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Lots and lots of volcanic rocks

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On Thursday morning I took the exact same train as I did two weeks before to Harbin. Only this time, it was full, so I splashed out on a first class ticket. This meant I got a bigger seat and a little box of random snacks, together with a little box of coconut water. Not really worth it, but now I know what it's like living the high life in China.
As soon as I arrived, I went to the bus station to try and get a ticket to Wudalianchi, but there was no hope until tomorrow. I tried the downtown station, also no hope. So, I gave up and mosied on over to my former residence in Harbin, North Hostel. They were not really surprised to see me. I told them last time I'd probably be stranded in Harbin again sometime, and here I was, stranded.

I checked in and went looking for a dumpling place people talked about on Trip Advisor, but it was only a chain. It started raining, so I had to stay once I found it. I went straight back home to the hostel after that and fell asleep.

I've been pretty lazy lately, maybe I'm still fighting off some illness. I even slept right through a rock band playing downstairs until 9 p..m. I woke up for the last song and by the time I got down, they were already bowing out and leaving the stage. Oh well. I had a little confusion about where my next hostel was exactly, but the lovely ladies at the front desk helped me figure that all out. There are two bus stations with very similar names. I needed to go to Wudalianchi FARM, not Wudalianchi proper. Needless to say, I did not have any trouble waking up early and catching the bus (#33) all the way back to Harbin West Station for my 8:30 a.m. departure time.

I was extra super rested, but then I slept most of the six hour trip all the way to Wudalianchi again. Who knew? It's like I had narcolepsy. I was regressing into my three year old self again. You know the one that fell asleep in a bucket of blocks in Germany and almost slammed straight into a pole sleepwalking in DC. Yeah, that one.

Liu Yu Fen, the hostel owner, had arranged a taxi to pick me up. I hesitate to call her place a hostel, because it's just a spare room in her apartment for rent for $12 a night. Anyway, she was very kind. I had some soju I bought in Harbin and a ton of ground cherries that I didn't eat on the bus, so, happy 37th birthday to me! I took yep, another nap, and then woke up to a simple dinner with Fen, then went right back to sleep again.

In the morning, the same taxi driver picked me up to go to Lao Hei Shan. I had to pay $20 a day just for him to drive me around to different places because there was no bus. Another birthday luxury, or at least that's how I justified it.

He left me in the parking lot, gave me his card and told me to call him when I was done. It was an easy climb to the top, but once up there it was cold and extremely windy. You can't tell from the photos but it was. It was the 2nd dormant volcano I've ever climbed, but definitely the first huge volcanic crater I've ever seen.

On the way down, there wa the "Sea of stones" which was formed when some chunks of basalt cooled faster than the rest of the laval and got pushed down the volcano in a crazy chaotic mess.

Further afield, there was another mass of volcanic formations, but I had to get on a little buggy to get to it. I was lazy and didn't look at the signs. There were only two choices, but I got on the wrong one, the one that went back to the entrance. No problem, they laughed at me again and I made a round trip. I wandered around the boardwalks looking at more crazy formations the lava made when it bubbled up in various ways and cooled there forever.

There were also a lot of beautiful cranes probably on their way south for winter. In addition to that, I saw a bunch of little dead fish, who knows what happened to them. I took the right buggy when I was done and Mr. Taxi came to pick me up quite promptly. Oh what a life of luxury I lead.

The luxurious feeling ended there, when he tried to tell me to go to something called "Crystal Caves". I had to argue with him until he took me to the "Stone Village" instead. I already knew about these crystal caves and they are ice carvings underground, refrigerated artificially. Lame.

Anyway, no one knows exactly how the "Stone Village" was created. The stones are more than 200,000 years old, so they didn't come from the last volcanic eruptions. Some people think they came from glaciers, but most people think they were broken apart and pushed around by earthquakes and volcanoes. Some crazy stuff happened here a long time ago, that's all I know. I tried to just imagine the sound of all these rocks breaking and smashing into each other as they got pushed down the hill. It must have been terrifying.

Mr. Taxi was waiting for me at the exit, so he took me home and I immediately passed right out again.

Mr. Taxi picked me up in the morning at 8 a.m. again. We went out for breakfast and I had some sort of congee and a big bowl of scalded soy milk for 40 cents. I picked up some snacks and we headed out. Today would only be a half day of activities, I had exhausted the Lonely Planet list and I didn't really feel like trying anymore new things.

First we went to the "Third Lake". This whole area used to be one big lake, but the giant volcano filled in most of it and now there are five! Crazy. Again, it was really windy and cold. I was very happy I brought my raincoat with me. It kept me very comfortable both days. I walked up and down the edge of the lake and Mr. Taxi was there again waiting for me to go to the next place.

We went to see three more little lakes, all with different personalities and more volcanic formations. There was a little boat ride back to the exit, but I'm not sure why. After this trip, I know a lot about volcanic rock. There are so many different kinds!
Mr. Taxi brought me to a naturally carbonated spring, because I was out of ideas. I filled up my water bottle and strolled around on another board walk. It was obvious it was time to go home. I had exhausted Wudalianchi. I took another nap and then Fen had a late lunch for me and her friend. That was very kind. I was so full I couldn't go out again for dinner with Mr. Taxi like I planned.
The night before, Fen had brought home a bucket of eels and plopped it down on the floor of her kitchen. It was so gross, I could hear them slurping and sliding around and burbling around in the bucket. I couldn't bear sitting in the kitchen. I tried to ignore it and often had to shut my door to keep the noise of them out of my head. It got worse though, I don't know why but she decided to put them in a plastic bag in the bucket! So now, they were still doing all that watery noise, but ALSO it crinkled the plastic bag they were wrapped in. It was dreadful.

In the morning I caught the bus at 5 a.m. back to Harbin, the eels were STILL wriggling around in the plastic bag. I was glad to see them go. I gave Fen a hug and Mr. Taxi picked me up right on time for the bus.
In Harbin, the bus dropped me off at a seemingly random spot. It took me a long time to find the bus station. It was at least 1.5 km away from where he dropped us off. I was so angry, I was cursing out loud, not caring who heard. Eventually I found myself on my map and also found the bus station. I didn't make it home until 6 p.m. I am hopefully never taking that bus again, it goes on some weird farmer roads and it is insanely slow. Gah.

Posted by baixing 04:58 Archived in China Tagged heilongjiang wudalianchi

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The pictures are amazing. Poor eels! I'm glad they weren't your supper.
Glad you splurged for your birthday with 1st class bus and Mr. Taxi:)

by Marian Brown

I was forced!

by baixing

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