Like the opening scene of a classic Godzilla movie the monster is heard way before being seen.
Huangguoshu, or The Grand Falls, is the largest waterfall in Asia and a Mecca for folks all over the continent, including China’s last half-dozen leaders.
It was drizzling as we boarded the 7-passenger van with our driver, Mr. Hung who just recently returned from earthquake relief volunteer work. And our guide/interpreter, Xiao Xiao (pronounced show show).
The falls were a two-hour drive from our hotel thru some of the most scenic farmland in China.
This province, in spite of the modern city of Guiyang, is predominantly agrarian and one of the poorest in China. We would pass huge open fields of rice segmented like a patchwork quilt. Some of the fields were flooded, the crops lost.
Rice and corn seemed like the predominant crop and many rows of corns were planted in terrace like steps up the side of mountains.
The round trip cost 1,5000 yuan or $225. With the price of gas (also a little over $4/gallon) and the tolls ($40 round trip) we thought it was well worth it…even though it was raining.
By the time we arrived at the main building to get our tickets ($30 each, plus 30 cents mandatory insurance, children free) it was pouring. The price of admission also included a rain poncho like the kind you can buy at Disney or Bush Gardens for $10.
The Falls were about a mile trek with a 900 foot vertical drop negotiated by stone stairs far more refined than the ones we used to climb the top of the mountain to the ancient Buddhist temple.
Before the descent we passed thru a Banzai Garden (some of the trees are over 100 years old) and within minutes we could hear the distant roar of the monster falls.
After about a half-hour of careful walking we caught our first glimpse and for the next 10 minutes it was constantly in view. The trail under the falls was closed due to high water levels but we got close enough to where Kira was getting spooked.
After a few minutes trying to shoot video in a pouring rain and shrapnel like mist coming off the falls we decided to head back, almost continuously upward.
Three older matronly women gently accosted me, complaining about Jada not being properly protected from the elements (both the mist of the falls and the driving rain). They realigned my poncho and suggested I tuck Jada under my shirt. As they were “helping”, two other younger women snapped pictures.
As we excited the attraction you had to pass a gauntlet of booths selling all sorts of food, souvenirs and clothing. Donna purchased a metal ornate teapot marked 300 yuan ($45) but he ended up taking 100 ($15). It pays to bargain, and it helps to have a translator.
We had lunch at a little fat food restaurant near the main parking lot. An old woman dressed in black aggressively tried to sell us a kid’s trinket for 2 yuan (30 cents) and Jada started screaming. The shop owners chased her away.
It continued raining the entire two-hour trip home. The driver talked non-stop to our guide. As we pulled into our hotel Kira announced she was going to puke.
Donna leaped up grabbed her head with one hand and opened the sliding door with the other…barely in time.
Just then the sun broke through the clouds.
Taken about 10 minutes after the first video after the rain stopped and I no longer feared for my life.