Leye 2001 Expedition Expedition report

Expedition report:

Mr. Cai descending Dashiwei

Leye is a beautiful karst area, with many well developed stream caves and older fossil passages, not to mention enormous, imposing dolines, often several hundred metres in diameter and depth. A large portion of our time was spent assisting Mr. Cai and the other scientists on their work in Dashiwei, the third largest doline in the world we believe.

Our work was to assist the Chinese scientists in their investigations of the dolines and local karst phenomena with the intention of developing its tourist potential, thus bringing income to one of the poorest regions of China.

We were very lucky to be able to work with the FlyCats, a fine local exploration club. The 5 FlyCats have done recces of many of the local caves at the request of the Leye government.

Erin and the mayor in Lotus Cave

All the locals were very friendly, forever insisting that we come into their homes and eat with them, or screeching to a halt and offering us lifts on the road (even if they were going the other way!). The local government was very supportive of our work.

Especially the mayor!

Here he is giving Erin a personal guided tour of Lotus Cave -- an early attempt at developing a show cave. The cave boasts an impressive number of lotus formations, although we think the red green and orange lighting scheme may need to be changed if they wish it to appeal to western eyes. However, we were amused by the frequent cries of "be careful" and the regular supporting hand on the arm in case we, the intrepid international cave explorers, should slip while the local dignitaries in suits/high heels according to gender stood by ready to catch us!

Rob and Erin taking a stroll through Leye

We were lucky to be able to camp near the caves and occasionally live with the local villagers. On our free days we liked to visit the local schools to chat (up) the school teachers and teach english to the children. Basketball seemed to be a perennial favourite with the local children and we were frequently invited to play although having two "giant" westerners amidst a crowd of small school children could make the game feel rather one sided.

As part of our work for the Chinese, we rigged many dolines, including Yanzi and Baidong We also did media shows to encourage tourism, descending a 260 metre free hang, abseiling from a 150 metre high, 10m wide natural bridge over the Buliu River, and going caving with a CCTV crew in Niuping Dong .

And we surveyed an awful lot of cave.