower and handbasin drained into an open pipe which finished just below floor level. The hot water was only turned on between 8pm-10pm – and then it was just a dribble.
It seemed that just about everyone on our bus was a smoker – there was not one smoke detector in sight and no signs asking them not to smoke in bed but plenty asking them not to smoke in the forest!
There were mosquitoes everywhere and yes, the thought of malaria crossed my mind. In the evening the hotel girls would bring in funky little burning things meant to keep the mosquitoes away. There was a huge spider web under one of the beds! I sprayed Deet around the perimeter of my bed – on the bed linens!
For 3 days the astro-dweeb went off straight after breakfast for the workshops – which were also conducted in Chinese except for his presentations! He got plenty of time to work on codes etc!
This left me in the company of our bus driver and the hotel staff. No-one, absolutely no-one spoke English! If I wanted anything I pointed and gestured and there was usually much giggling but eventually we would work things out.
The hotel was about 10 miles from the nearest village so I was basically stranded. On the first day of wandering I came across a group of 200 school children camping. There was great excitement as they wanted to practise their English so for a little while I had people to talk to. They were very excited to find out I was Australian and then many of them wanted to have their photo taken with me – for a short time I felt like a movie star!
I spent my time reading some precious (foreign language) English books I had found in Nanjing and wandering with my camera. It did rain for 2 of the days though so my photos were a bit blurry.