Li River, Guangxi, China

Guangxi Province, southern China:

In this surreal landscape, how could I not go run after our boat ride down the Li River? Even if the heat index is 110F. There was no option after I saw a few folks wandering about on a pathway alongside this stunning river valley between legions of uniquely pointed karst peaks glazed with vegetation and small trees growing improbably from the stone, 500 million years in the making.

For centuries, Chinese and world travelers alike have journeyed here to paint, draw, write, and now also to run. I didn’t spot any other runners out here today, but as I ran along the stone pathway, mostly shaded, I felt the power of these giants—here so long before us, they will remain for so long after.

These mountains are so famous in China they are featured on both the 20 and 150 RMB bills (see pic). I ran to Nine Horses Mountain (see pic), then on towards the village of Ma Shan. Sun blasting me, I turned back to the relatively cool river path. I bought two bottles or freshly squeezed juice made from clementine-like fruits grown here on mountainsides. Drank the first in all of about six seconds flat. The local lady saw how rejuvenating it was for me and encouraged me to drink some, then she added in an extra fruit for more juice, on the house.

Feeling repowered, I charged down a slope, stone faced mountains staring me down. An older lady sat along the path—“Pao bu!” (Running!) she exclaimed, with big smile and some cheerful laughter. Two younger mothers and several children stood by. As I ran in between them all, I heard someone else say “Pao bu!” and couldn’t help feeling like this was my own little cheer tunnel mid-way through a marathon.

My thin black pants were soaked through, along with my tech shirt, running sleeves and scarf (to protect from mountain sun). I arrived at a large, ancient looking restaurant where I believed Serena was. A police officer had also arrived to eat. My plan was to wait outside. I could not even contact my girlfriend at first since my phone screen was covered in sweat.

The officer looked on as a male employee insisted it was no problem I wander through the expansive place looking for Serena. At least one waitress had a shocked look on her face as I dropped sweat everywhere. The man gave me some tissue as my sweat dropped.

Was going to write dripped, but dropped was more like it. Everywhere up and down the stairs.

She was not in there. I apologized again. The man led me to adjacent restaurant, where two more employees met me at entrance. I told them I couldn’t go in such a state. They insisted I go upstairs to find Serena. They asked if I had just gone swimming. Nope, all sweat I informed them.

I stood in front of the AC unit, turned on a fan. It was wonderful. But that ain’t nothing like the juices. Soon, Serena arrived. Just behind was a waitress ferrying the following: cold glasses of freshly squeezed watermelon juice, mango juice, clementine-like juice. Also a cup of cold passion fruit juice from another place.

Serena handed me some new Chinese-style shorts and traditional like shirt and I went down to change in a somewhat scary little bathroom near the kitchen.

I was dry again. But wet footprints littered the landscape. All in all, we drank about 8 cups/glasses of juices within our time at the restaurant. Plus a few pre-run.

Stepping back out into the furnace, we saw fruit everywhere. Local villagers stood at little carts with manual juicers and small piles of passion fruit and clementines, as others sold little baskets of plums, green fruits I’ve never seen, and several other types.

We boarded the ferry for the two minute ride across the river back to our sleepy village in the mountains. Enough hustle and bustle of the “big” city. I belong in these quiet mountain villages.

Drinking tea now in the shadows of these giants at sunset, I am home.

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